Eighth-seeded Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria overcame a sluggish start to edge unseeded Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, Tuesday night in a first-round match of the $1 million Virginia Slims Championships at New York's Madison Square Garden.
A service break in the final game, the 14th break during the 2-hour, 5-minute match enabled Maleeva to defeat the 6-foot-1 Kohde-Kilsch for the fourth time in six meetings.
Maleeva had eight service breaks, while Kohde-Kilsch had six.
Kohde-Kilsch's seventh double fault of the evening set up the third match point for Maleeva, and Kohde-Kilsch followed with a forehand long.
"I started the first set very badly, made a lot of mistakes," said Maleeva, who lost the first four games. "I was not concentrating. During the end of the first set I started to play more steady. Once I could put the ball on the court five times in a row, things started to get better."
Maleeva, scheduled to be married next week, could meet her younger sister, Katerina, in the second round if Katerina defeats Pam Shriver today.
Top-seeded Steffi Graf plays her first-round match tonight against Zina Garrison.
There were seven service breaks in the opening set of Tuesday's match, including the final four games. Kohde-Kilsch swept the first four games, taking the first three with the loss of only three points, but allowed Maleeva an opening with a double fault on break point of the fifth game.
Maleeva followed with two more breaks, but Kohde-Kilsch wound up the set, appropriately enough, with her fourth service break.
After the two women exchanged breaks early in the second set, Maleeva broke again in the seventh and ninth games. A double fault by Kohde-Kilsch provided Maleeva her second set point in the ninth game, and Kohde-Kilsch then sent a forehand wide.
Maleeva jumped to a 4-1 lead in the final set, and although Kohde-Kilsch pulled even, her erratic serve cost her the match.
The last time the two played, in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, Maleeva won in a third-set tiebreaker.
Fourth-seeded David Pate and sixth-seeded Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland won their first-round matches in the $375,000 South African Open at Johannesburg. Pate beat Carl Limberger of Australia, 6-1, 7-6, and Hlasek defeated Jim Courier, 6-2, 6-2.
In other matches, Guy Forget of France defeated Kelly Jones, 6-3, 6-4, and Simon Youl of Australia ousted Neil Broad of South Africa, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6.