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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kafelnikov Defies Adversity in Open




MELBOURNE, Australia -- Defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, public enemy No. 1 to Australian Open tennis fans, lay on the court grimacing in pain on the verge of a first-round ouster.


For all the sparse crowd cared, the second-seeded Russian could have stayed down and slipped out of town Tuesday.


But, after several minutes of treatment by a trainer for a groin pull at 5-4 in the second set, Kafelnikov rose as if in defiance of those who wished him gone.


He then won five straight games and went on to a 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Germany's Jens Knippschild.


Kafelnikov had riled Australians during the Davis Cup last September by badmouthing popular teenager Lleyton Hewitt, before and after losing to him, and comparing the court in Brisbane to a "potato field."


Kafelnikov would like to forget that, but knows Australians won't.


"I don't remember what happened in the Davis Cup, although I do remember," he said.


He preferred to attribute the virtual boycott of his match against Knippschild to the poor quality of play rather than lingering hard feelings. Kafelnikov was suffering both from a back injury that hit him last week and the groin pull that occurred in this match.


"It wasn't a pretty match. In fact, it was an ugly match," said Kafelnikov, who watched 20 aces zip past him along with 74 unforced errors by Knippschild.


Kafelnikov then joined in the chorus of complaints about the Australian Open's souped-up courts, calling them "ridiculously fast compared to last year."


Compounding the problem, he said, were balls that have been pumped with more pressure.


"The ball is traveling through the air a lot quicker than it was last year," he said. "So it definitely favors the big-serve players."


In women's matches, No. 1 Martina Hingis cruised past struggling Mirjana Lucic 6-1, 6-2. World No. 6 Barbara Schett downed Meilen Tu 6-2, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4 and No. 13 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario beat Julia Abe 6-2, 6-2.