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Seles Struggles in Win at Bausch & Lomb

April 17, 2003

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) _ Her injured foot was the least of the worries for Monica Seles. She also had a nasty crick in her neck that almost ended her comeback before it began.

In her first match after a seven-week layoff, Seles struggled to defeat Anca Barna 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at the Bausch & Lomb Championships on Wednesday.

This week was supposed to be an opportunity for the sixth-seeded Seles to play on the cushy, green clay at Amelia Island and see how her left foot would respond after a stress fracture in February.

She almost withdrew, however, when she slept weird on her neck Monday night and it seized up on her the next morning. She was able to play because the draw was favorable, and she didn’t have her first match until Wednesday.

``I really couldn’t move it at all,″ Seles said. ``I couldn’t practice, nothing. It was one of those things where you’re stuck. You can’t look to the left or right.″

True to her word, she barely moved her neck during the winner’s news conference. Before that, in the first set of her match, she needed a timeout for a trainer to come to the court and massage out some of the pain.

Seles said she felt lucky to win that close tiebreaker _ ``Either player can win at 5-all,″ she said _ and is glad she’ll get some more chances to test the foot before the meat of the clay-court season begins. The French Open starts May 26.

``Instead of going over to Europe and saying, ‘Gee, my foot is not doing too good,’ I really enjoy Amelia Island, so I thought this would be the perfect combination,″ Seles said. ``I just really came down here wanting to get some matches and have a good time.″

Seles, who won here in 1999 and 2000, will play a third-round match Thursday against 10th-seeded Nathalie Dechy, who defeated Maria Vento-Kabchi 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

Top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne opened play here Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Dally Randriantefy. Henin-Hardenne is still receiving congratulations for her upset victory over Serena Williams in the final of the Family Circle Cup.

``It gave me a lot of confidence, but this week is another week,″ she said.

The week, however, got easier when Henin-Hardenne learned she’ll get a bye in the third round because 14th-seeded Clarisa Fernandez withdrew with a sprained wrist.

``I’m sure it’s going to help, but it’s always disappointing when a player is injured,″ she said.

In other action, fifth-seeded Jelena Dokic defeated Tina Pisnik, 7-5, 5-7, 6-1; seventh-seeded Patty Schnyder defeated Maja Matevzic, 6-1, 4-1, retired; ninth-seeded Meghann Shaughnessy defeated Virginia Ruano-Pasqual 6-2, 6-3; tenth-seeded Elena Dementieva beat Lina Krasnoroustskaya, 6-1, 7-5 and 15th-seeded Paola Suarez beat Elena Likhovtseva, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Through three days, no seeded player has lost. Not counting Fernandez, who withdrew, the round-of-16 includes 14 seeds and Marlene Weingartner, a loser in qualifying who made it into the draw when 13th-seeded Conchita Martinez withdrew because of injury.

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