At the Australian Open today

Updated: January 18, 2005, 7:59 AM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

Which Russian woman will gain more attention today in Melbourne: Maria Sharapova or Svetlana Kuznetsova?

U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova suddenly found herself on the defense when the Belgian Minister of Sports leaked to the media that she'd tested positive for ephedrine at an exhibition match.

The WTA immediately jumped to her defense saying the Belgian authorities failed to follow World Anti-Doping Agency protocol. On Tuesday, WTA CEO Larry Scott told ESPN that ephedrine is not considered a banned substance out of competition and the WTA has no plans to pursue the matter. A second sample is still being tested.

"If it's out of competition, under our program, there is zero implication," Scott said.

Still, Kuznetsova has to try and keep winning matches at a major tournament while defending her honor. She plays Marion Bartoli for the first time ever in the second round. Both players had their best showing Down Under at last year's tournament. Kuznetsova managed one round further, though, by reaching the third round. Since then, Kuznetsova won her first major tournament and is attempting back-to-back Slam wins for the first time.

Sharapova is one of the few women playing someone she's actually faced before. In fact, it was in the second round of the Aussie last year when Sharapova took a 2-0 edge over American Lindsay Lee-Waters with a 6-1, 6-3 victory. You might remember Lee-Waters from the 2000 U.S. Open, which she played while six months pregnant.

Potential show stoppers

  • It's a rematch of the 2003 Australian Open final as Andre Agassi takes on Rainer Schuettler. Agassi defeated Schuettler 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to take his fourth title in Melbourne. It also was the last time Agassi won a major, and Schuettler's best result at any Grand Slam event. The earliest Agassi has ever lost at the Aussie was in the fourth round in 1998-99.

  • Serena Williams and Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar meet for the third time but the first time off of clay. Randriantefy, who started playing tennis at the age of 8 to help her asthma, has never managed to win a set against Serena.

  • Qualifier Takao Suzuki of Japan managed to reach the second round by defeating American Jan-Micheal Gambill only to risk joining the not-so-elite ranks of men who have been turned into Federer fodder. Federer, who is attempting to become the first man since Pete Sampras to win three Grand Slam tournaments in a row, has won 22 consecutive matches.

  • French Open champion Gaston Gaudio and Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish meet for a second time -- the other time was at 2003 Wimbledon. Fish won that match 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Gaudio did not win back-to-back matches on hard court in 2004 and has never been past the third round of the Australian Open. Fish defeated Juan Monaco in the second five-set match of his career to advance.

  • No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo is flying below the radar so far. She plays Dinara Safina, sister to Marat Safin, for the first time. Safin plays Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic, who has not passed the second round of a major since the 2001 French Open.

  • Two young players to keep an eye on are Joachim Johansson of Sweden and Gael Monfils of France.

    In a battle of big servers, Johansson plays Peter Wessels of the Netherlands. No. 11 Johansson rose 101 places up the Entry Rankings in 2004 to end the season at No. 12. Wessels, ranked 91, has not played at the Australian Open since 2001.

    Last year's Australian Open junior champion, Monfils plays small but dangerous Oliver Rochus of Belgium. Monfils, who is 6-foot-3, improved his record 700 places last season to finish the year ranked 229.

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