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WASHINGTON SENDS STICH REELING FROM AUSSIE OPEN

SHARE WASHINGTON SENDS STICH REELING FROM AUSSIE OPEN

MaliVai Washington, his opponent spraying wayward shots off the court, upset second seed Michael Stich on Tuesday in the first round of the Australian Open.

Stich, a semifinalist in Melbourne last year and the No. 2 player in the world, was forced into repeated errors at the net by Washington's low returns.Washington, an American ranked 26th in the world, defeated the German 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. He lost his serve only in the third set.

"It's not like he won the match," Stich said. "I gave it to him."

No. 8 seed Petr Korda of the Czech Republic also was ousted Tuesday, losing in straight sets to Thomas Enqvist of Sweden.

No. 4 Stefan Edberg of Sweden, No. 6 Thomas Muster of Austria, No. 9 Todd Martin of the United States, No. 10 Magnus Gustafsson of Sweden, No. 12 Alexander Volkov of Russia, No. 13 Wayne Ferreira of South Africa and No. 16 Arnaud Boetsch of France all won Tuesday.

The best comeback so far was pulled off by American Jared Palmer, who rallied from two sets down to defeat Germany's David Prinosil.

Women's second seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain dropped only four games while winning her first-round match Tuesday, and No. 10 Kimiko Date lost just two games in advancing. No. 3 Conchita Martinez of Spain. No. 4 Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, No. 5 Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic and No. 6 Mary Joe Fernandez of the United States also won Tuesday.

Just when tennis was being dismissed by critics and some of its own players as a bore, Jim Courier and Bryan Shelton provided a taste Monday of how compelling the sport can be.

Lunging and leaping, grunting and groaning, the two Americans gave an intriguing display of power tennis, with Shelton providing the perfect counterpunch to Courier's strong serve and forehand.

Courier, seeking a third straight Australian Open title, rallied to avoid a first-round ouster. He captured five of the final six games to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4 in 4 hours, 42 minutes.

Courier's victory wasn't always pretty tennis, but it was exciting. And it was an answer to those who complain men's tennis has turned into a boring battle of big servers. In recent days, Ivan Lendl and Muster have said they would not pay to see today's brand of tennis.

The crowd gasped as Courier and Shelton traded shots, then gestured to themselves with their rackets, sort of shadowboxing in the midday sun.

"I think they enjoyed it because I was having fun out there," Shelton said. "I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I think they saw that in my face."

Top seed Pete Sampras won easily, blasting 23 aces in a 6-4, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) defeat of Australian Joshua Eagle.

Also winning first-round matches Monday were No. 5 Goran Ivanisevic, who delighted several hundred flag-waving Croatian fans with a straight-sets win over Alex O'Brien, and No. 11 Marc Rosset of Switzerland, No. 14 Karel Novacek of the Czech Republic and No. 15 Lendl.

The only men's seed defeated Monday was No. 7 Cedric Pioline of France.

Top women's seed Steffi Graf, the overwhelming favorite in the absence of three-time champion Monica Seles, needed just 23 minutes Monday to win 6-1, 2-0 over Kimberly Po, who retired with a strained stomach muscle.