Czechoslovakia's Helena Sukova, after trailing, 3-1, in the second set, continued her mastery of Lori McNeil by rallying for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory Wednesday night in the opening round of the $1-million Virginia Slims Championships in New York.
Sukova, who is seeded seventh, has won all eight meetings against McNeil, conceding only four sets.
Top-seeded Steffi Graf met Zina Garrison in the second match of the night, and the first round was to be completed with Pam Shriver facing Katerina Maleeva of Bulgaria in a later match.
McNeil, a surprise semifinalist at the U.S. Open this year after upsetting Chris Evert, dominated the early part of the match with her all-court presence. Sukova, meantime, wasn't moving well and had difficulty with her serve.
Three double faults by Sukova enabled McNeil, ranked 11th in the world, to achieve the initial break in the sixth game, and the swift player from Houston broke again in the eighth with a forehand pass on her fifth set point.
Sukova put a big, black cast around her right thigh after the opening game of the second set, and fell behind again when McNeil broke in the fourth game. Sukova double faulted to set up break point, and then she was long with an overhead.
The match turned around quickly when Sukova broke for the first time in the fifth game, and evened the match with another break in the 11th game.
"At 3-1, I was playing a little cautious," McNeil said. "If I get in that situation again, I'll do a better job of mixing up my serves."
Sukova was in control of the final set, breaking in the third and seventh games. McNeil won merely six points on Sukova's serve in the deciding set.
"She was serving well tonight," McNeil said. "She wasn't moving as well at the beginning, but when she started to move better her play improved."
Sukova said when McNeil started so well, she simply told herself to stay in the match.
"I said to just keep . . . and hang in there," she said. "She can't keep playing that well and I can't keep playing that bad."
Top-seeded Pat Cash of Australia and second-seeded Andres Gomez of Ecuador scored straight-set victories in their opening matches of the South African Open at Johannesburg.
Cash defeated Michael Robertson of South Africa, 6-2, 6-2, and Gomez beat another South African, Danie Visser, 6-1, 7-5.
In other action, fourth-seeded David Pate was upset by Francesco Cancellotti of Italy, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, while third-seeded Brad Gilbert beat Pieter Aldrich of South Africa, 6-2, 6-1.
The $375,000 tournament continues through Sunday.