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Mary Pierce
Dec 30th, 2002, 04:01 AM
Scratch pairing could go all way
NZ HERALD
By TERRY MADDAFORD

They will play together for the first time today, are not seeded and face a formidable first-up combination, but few would discount Mary Pierce and Paola Suarez as contenders for this week's Classic doubles.

The scratch combination have the credentials to go a long way, despite Pierce's long injury break and her subsequent drop-off in rankings.

The tournament's drawcard, who had to use her special doubles ranking of 30 to play, will be on centre court in the third match of the opening day when she and Argentine Suarez meet fourth seeds Eleni Daniilidou and Patricia Wartusch.

With 34 WTA doubles titles between them - both have won the French Open - Pierce and Suarez will be no pushovers.

"If I didn't play doubles it could be I will not get much court time," Pierce said. "Getting an early doubles match gives me time to work on things."

While Suarez is the world's highest-ranked doubles player - she and Spaniard Virginia Ruano Pascual added the United States Open crown to their French Open triumph this year - she says her priority remains with singles.

Fresh from a fortnight's holiday in Brazil and then five weeks of practice before her third trip to Auckland, Suarez is looking forward to teaming with Pierce.

"It is our first time together, but I enjoy playing doubles," said Suarez, who won seven doubles titles this year.

"I'm healthy and it is the beginning of the year so I like to play doubles."

If Pierce and Suarez win their first match, they face a possible semifinal clash with top seeds Cara Black and Elena Likhovtseva.

Black and Likhovtseva, regular winners together on the WTA circuit, lost their Wimbledon semifinal to Suarez and Ruano Pascual.

The bottom half of the draw should be dominated by second-seeded Slovenians Tina Krizan and Katarina Srebotnik.

They will play New Zealand's Leanne Baker and her Indian partner, Manisha Malhotra, in the first round.

Baker and Malhotra last night beat Italian sisters Adrianna and Antonella Serra Zanetti in a drawn-out final of the qualifying tournament. Down 1-5 in the tiebreak, Baker and Malhotra got up to win 11-9.

Fellow New Zealander Shelley Stephens and her partner, German Vanessa Henke, had already been given a wildcard into the main draw

Mark Spruce
Dec 30th, 2002, 04:56 AM
THANX

Mark