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Hingis, Venus Win At Wimbledon

A spitting nuisance of rain, not enough to fill a tea cup, washed away 60 matches Tuesday and doused Lisa Raymond's shot at knocking out defending Wimbledon champion Martina Hingis in the first round.

No other sport would have come to a halt in so flimsy a drizzle, but for tennis players skidding on slick new grass it was too much. Sort of like some of the days last year in the wettest of all Wimbledons.

Only one match was completed on Centre Court, and for Raymond it lasted about 90 minutes too long. That was the time of the rain delay, from which the 19th-ranked Raymond emerged as if in a stupor.

After giving Hingis fits in the first set with booming backhands and gutsy, go-for-broke winners, Raymond came out of the locker room the second time and immediately double-faulted, dropped serve twice and lost her fourth straight game to fall behind 5-1.

The American, who won her last match in Hingis' adopted Swiss homeland, didn't go quietly. But she went nevertheless, 7-5, 6-3, after saving three match points, breaking Hingis and holding at love to 5-3.

"I definitely didn't come out of the blocks (after the rain delay) as well as I had in the first set," Raymond said. "It definitely was not to my advantage to stop. I think I played a lot more loose points in the second set ... and you just can't do that against her."

Hingis is chunkier than a year ago, looks more vulnerable, and is surrounded by challengers young and old. But she has a knack for getting out of trouble and putting pressure on her opponents. Raymond kept Hingis deep, ran her from side to side, and still couldn't put her away.

Perhaps no shot was more telling of Hingis' ability to come up with what's needed as the running forehand she drilled down the line from off court to give her set point in the first set. Raymond, deflated by that shot after doing so much to get Hingis out of position, weakly netted a backhand on the next point to drop the set.

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"It's very frustrating," Raymond said. "Martina seems to be able to come up with those shots, and that's one of the reasons why she's No. 1 in the world. That's one of her talents."

Yet with a field that includes seven-time champion Steffi Graf, a resurgent Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Jana Novotna, and young threats like Venus and Serena Williams, Raymond hardly thought Hingis has a lock on this title again.

"I think she's vulnerable here," Raymond said. "Any top player is vulnerable in the first couple of rounds. That was why it was such a good opportunity for me today, because I knew she hadn't played any grass court matches and she's got the pressure of defending champion. I think the loss at the French probably affected her as well. She feels like she's got something to prove again."

Novotna, a finalist for the second time last year and No. 3 seed this year, won her opener, 6-2, 6-2 against fellow Czech Sandra Kleinova. No. 7 Venus Williams, a first-round loser in her Wimbledon debut a year ago, followed her sister into the second round with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Canada's Jana Nejedly.

The only seeded man to complete a match, No. 6 Patrick Rafter, won 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 against Ivo Heuberger.

Raymond said she could see the nervousness and uncertainty on Hingis' face.

"I know Martina, and we're friends off the court, and you can just sense when someone's a little apprehensive, a little not-at-ease with themselves or with the situation," Raymond said. "Just in the warm-up, I could tell that she wasn't striking the ball as well as she usually does. I'm sure that had a lot to do with some nerves."

Hingus admitted as much, though she's still as confident, or cocky, as ever.

"I hope now it is going to be easier for the next two or three rounds," she said. "Last year I was still kind of the underdog. I was seeded No. 1 when I won the Australian Open and made the French final, but on grass nobody expected me to win it or gave me the credit. Now I am the favorite, since (Anna) Kournikova is not in and (Mary) Pierce lost, and nobody knows what is going to happen with Steffi.

"It is quite a different feeling to come back here as a defending champion with the opening round on Centre Court. It feels good."

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