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· Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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Henin wins, but Kournikova holds court


Associated Press Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Substance beat style as Anna Kournikova tumbled out of Australian Open.

Sixth-seeded Justine Henin beat Kournikova for the third consecutive time Tuesday, advancing to the second round with a 6-2, 7-5 victory.

``It was a good and bad draw for me,'' Henin said of Kournikova, the Russian star who missed much of last season with a foot injury.

``She didn't play a lot of matches in the last months so it was good, but I also played against a 'personality' and the crowd loved that,'' the Belgian added.

``It's always difficult when you're in front of her to give 100 percent because you have to stay focused just on the match and it wasn't easy all the time.''

Kournikova had a career-best Australian Open performance last year when she made the quarterfinals but her year went quickly downhill after that. She had surgery for the foot injury in April and missed the final three Grand Slam tournaments.

Now she's trying to get her career on track and her ranking back up to where it was a year ago, a career-high No. 8. She is currently No. 64.

``I want to get to the same position and (physical) shape as before the injury,'' the 20-year-old Kournikova said.

But try as she might the Russian, who has yet to win a tournament but whose glamorous image has made her one of the sport's highest profile players and biggest earners, can't escape questions on her looks and persona.

``Nobody's perfect,'' Kournikova said when asked if she was the ``perfect athlete'' because of the combination of her appearance and tennis ability.

Kournikova's postmatch press conference attracted more than double the number of media and lasted twice as long as Henin's.

``That's their problem'' Kournikova added when asked about people focusing on her appearance. ``That's their decision ... I don't think about that.

``Around me there are no people that think that way. They think of me first as a person and then everything else.''

Out on the court, Kournikova started poorly against Henin, dropping serve in the opening game in a largely one-sided opening set. She then blew a 3-1 lead in the second set.

``I wasn't playing well in general. I started to play better in the second set, but she lifted her game and I didn't play well on the important points,'' Kournikova said.

Asked what she needed to do to return to the top 10, she said: ``Now I feel good physically. (But) I have to play a lot more matches, become a lot more comfortable on court during rallies and the important points.

``That's what you lose when you don't play for a long time, that automatic decision-making.''
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