MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Jan-Michael Gambill threw his racket, pretended to break it, and kicked the ball. He still couldn’t find a way to stop Wayne Ferreira from hitting winners.
For the fifth consecutive year, the 24-year-old American lost in the first round of the Australian Open, despite climbing into the top 10 on the ATP Tour in match victories in 2001.
Ferreira, ranked 63rd, beat the No.19 seed 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (6) today (last night EST), but had one of the toughest sections of the draw ahead. It includes top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, Pete Sampras, 2000 U.S. Open champion Marat Safin and Andy Roddick, although two-time defending champion Andre Agassi has dropped out with a wrist injury.
In women’s matches, No.6 Justine Henin, runner-up at Wimbledon last year and a semifinalist at the French Open, mixed her power with accurate lobs in beating Anna Kournikova 6-2, 7-5.
Kournikova, ranked as high as eighth last year, has slipped to No.64 after missing 15 tournaments with a left foot stress fracture.
Russian compatriot Lina Krasnoroutskaya, the 1999 junior champion who gained a place in the seedings after Serena Williams pulled out with a turned ankle, sprained her own left ankle in a first-round match.
Krasnoroutskaya withdrew while trailing 3-6, 6-3, 2-0 against Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion and runner-up in the 1998 Australian Open and 2000 French Open.
The 30-year-old Ferreira, who rose as high as 6th in the rankings in 1995, is playing in his 45th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, second only to the 54 of retired Stefan Edberg.
After a year of injuries, Ferreira said his fitness helped him win.
Gambill also had problems last year, with his shoulder, but still managed a 31-14 match record, sixth best on the tour, and improved his year-end ranking to 21 from 33.
Against Ferreira, he hit drives from corner to corner, only to watch the South African fire back winners on the run. Ferreira had 50 winners for the match to 32 for Gambill.
Errors also were costly. Holding a set point at 6-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, Gambill exited with a backhand in the net, a forehand wide and backhand long.
No.11 Roger Federer won 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 against Michael Chang, who has slipped to 94th from his 1996 rank of No.2.
Yesterday, with defending champion Agassi out and French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten hurting too much to get past the first round, Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic was ailing, too.
But the 10th-seeded player ignored his shoulder injury and served 30 aces in beating Martin Damm of the Czech Republic 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
A year ago at the Australian Open the first of the year’s four Grand Slam events Ivanisevic lost in the first round of qualifying.
“I played on Court 15, which I didn’t find for 10 minutes. It was the farthest court you can imagine,” he said. “This year, progress. I play on center court.”
Ivanisevic ended 2000 ranked 129th but rebounded well in the grass-court season. After runner-up finishes in 1992, 1994 and 1998, he finally won Wimbledon, downing Patrick Rafter 9-7 in the tournament’s longest fifth set ever.
“It’s still a great feeling,” he said. “It gives me more confidence.”
When Ivanisevic went on center court, Agassi already had announced his withdrawal with an injury to his right wrist that causes him to worry about his career. He hurt the wrist in a loss to Sampras in the final of an exhibition tournament Saturday.
Three-time French Open champion Kuerten, hobbled by a hip injury, lost to France’s Julien Boutter 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Play was delayed 75 minutes because of rain with Kuerten leading 5-2 in the first set.
“After the third set, I really cannot move,” Kuerten said. “I don’t know if I have to go to surgery or something like this.”
All of Kuerten’s Grand Slam titles have come on clay. His hip has been bothering him for eight months, and the second-seeded Brazilian said he can’t compete on hardcourts.
Ivanisevic chose not to have shoulder surgery and expects to struggle this year.
“But as soon as I step on the court I just try to play tennis and don’t find excuses,” he said.
Ivanisevic’s half of the draw includes No.4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1999 Australian champion and 2000 runner-up; No.5 Sebastien Grosjean, a semifinalist in Australia last year; and No.6 Tim Henman.
Yesterday, Kafelnikov beat German qualifier Michael Kohlmann; Grosjean defeated Spain’s Juan Balcells 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2); and Henman beat Australian wild card Todd Larkham 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.
Two young Americans also advanced. James Blake beat No.14 Alex Corretja of Spain 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-2, and Taylor Dent defeated Michael Tabara of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
At last year’s U.S. Open, Blake led Hewitt two sets to one before losing to the eventual champion.
On the women’s side, there will be no rematch of the U.S. Open final between the Williams sisters. Serena, who might have met older sister Venus in the semifinals, pulled out after turning her ankle during a warmup tournament in Sydney on Friday night.
Venus, seeded second and winner of back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, beat American qualifier Ansley Cargill 6-2, 6-2.
Three-time Australian winner Martina Hingis had an easy time in eliminating France’s Virginie Razzano 6-2, 6-2.
Hingis, who held the No.1 spot for 73 consecutive weeks before an ankle injury last October, has not won a Grand Slam tournament since the 1999 Australian. Last year, she beat both Williams sisters before losing in the final to Jennifer Capriati, who also won the French Open.
No.8 Monica Seles, a four-time Australian champion, beat Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 6-1, 6-2.