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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bullish Kournikova Blows Past Miller




PALO ALTO, California -- Anna Kournikova, attempting to turn around what is becoming a dismal year in her once-promising career, crushed American Anne Miller 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the $535,000 Palo Alto Classic on Tuesday.


Sixth-seed Amanda Coetzer of South Africa also advanced, taking out Taiwan's Janet Lee 6-2, 6-3.


The No. 19-ranked Kournikova, seeded ninth here, has had a less than stellar 2000, failing to reach a final and crashing out of the French Open and Wimbledon in the second round. In her last six tournaments, the bold blonde has gone 6-6 and she hasn't won an event in 74 attempts.


But Tuesday, the 18-year-old renowned sex symbol showed none of erratic play that has plagued her as of late, coolly controlling the center of the court and smoking winners to both corners.


"If I play like I did today, it's pretty possible that I can win my first tournament soon," said Kournikova. "I need to stay positive, be confident, play my own game and be consistent. That's a lot of things to come together at once, but I'm hopeful."


Kournikova was never challenged in the match, as her opponent, former top-50 player Miller, had only played one match in the last two years and entered the tournament on an injury exemption.


Kournikova and Miller used to practice together at Nick Bollettieri Academy, but it was the Russian who remembered how to school her opponent.


"It was my most enjoyable match in a few months," Kournikova said. "I concentrated well and was really aggressive. I was hitting winners from anywhere. I felt I could always go to another gear."


The No. 12-ranked Coetzer has been in a gradual decline since 1997, when she reached the semis of the Australian and French Opens and climbed to No. 3 in the rankings.


A diminutive counterpuncher with remarkable speed and grit, Coetzer has failed to get beyond the second round of a Grand Slam this year. However, the 27-year-old believes the best is yet to come.


"I'm playing a lot better than I did in 1997," she said. "I haven't done well at Grand Slams recently and I wish I knew why. There's more to my game then there was before. It's just the bottom level of the tour has improved so much and I have to keep improving to keep up."


Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will play her opening match Wednesday night.


Fourth-seeded American Michael Chang dismissed Paul Kilderry of Australia 6-4, 6-2 Tuesday in the opening round of the $375,000 Los Angeles Open.


"For me tonight, it was important to play consistent, to play aggressive and to keep him moving," said Chang, who employed his unrelenting ground game against the qualifier during the 90-minute sweep. "Paul is a good player. That's what I needed to do tonight."


While Chang cruised into the second round, unseeded Alex O'Brien of the United States fired eight aces and watched Andrew Ilie of Australia serve his fourth double-fault on match point to upset the seventh seed 6-3, 6-2 in a 56-minute first-round surprise.