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Japanese struggling with her confidence

2/1/2005

TOKYO -- Japan's Ai Sugiyama suffered her fourth straight first-round defeat when she was beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 by Italian Roberta Vinci at the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday.

However, there were resounding victories for No. 6 seed
Elena Likhovtseva and eighth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova in Tokyo.

No. 5 seed Sugiyama, who had lost at the first hurdle at the
Gold Coast, Sydney and the Australian Open, suffered a second-set meltdown after a decent start against her 117th-ranked
opponent.

"I think it's down to a lack of confidence," Sugiyama said with a shrug. "Nothing I worked on in practice clicked. Mentally I'm still nowhere near close enough."

Serbian Jelena Jankovic was another casualty in Tokyo as Czech Iveta Benesova came through 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to knock out the No. 7 seed.

Slovakian Hantuchova overpowered Russian Alina Jidkova 6-1,
6-4, and Likhovtseva, also of Russia, demolished Spain's
Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-0, 6-0 in another late match.

In other matches, Russian Maria Kirilenko beat China's Peng
Shuai 6-3, 6-2 and Saori Obata trounced wild card Miho Saeki 6-0,
6-1 in an all-Japanese encounter.

Obata now plays top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, who is
bidding to win a record fifth title at the $1.3 million event.

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and fellow Russians
Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva are also among a
quality field in Tokyo. The top four players received
first-round byes.

Sharapova plays Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela while U.S.
Open champion Kuznetsova takes on Swiss qualifier Marie-Gayanay
Mikaelian on Wednesday.