SYDNEY: World number four Juan Carlos Ferrero saw off a spirited challenge from wildcard entrant Jaymon Crabb yesterday in the first round of the Sydney International tennis tournament.
Crabb, a local ranked 217 in the world, stretched tournament second seed Ferrero, taking the first set and fiercely contesting every point of a match the Spaniard eventually won 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
The Sydney International is a lead-up tournament to next week’s Australian Open and Ferrero said the hit-out provided valuable match practice, particularly as it was on the same rebound ace surface used in Melbourne.
Ferrero said he had expected a tough match from Crabb.
“We played a lot of rallies and I think I played a good solid match with not a lot of mistakes, I served well, I think I did good and I’m very happy,” he told reporters.
Ferrero said his ambition for this year was to improve on his number four ranking, starting at the year’s first grand slam tournament. “I have the opportunity in Australia to go up.”
Crabb said he enjoyed the experience of testing himself against a player of Ferrero’s calibre but conceded “he ran me a lot more than I ran him”.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, South African Wayne Ferreira beat Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 6-2, 6-4. Neither were seeded for the event.
Former women’s world number two Conchita Martinez’s poor run of form continued when she was dumped from the first round by a qualifier ranked 179th in the world.
The 1994 Wimbledon champion, who has won more than US$10 million in a career spanning almost 15 years, failed to overcome the challenge of Olga Barabanschikova of Belarus.
Barabanschikova came from behind to defeat Martinez 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, breaking down the Spaniard’s resistance over two hours 12 minutes.
The upsets continued when Russian Elena Bovina beat her fifth seeded compatriot Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 7-5.
Eighth-seeded Bulgarian Magdalena Maleeva overcame Italy’s Silvia Farina Elia 3-6, 7-5, 6-0.
Maleeva came back from 4-0 down in the second set after losing the first.
“It’s only my second day here so I was trying to get used to the speed and the conditions and everything, somehow I managed to keep going and turn thing around,” she said.
Top-seeded Marat Safin opens his quest to take Lleyton Hewitt’s world number one crown today when he takes on Belgian Olivier Rochus.
Safin, the world number three, has a score to settle with Rochus, who shocked the Russian in the second round at Wimbledon last year.
Women's top seed Jennifer Capriati will also be in action against Russian Tatiana Panova today while Mary Pierce of France had withdrawn with an abdominal strain.
l AUCKLAND: Evergreen Spaniard Felix Mantilla eliminated fifth-seeded Argentine Jose Acasuso in the first round of the Auckland Open yesterday. Mantilla, world number 51, beat his 20-year-old opponent 6-3, 7-5.
Acasuso, one of the new brigade of South Americans set to make their mark on the world stage, was the only seed in action on the first day.
David Ferrer had the better of fellow Spaniard Alberto Martin, ranked 26 places above him at 60th, with an easy 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The best clash of the day was Spaniard Fernando Vicente’s come-from-behind victory over Peru’s Luis Horna 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.
Today’s matches feature fourth seed Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil against Dutchman Martin Verkerk, first seed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic meeting qualifier Robert Kendrick of the US and 2002 Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian up against fellow Argentine Mariano Zabaleta. – Agencies