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Kournikova struggles, but triumphs in three sets

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Anna Kournikova's reward for
a hard-fought victory over fellow wild card Selima Sfar of Tunisia
is a match with Venus Williams.

Kournikova beat Sfar 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-4 in the featured night
match of the $585,000 Dubai Open on Tuesday.

Williams, who had a first-round bye, will take over the No. 1
ranking next week after already winning three tournaments this
year.

"I lost to her last week (at Antwerp) in a tough match where
the first set decided everything," Kournikova said. "I will play
as the best as I can as I always like to fight."

Kournikova, under pressure to live up to the hype surrounding
her first visit to Dubai, had a minor injury scare when she fell
during the first set.

The Russian, cheered on by the center court audience, regained
her composure to beat Sfar, a Dubai quarterfinalist last year.

Sfar, a favorite of the Arabian fans, was drained at the end of
the long match and was in tears as she left the court.

"The match had ups and downs as I was not 100 percent
physically fit," Kournikova said. "I felt pain in my leg but I
fought the best I could."

Sandrine Testud, the tournament's fourth seed, took 2½ hours to
earn a spot in the quarterfinals. She rallied to beat Italian Rita
Grande.

"I am just happy I won; it was tough," Testud said. "I made
it look a lot more difficult that it seemed."

Other winners Tuesday were seventh seed Angeles Montolio of
Spain, Janette Husarova of Slovakia, Emmanuelle Gagliardi of
Switzerland and Jelena Kostanic of Croatia.

Montolio was tested by another qualifier, Camille Pin of France. After being outplayed in the second
set the Spaniard had to recover from 0-2 down in the third before claiming a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 victory.

Both players failed to find any consistency, with Montolio winning the final three games of the first set but then dropping the last
five games of the second. In the final set, she recovered from a slow start to take the last six games.

"I have no explanation," said Montolio when asked why she had lost seven straight games and then won the next six. "That's
tennis I suppose. I just tried to keep the ball in after I was down 2-0 in the third."

Information from Reuters was used in this report.