Wednesday, January 21, 2004
At the Australian Open today
By Cynthia Faulkner ESPN.com
Venus Williams takes on a 17-year-old Russian girl, Vera Douchevina, in the second round of the Australian Open today. Although Williams should easily handle Douchevina, who is playing in her second major tournament, sometimes inexperienced players are difficult. It's hard to create a game plan against someone you've never seen or find a rhythm and pace against rookies.
Douchevina's biggest win came last year in Moscow against No. 25 seed Lisa Raymond, who is Williams' potential third-round matchup if she gets past unseeded Anca Barna.
Potential show stoppers
Is Karol Kucera shaking in his tennis shoes? Maybe. He faces Lleyton Hewitt. It's not worrisome just because Hewitt, seeded 15th, is a former No. 1 player in the world and playing as well as he did then. Nope. It's of concern because Hewitt's past three opponents were forced to withdraw because of some sort of injury. (Cecil Mamiit ran smack-dab into the referee's chair in the first round of the Aussie; Carlos Moya twisted his ankle during the final in Sydney; and Martin Verkerk, the accidental tourist of the French Open, withdrew from their Sydney semifinal because of illness.)
There are only two American men in the bottom half of the draw -- both qualifiers. Jeff Morrison is having his best Australian Open by reaching the second round. Unfortunately, he faces No. 2 Roger Federer today.
No. 264-ranked Glenn Weiner is 27 and originally from South Africa. He's never won a singles title. He plays Andrei Pavel of Romania, who, although he has never done well at the hard-court majors, won a Tennis Masters Series title in Toronto in 2000 and was the runner-up in Paris last fall.
No. 6 seed Anastasia Myskina faces a potentially difficult second round Aussie Open rematch against Emmanuelle Gagliardi of Switzerland. They split their two previous matches, and both went three sets. Myskina won their most recent meeting, in Melbourne last year.
Off the show courts
Chanda Rubin plays Denisa Chladkova for the first time on hard court. Chladkova won their only previous match, which was on clay.
American Amy Frazier faces Kristina Brandi of Puerto Rico after having lost to Brandi 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(6) in the round of 16 at Auckland two weeks ago.
Veteran South African Amanda Coetzer plays young Russian Diana Safina, who is Marat Safin's sister.
Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.