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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Upsets Listless Pierce

MELBOURNE -- Touring pro Elena Likhovtseva had two good reasons to move from her native Kazakhstan to Moscow -- it boosted her career and reunited her with her grandfather, who had been imprisoned by Stalin.


Likhovtseva, 20, a pro for three years, gained attention Thursday for her 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 4 Mary Pierce, who was far off the form that carried her to the Australian Open title last year without the loss of a set. "I thought she would play much stronger and tougher. But it was not that easy,'' Likhovtseva said.


Her family originally was in Kazakhstan because her grandfather was exiled to what was then a remote part of the Soviet Union.


The 76-year-old Mikhail Likhovtseva has since moved back to Moscow, where Likhovtseva lives with her boyfriend and her dog, Arey, but her parents remain in Almaty, where her father runs a business.


Likhovtseva, No. 51 in the world, started played tennis in Kazakhstan "just to do something."


But as she honed her talents, Likhovtseva found she couldn't develop her tennis career from Kazakhstan.


The capital "is too far. It's four hours by plane from Moscow. We had to fly to Moscow to get visas,'' she explained.


Moreover, at the club where she learned the game, "there used to be a lot of people and a good school, but now everybody is gone because it's tough to live there.''


Meanwhile, Pierce's coach said he was "shocked" by the loss.


"I can just say basically that I had a really bad day,'' said Pierce, who now will drop out of the top 10 in the world.


In the men's draw, No. 1 seed Pete Sampras rebounded from a slow start to beat Michael Joyce 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, ending it with his 20th ace. No. 4 Boris Becker beat Thomas Johansson 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov beat Alex Corretja 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.


The top women's seed to play on the day was No. 2 Conchita Martinez, who beat Florencia Labat 6-2, 6-4.


The other high seed to exit was No. 5 Kimiko Date, knocked out by Mana Endo, who has played countless matches with her Japanese compatriot, but has only won twice. Endo triumphed 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Date also ran into error trouble -- 61 unforced errors, compared with Pierce's 35.


But Pierce was missing big, often by two meters.


Coach Nick Bollettieri declared: "If she really wants to be No. 1, she'd better tell herself that, and fast. Since March last year, she just has never really committed herself totally.''


Pierce said she wasn't nervous about defending her title, and "usually if I'm nervous, I play better.''


The former champion showed little emotion.


"I felt like I was moving really heavily, and just made a lot of mistakes. I just felt I could never get into the groove,'' she said.


Bollettieri said he was shocked because "for Mary not to do anything is unbelievable. Mary just was lost out there. You have to give the other girl credit. She put some pressure on her, but I've never seen Mary miss so many shots by so much.''


He added: "I can't control Mary's off-court life, and I don't want to. But she's got to assume her responsibilities, just like Andre Agassi has accepted responsibility for his talent. Even when things are going wrong, she's got to fight through like he did the other night.''


Anna Smashnova is out of the women's play, so she's flying back to Israel this week, where she will hang up her tennis shoes and lace up her army boots.


Smashnova, 19, joined the Israeli army last October, and has already gone through basic training. Now she will have a flexible schedule that allows her to undergo training as an army secretary in between foreign tennis tournaments.


Her army service runs at least through the end of this year.


Smashnova's family is from Minsk, but moved to Tel Aviv in 1990.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)