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Australian Open Tennis : Lendl, Graf Earn Easy First-Round Wins to Advance

Times Staff Writer

The Australian Open, the world’s only convertable Grand Slam, put the top up Tuesday morning.

A steady drizzle that postponed play on all the outer courts, forced the closing of the retractable roof that covers center court, where beneath the big top, Ivan Lendl made short work of Alexander Mronz, 6-0, 6-1, 6-3.

Mronz, a qualifier from West Germany, was no match for the second-seeded Lendl, who moved to what could be a difficult second-round encounter against Carl-Uwe Steeb.

Steffi Graf, the women’s No. 1 seeded player, won her first-round match Monday night in what might have been more satisfying for her opponent than herself.

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Kerry-Anne Guse, 16, from Brisbane thought that the most terrifying moment in tennis would be trying to put a racket on Graf’s forehand--until she saw Graf herself for the first time.

“I wasn’t even nervous until--I hadn’t even seen Steffi until she went out and practiced before our match and then she introduced herself to me in the changing room,” Guse said.

“I got so nervous then that for the next 20 minutes before going on the court, I just couldn’t sit still,” she said.

A wild-card entry, Guse really had nothing to lose, so even after Graf had taken only 43 minutes to win, 6-2, 6-1, Guse still felt good about it all.

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“All the girls, my age group and a couple of years above, were just envying me because I got to play Steffi,” she said.

“I don’t think (Graf) was trying as hard as she could. I thought she’d be a lot better than what she was.”

Guse, who is unranked, failed in the qualifying round at a Virginia Slims event at Adelaide, but she is a member of Australia’s World Youth Cup team.

All Guse wanted to do against the top-seeded Graf was win a few points, so she was ecstatic to win her first game by breaking Graf’s service in the fourth game of the first set.

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“I had fun out there,” Guse said. “It would have been a lot worse if I didn’t get a game, but seeing as I got a couple of games, I was really happy.”

In another late-night match, Miloslav Mecir, seeded ninth, defeated Thierry Champion of France in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, which completed a miserable opening day for the French.

The first match on stadium court indicated how difficult it may be for Mats Wilander to defend his championship here.

Wilander is the world’s No. 1 player. Tobias Svantesson is No. 100.

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So, Svantesson took Wilander to 5 grueling sets in their 3-hour, 10-minute first-round match.

How in the world did he do it?

“I have no idea,” Svantesson said.

On second thought, he came up with one. “Mats, he never hardly makes any unforced errors,” Svantesson said. “I make millions.”

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Wilander got away with a 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Svantesson, a transplanted Swede who played at Oklahoma State and at Flagler College in Florida.

Himself a transplanted Swede now residing in Greenwich, Conn., Wilander experienced kind of rough going in his first match as defending champion. This, he said, is something he will probably have to get used to.

“When I was ranked 10 or 15, it was always special to play the No. 1 player,” Wilander said. “Then to beat the No. 1 player, well . . . “

Opening day at the $2.4-million Australian Open began under sunny sky and was interrupted only briefly by showers after temperatures had climbed into the 90s.

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Svantesson had his chance to pull the year’s first big upset, but he said he tired mentally and Wilander got away.

“I think he got fatigued in the fourth set and in the fifth, I think he got nervous,” said Wilander, who believes his No. 1 ranking matches his place on the most-wanted list this year.

“I have to look at that as a challenge,” Wilander said. “The thing is, you need to put a bit of pressure on yourself because if there’s going to be any pressure, I’d rather be the one applying it.”

Seems fair enough. But what happened to France doesn’t seem quite right. The country’s top four players lost, a headlong plunge that got off to a stunning start when Henri Leconte was beaten in straight sets.

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Jan Gunnarsson of Sweden defeated Leconte, seeded sixth, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, and tried to count his blessings.

“I’ve beaten top 10-caliber players before, but you can count them on one hand,” Gunnarsson said.

After Leconte, Guy Forget lost to Mark Kratzmann of Australia, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2, and Thierry Tulasne lost the first 2 sets to Heiner Moraing of West Germany, then got sick and retired. Then came Champion’s defeat.

All in all, it was a pretty upsetting day for the French, but no one was as disturbed as Leconte, who was not especially glad to be answering questions about his defeat.

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A sample:

Q--Henri, can you tell us what happened?

A--I lost.

Oh. Of course.

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The interview improved, although the same could not be said about Leconte’s performance on the rubber-coated Rebound Ace surface, which is not fast, not slow, but just about medium.

Leconte listed the problems he had on the surface at Court 2.

“I had no conditioning, no feeling, no concentration,” he said. “I’m not fit, I don’t like the way I am now, I don’t like the way I play.”

Leconte said his feet got too hot on the court and he didn’t have any feeling in them. As the sun shone brightly, Leconte said the heat made the court softer. This is also the same way he felt later when asked again about his first-round ouster.

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“Last year, I lost in the third round, so it’s no big deal,” he said. “It’s not like I was the defending champion and lost in the first round, is it?”

Immediately after the Leconte upset on Court 2, Elise Burgin pulled another one. Burgin defeated Sylvia Hanika, seeded 11th, 6-3, 6-2, by surviving one big scare.

Early in the match, Burgin was just about to hit a volley when a train whistle blew from the nearby tracks.

“I nearly had heart failure,” she said.

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Last March, Burgin had knee surgery, then found herself kicked off the Olympic team by the United States Tennis Assn., who took Chris Evert instead. So all in all, it wasn’t a real great year for Burgin.

“I wasted it,” she said. “But my coach, Lenny Sherman, really helped me. Since the surgery and what happened over the summer, he told me to be kind to myself. I had enough problems.”


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