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Swisscom Challenge: Gagliardi falls to Dokic

Genevan tennis player Emmanuelle Gagliardi has made an early exit from the one million dollar Swisscom challenge tournament in the Zurich suburb of Kloten.

Gagliardi was beaten in straight sets by Australian teenager Jelena Dokic who will now meet Switzerland's most famous player, Martina Hingis, in the second round. The match will be the first encounter between the two players since the Australian's shock win over Hingis in the first round of last year's Wimbledon tournament.

The majority of the fans in the Schluefweg arena on Monday were hoping to see Gagliardi set up an all-Swiss second round match against Hingis. But the Swiss number three, playing in her first Kloten tournament was unable to find her way past Dokic in a match played mainly from the baselines.

In the opening set Gagliardi twice managed to break her opponents serve but was herself broken three times to go down 6-3. There was nothing so close about the second set, as Dokic rediscovered her rhythm to seal an emphatic victory (6-3, 6-0).

It was the Swiss number three's second defeat to Dokic, following a three set loss on clay in Warsaw last season.

Gagliardi's defeat may stir some unpleasant memories for Hingis. The Swiss star's previous defeat to Dokic saw her prematurely knocked out of Wimbledon just weeks after losing a traumatic French Open final to Steffi Graf.

History aside though, Hingis appears to be in great shape for the Kloten tournament, after winning last week's competition in Filderstadt at a blistering pace. Hingis, who celebrated her 20th birthday last month, won the German tournament without dropping a single set, conceding just 10 games on her way to the title.

In Kloten she will be looking to win her first major tournament on Swiss soil, after twice losing in the final. In 1996 Hingis suffered a straight sets defeat (6-2, 6-2) at the hands of Czech player Jana Novotna. Last year the Swiss star was beaten by her American rival Venus Williams.

Neither Venus nor her sister Serena are competing at Kloten this year. Venus withdrew from the tournament just last week, saying she had been advised by her doctor to rest following her exertions in Sydney, where she won the Olympic gold medal.

Nevertheless a strong field of players stands between Hingis and her first major home win. World number two Lindsay Davenport is widely expected to challenge Hingis in the final, but both women will first have to come through a draw which includes France's Nathalie Tauziat, South African Amanda Coetzer and rising Russian star Elena Dementieva.

Hingis though is unlikely to underestimate the size of the challenge ahead. If the world number one has had any cause to forget that nothing is guaranteed in professional tennis, the sight of Dokic on the other side of the net should provide an adequate reminder.

by Mark Ledsom



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