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Old Jun 1st, 2006, 01:54 PM   #15
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Rezai upsets Sugiyama at Roland Garros

PARIS (AP) - Aravane Rezai's proudest moment used to be winning two gold medals at the 2005 Muslim Women's Games in Iran.


That changed Wednesday when the French qualifier fought her way to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 22nd-seeded Ai Sugiyama of Japan to reach the third round of the French Open.


For Rezai, the upset means more than merely her career's most significant win in front of the home crowd. The more than $41,000 in prize money guarantees that 142nd-ranked Rezai will back on the courts for at least another season.

"I'm going to buy plane tickets so I can go to tournaments," said Rezai, who played in two tournaments last year because of tight finances.

Born in Saint-Etienne to Iranian parents, the 19-year-old Rezai took up tennis after a childhood stint as her older brother's ball-girl.

Her coach is her father, Arsalan, a former soccer player who had never picked up a racket before he started training his children.

"He learned by watching tennis on television," she said.

And he stayed away from Wednesday's match, watching his daughter's big win on TV, too.

"He can't come to my matches because he gets even more stressed than me," Rezai said.

According to a story in Wednesday's French sports daily L'Equipe, the French Tennis Federation denied Rezai a wild card into the French Open because of his explosive temper.

The newspaper also reported that Rezai's father got into an argument with two Russian players at a practice court this week. Asked about the spat, Rezai refused to comment.

Her father did attend Rezai's medal-winning matches at last year's Muslim Women's Games in his hometown, Teheran. "Winning with all my family there was really special," Rezai said. "But today might be even better."
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