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TENNIS / AUSTRALIAN OPEN : Wilander Rallies to Win

From Associated Press

Mats Wilander, returning to the tournament he won three times in the 1980s, rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Alexander Mronz in a third-round Australian Open match played today.

Wilander, 29, making a comeback after nearly two years away from tennis, outlasted Mronz, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, in a center-court match that lasted 4 hours 18 minutes.

The Swede, now ranked 322nd in the world, used a two-handed backhand and soft lobs to frustrate Mronz, ranked 143rd. He got a lot of help from Mronz, who double-faulted 10 times, and from a sea gull that distracted Mronz in the final set.

The bird, diving toward the court as Wilander prepared to serve at deuce with the score 1-1, screeched just as Wilander hit the ball. The startled Mronz watched an ace go right past him.

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Sixth-seeded Thomas Muster also advanced to the fourth round, defeating Guillaume Raoux, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Muster has not dropped a set in the tournament and has lost his serve only once in three matches.

No. 12 Alexander Volkov also won, but No. 14 Karel Novacek was ousted by Lars Jonsson.

Gabriela Sabatini, the fourth-seeded woman, dropped only three games while defeating Linda Ferrando. No. 8 Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere also was a winner, as was No. 9 Mary Pierce, who was presented with a bouquet of roses by a fan after her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Sabine Appelmans.

“I don’t know who he is,” Pierce said. “Just a good fan, I guess.”

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On Friday night, third-seeded Jim Courier outslugged Nicklas Kulti, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), in a tedious third-round match that lasted 2 hours 41 minutes but seemed longer. The baseliners traded jabs until one got sloppy, or into position for a winner.

Top-seeded Pete Sampras joined Courier in the fourth round with a 7-5, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 victory over Stephane Simian of France.


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