Christian Ruud, who spent much of last season in tennis' minor leagues, knocked out second-seeded Alex Corretja today, leaving the Australian Open with only one of its top four men's seeds.
Ruud, a Norwegian ranked 86th in the world, belted back loopy groundstrokes throughout, and on the first match point, Corretja hit a forehand long on the 30th shot, giving Ruud a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Michael Chang, who in past years has usually been one of the top four, was thwarted in his comeback effort, falling 7-6 (7-1), 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 to 14th-seeded Mark Philippoussis, the U.S. Open runner-up. Chang was seeded third last year, but has slumped to 27th in the rankings after a season of knee and wrist injuries.
Ruud reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for only the third time in 17 tries. He had his best performance in the 1997 Australian Open, advancing to the fourth round.
Corretja is the seventh men's seed left on the sidelines. At the top, No. 1 Marcelo Rios withdrew with a back injury and No. 4 Carlos Moya, the French Open champion, lost in the first round to Germany's Nicolas Kiefer. And top-ranked Pete Sampras stayed home.
Corretja, the French Open runner-up, never settled into his game. He barely survived a five-set first-round match, in which 116th-ranked Takao Suzuki of Japan was serving for the match in the fourth set.
The Spaniard's departure left No. 3 Patrick Rafter, the U.S. Open champion, as the highest-ranked man.
In a match that ended after midnight, Rafter combined precision ground strokes with acrobatic volleys for a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory over fellow Australian Mark Woodforde.
Ruud finished 1997 ranked 66th, but slipped to 172nd in May and played much of the season on the Challenger circuit, winning four titles in six finals. He was 36-9 record on that circuit, and 4-15 mark on the main tour.
"I think I'm the best player to come from Norway," said Ruud.
On the long rallies, he said: "It was too risky to go for the big shots. I just tried to keep the ball in play and let him make the mistakes. It worked out pretty well, I think."
Ruud also said a key to the match was his recovery from 0-3 in the third.
"I think that made him a bit down, and he got a bit tired and negative," Ruud said.
| Austria's Sylvia Plischke had plenty to smile about after upsetting Anke Huber. (AP) |
Corretja said he never felt comfortable on court.
"It was terrible," he said. "I came here in really good shape, and last week I was playing good tnnis. I thought I had a good chance."
Adding to Corretja's frustrations was a warning and possible fine for hitting a ball boy while sending a ball back at the end of a game.
Philippoussis gained the crucial break over Chang in the 11th game of the final set by twice running around his backhand to slam forehands straight down the line.
Philippoussis served 20 aces to Chang's 12 in the 3-hour, 45-minute match, and dictated the pace, going constantly for winners.
"Mark played a tough match and came up with some good shots," Chang said. "At the end the crucial ones went in or dribbled over."
Chang said he was healthy again, and hoping to beat some high-ranked players to "get the ball rolling" in an effort to climb back to the top 10.
Philippoussis said he felt relaxed throughout.
"I was a bit lucky at the end with those let cords, but that's tennis," he said of a couple of shots that dribbled over in the last two games.
With the high seeds missing, No. 6 Tim Henman was in a strong position to win his first Grand Slam event on a court that suits him.
But he had to rebound from a choppy start in blustery winds to reach the third round with a 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Australian Sandon Stolle.
"I was just really pleased about the way I turned it around in the fourth and fifth," said Henman, whose best Grand Slam result so far has been reaching last year's Wimbledon semifinals, where he lost to Sampras.
"Twelve months ago there's a very, very good chance I would have lost that match. ... To be able to come through is a big bonus, but in future rounds I have got to try and not dig holes for myself," he added.
"This is a tournament I should do well at. The conditions are pretty favorable for me. ... If anything, (the court) does help the aggressive players, the serve and volleyers and the guys that are moving forward."
No. 7 Karol Kucera of Slovakia beat Italy's Davide Sanguinetti 7-5, 6-1, 6-4, and No. 9 Richard Krajicek beat Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Sweden's Thomas Enqvist, who had won two tuneup tournaments, reached the third round by beating Zimbabwe's Byron Black 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-2), 6-0.
At the top of the women's lineup, Lindsay Davenport reached the third round with the loss of just seven games in two matches.
She beat Argentina's Florencia Labat 6-2, 6-1, and disclosed later that she had undergone experimental magnetic therapy to help cure an elbow injury that nagged her for the last six months of 1998.
"I swear I did this magnet therapy, it's so embarrassing, but I put my arm under this magnet and it has not hurt me one bit since," Davenport said. "I don't know what happened, but for three weeks in Australia it's been great and hasn't hurt once."
No. 5 Venus Williams was just as overpowering, dispatching Sweden's Asa Carlsso 6-2, 6-1 after losing the first two games.
No. 3 seed Jana Novotna lamented the windy conditions after an "ugly" 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Henrieta Nagyova of Slovakia.
No. 8 Patty Schnyder didn't survive, losing 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 6-3 to France's Amelie Mauresmo.
No. 9 Conchita Martinez of Spain beat American Brie Rippner 6-0, 6-4; No. 11 Dominique van Roost of Belgium beat Seda Noorlander of the Netherlands 7-6 (8-6), 6-0; No. 15 Natasha Zvereva of Belarus beat American Meilen Tu 6-3, 7-5; and Jennifer Capriati lost to Spain's Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenzo 7-6 (7-2), 6-2.
Germany's Anke Huber, a 1996 finalist and 1998 semifinalist, but now ranked No. 18, lost 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 7-5 to Austrian Sylvia Plischke.
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