PIERCE knocked out of first round

Tuesday, May 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ Reigning French Open champion Mary Pierce lost her 2001 European clay debut, falling Tuesday in the first round of the Italian Open to Russia's Nadia Petrova.

The 10th-seeded French national looked stiff and unfocused, losing 6-2, 6-4 in under an hour.

Pierce, who won on Foro Italico's red clay in 1997, was dominated by the WTA's 62nd ranked player.

''I didn't thing it would go that quickly,'' said Petrova, 24. ''But I was ready for the match. She didn't play her best. I was just hitting a little bit away from her and she wouldn't move.''

Pierce, 26, broke Petrova just once, to even the second set at 2-2, but the Russian broke back at love to go up 3-2.

Also Tuesday, another Russian, Lina Krasnoroutskaya, knocked out ninth-seeded Anke Huber of Germany 6-2, 6-3.

On Monday, two of the three American women playing in the Italian Open's first round on Monday lost, which was one win better than the men's first round last week.

Kristina Brandi was knocked out by Swiss qualifier Emmanuelle Gagliardi. Jill Craybas squandered a one-set advantage to Russia's Tatiana Panova.

Only Lilia Osterloh moved to the second round of the dlrs 1.185 million clay-court event, coming back from a set down to dominate Czech Sandra Kleinova 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Last week's men's competition, won by Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, was notably scant of American action, as seeded stars Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Jan-Michael Gambill, fell in the first round.

Panova, ranked 36th in the WTA rankings, beat the American qualifier 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, coming back from one set and two breaks down in the second for the win.

The Russian will face the tournament's top-seeded Martina Hingis in the second round on Tuesday.

Hingis, along with American Jennifer Capriati, Spain's Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, is among the top eight seeded players, who all received a first-round bye in the key tune-up for the French Open.

Defending French champion Mary Pierce, seeded 10th, will make her European clay-court debut in a first-round match on Tuesday.

Venus and Serena Williams, as well as defending champion Monica Seles, were late drop-outs at Foro Italico.

The first seeded player to fall on Monday was No. 16 Magui Serna of Spain who lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Slovakia's Henrieta Nagyova.

In other first-round action, Switzerland's Emmanuelle Gagliardi rolled over another American, Kristina Brandi, 6-4, 6-4 and Hungarian Rita Kuti Kis downed the 1997 French Open champion Iva Majoli, 6-4, 6-4.

Other women advancing Monday to the second round included Daniela Hantuchova and Janette Husarova of Slovakia, Italy's Maria Elena Camerin and Bianka Lamade of Germany, Anne Kremer of Luxembourg, Angeles Montolio of Spain and Lilia Osterloh of the United States.

On Sunday, Ferrero won the men's portion of the two-week event, avenging a five-set loss to Gustavo Kuerten in last year's French Open semifinals with a five-set victory in Rome.

The 21-year-old outlasted the top-seeded Brazilian in a grueling 3-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 final.