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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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PARIS (TICKER) -- Anna Kournikova, still trying to rebound from a foot injury that caused her to miss most of last season, barely avoided a first-round loss Tuesday at the $585,000 Open Gaz de France tennis event.

The 20-year-old Russian overcame a tiebreaker loss in the opening set to defeat Switzerland's Emmanuelle Gagliardi, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-4.

Kournikova improved to 8-4 in 2002. She lost in the early rounds at Sydney and the Australian Open but reached the semifinals at the ASB Bank Classic and last week's Pan Pacific Open.

Kournikova was a quarterfinalist here last season, a year after reaching the semifinals.

No. 7 Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, one of only two seeds in action Tuesday, suffered a 7-5, 6-4 setback to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

Ninth seed Elena Dementieva advanced with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over fellow Russian Elena Bovina, a qualifier.

Dementieva, who fell to Kournikova in the second round last week, was awarded a seed after No. 6 Sandrine Testud of France withdrew Monday due to severe pain and inflammation in her neck.

Lucky loser Meilen Tu of the United States advanced to face top seed Venus Williams in the second round when Slovakia's Henrieta Nagyova retired in the second set with a strained right wrist. Tu was leading, 6-3, 4-2, when the match was halted.

Williams did not play last week after losing to Monica Seles in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. She opened the season by winning the Australian Women's Hardcourt event.

In other first-round matches Tuesday, Spain's Cristina Torrens Valero defeated Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3; Italy's Francesca Schiavone got past Germany's Marlene Weingartner, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4; and Germany's Greta Arn ousted Elena Likhovtseva of Russia, 6-3, 6-4

Belgium's Justin Henin is seeded second, followed by defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France, Yugoslavia's Jelena Dokic and Seles.

The champion takes home $93,000.
 

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