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MUSTER, GRAF PICK UP EASY FIRST-ROUND WINS

Defending champions Thomas Muster and Steffi Graf had little trouble putting away their first-round challengers today at the French Open.

Muster gained control after a tough first set and went on to defeat unseeded Frederick Fetterlein of Denmark 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, while Graf breezed by Larisa Neiland of Latvia 6-3, 6-2 in less than an hour.Two-time winner Arantxa Sanchez Vicario downed Andrea Glass of Germany 6-2, 6-3.

Fetterlein, who has never gotten past the second round in a Grand Slam, gave second-seeded Muster pause with some grueling rallies to win four straight games in the first set.

Groaning back at Muster's stroke-for-stroke growl, Fetterlein took the seventh game with three aces in a row and led 4-3. But Fetterlein lacked staying power and Muster roared back to win the next three for the set.

Muster broke serve in the first game of the second set and Fetterlein never recovered. Fetterlein, ranked 107th, defeated Muster last year on a hard court in Tel Aviv but couldn't match him on clay.

It was Muster's first time back on Center Court since beating Michael Chang in last year's final.

"I had all the memories from last year," Muster said. "It's a great feeling to go out there and play again.

"There's no pressure on me to win the tournament this year," Muster said. "I have nothing to prove. I feel like I'm in good shape and everything is working well for me.

Asked about about any problems with the twisted ankle he suffered last week, Muster said: "Just a little bit with the warm-up. Once I get moving, I'm quite right."

Their first meeting on clay, Neiland lasted longer than expected, but it wasn't sparkling tennis for either. Graf piled up 19 unforced errors, compared to Neiland's 23. Graf had defeated Neiland in their four past faceoffs.

In other matches, No. 13 Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands beat Noszaly Sandor of Hungary 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, 6-4 and 14th-seeded Marc Rosset of Switzerland defeated Carl-Uwe Steeb of Germany 6-4, 6-4, 6-0. Andrei Medvedev defeated Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

Among the women, Japan's seventh-seeded Kimiko Date of Japan defeated Asa Carlsson of Sweden 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, No. 8, of the Netherlands downed unseeded Alexia Dechaume-Balleret of France 6-4, 6-4 and Jana Novotna, No. 10, easily put away fellow Czech Ludmila Richterova 6-1, 6-2.

Chang, the 1989 French Open winner and this year's No. 4 seed, was playing David Prinosil of Germany and ninth-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile was meeting Michael Joyce.

Jennifer Capriati, the American back for the first time since 1993, was paired with China's Jing-Qian Yi in a match put off by rain delays Monday.

For Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, the French Open's red clay has been kind to them. So far.

Despite rain, despite Agassi's profane outbursts and unforced errors getting him into trouble, despite Sampras' recent back troubles, the two Americans got through their first tests on Monday.

"Haven't been a lot of clay court days for me this year. I felt I got off to a good start," the top-seeded Sampras said after defeating 33rd-ranked Magnus Gustafsson in straight sets Monday.

"Obviously my road here just gets tougher," he said.