Men's defending champion Pete Sampras and women's top seed Martina Hingis both progressed smoothly to the second round at the Wimbledon Championships Monday on a gloomy day in south London.
Six-time winner Sampras of the United States hurtled through on Center Court by hammering Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in just 1hr 23min.
Sampras, 28, is seeking to set an all-time record of 13 Grand Slam singles titles after he equaled Roy Emerson's haul of 12 here last year.
He next faces Karol Kucera of Slovakia, who beat Wayne Black of Zimbabwe 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
"It's always nice to be back on that court - it's comfortable surroundings for me," said Sampras.
"Your first match out there you're a little bit unsettled, playing someone I've never seen play. But as the match started to go on, I felt my game was getting a little better - though I missed a few balls from the backcourt.
"But for the first match I'm happy."
Hingis, looking to land her second singles crown at the All England Club after taking the title in 1997, needed only 53min to see off 42nd-ranked Angeles Montolio of Spain 6-1, 6-2 and ensure there was no repeat of last year's nightmare when she crashed out at the first hurdle to Aussie teen Jelena Dokic.
Montolio, 24, fought gamely to save seven match points - but she could only delay the inevitable as the Swiss Miss advanced.
Hingis next plays Jing-Qian Yi of China, who hammered Italy's Giulia Casoni 6-2, 6-1.
Hingis, who won the warm-up tournament at Rosmalen at the weekend, was happy to have got her first match out of the way on the revamped Court One.
"I learned a nice lesson at the tournament here last year. Losing in the first round as number one seed is quite enough," said Hingis, grimacing at the memory.
Joining Hingis in the second round was Russian under-achiever Anna Kournikova, who shocked French 10th seed Sandrine Testud 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 on Center Court in a rain-interrupted encounter.
Kournikova, a semi-finalist here in 1997, led 6-5 when the heavens opened and the covers came on.
After the break she promptly wrapped up the opening set and looked to be coasting at 3-0 before dropping serve and allowing Testud to break for 5-4.
Testud then saved two match points to level for 5-5 before taking the second set.
Kournikova broke for 3-1 in the decider but squandered a third match point at 5-2 and then dropped serve.
She eventually triumphed on her fourth match point after 2hr 19min and directed a relieved bow to the ecstatic crowd.
"It was very emotional - very tough. She's the kind of player who plays well when she's behind," said 19-year-old Kournikova
Olga Barabanshikova was another Russian to dump a seed, putting out Austria's 15th seed Barbara Schett 6-2, 6-2.
Earlier, US eighth seed Serena Williams breezed through against Sweden's Asa Carlsson 6-3, 6-2.
Williams, US Open champion last year, is making only her second appearance at the All England Club having missed last year's event with injury.
"I love the place - my game is suited to the grass and I'm really ready," said 18-year-old Williams afterwards.
Elder sister Venus Williams, the fifth seed, also progressed by defeating Kvetoslava Hrdlickova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-1.
Former semi-finalist Natasha Zvereva of Belarus also moved into the second round after a 6-4, 6-3 win over Britain's Julie Pullin, while German 11th seed Anke Huber ended the progress of another home hope, Jo Ward, winning 7-5, 6-2.
Britain's number one woman did advance, however, Louise Latimer ousting Holly Parkinson of the United States 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Croatian teenager Mirjana Lucic, a semi-finalist 12 months ago, beat Denisa Chladkova of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 while Ai Sugiyama won an all-Japanese tussle against qualifier Yuka Yoshida 6-1, 6-3.
Former winner Conchita Martinez of Spain was 6-3, 3-3 up against Anne Kremer of Luxembourg on Center Court when bad light halted play.
Kristie Boogert of the Netherlands and Julie Halard-Decugis of France were likewise to resume their match Tuesday with Boogert leading 7-6 (7/4), 0-1.
In other men's action, 1996 winner and 11th seed Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands ousted Spaniard Albert Costa (Spa) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) while Romania's Andrei Pavel thrashed Alberto Berasategui of Spain 6-0, 6-4, 6-2.
British 14th seed Greg Rusedski lost a titanic struggle in five sets against Vince Spadea of the United States, who ended a run of 21 straight defeats going back to last October after converting his fifth match point.
Spadea eventually won a rain-interrupted match 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 in a marathon which lasted 3hr 56min and which suggested that Canadian-born Rusedski did not perhaps merit a seeding in the first place considering that the likes of the absent Alex Corretja were not seeded.
Spain's Corretja withdrew Sunday as a result of not being seeded despite being in the world top 16.
French sixth seed Cedric Pioline, runner up here three years ago, showed his form by beating Norway's Christian Ruud 7-6 (7/4), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty also advanced, winning 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 against Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina.
There was a rare win for the home crowd to savor when wildcard Martin Lee beat Juan Antonio Marin of Costa Rica
South Africa's Wayne Ferreira beat Australian journeyman Wayne Arthurs 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 while qualifier Harel Levy of Israel heaped more misery on Australia when he came past Jason Stoltenberg 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4.
Slava Dosedel of the Czech Republic scored a 6-3, 6-2, 0-6, 6-1 win over Ecuador's 16th seed Nicolas Lapentti.
South Africa's Neville Godwin showed great resilience to beat Spaniard Fernando Vicente 6-7 (6/8), 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, 8-6, Sweden's Thomas Enqvist waltzed past Markus Hantschk of Germany 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 and another Swede, Jonas Bjorkman, overcame Ukraine's Andrei Medvedev 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)