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NOTES

Chang Doesn't Have It in Upset Loss to Raoux

January 22, 1998|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MELBOURNE, Australia — So little has come easy to Michael Chang, who's singular and diligent struggle to maintain his position in men's tennis each week becomes less likely to bring him a reward.

His career has required so much of him that even his infrequent victories are difficult and mentally costly. He came limping into the Australian Open seeded No. 3, but having lost nine of his last 10 matches and nursing a strained stomach muscle. On Thursday, Chang became the highest-seeded player to lose.

Frenchman Guillaume Raoux, ranked No. 46, defeated Chang in a second-round match, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5).

Chang was a semifinalist here last year and the runner-up to Boris Becker in 1996. The medium-slow hard courts at Melbourne Park suit Chang's game as does the tournament's relaxed pace.

Raoux was the aggressor in the match, making more unforced errors but also creating 59 winners to Chang's 39.

"I don't feel like there's anything wrong with my game at the moment," Chang said. "It's fair to say that in the last few months, tennis-wise, I've been struggling. I feel like it's one of those things that I need to continue to keep my head up.

"In my heart, the hunger is still there. The fire is still there. It's not just a spark--it's burning."

Just before the Chang match, the tournament's second-seeded man nearly lost. Patrick Rafter prevailed over unseeded Todd Martin, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-3, in 3 hours 26 minutes.

The match took a heavy toll on Rafter, who for two weeks has been playing long matches in the heat of the Australian summer.

"If he has another tough one, I think his chances to go too much further go down significantly," Martin said.

Twelfth-seeded Gustavo Kuerten lost to Nicolas Escude. Escude defeated the French Open champion, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5.

*

Pete Sampras needed only 70 minutes to dispatch Davide Sanguinetti, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2, in a second-round match Wednesday.

Sampras was his usual relaxed self during the match and revealed later that he has been visiting Melbourne's casinos every night, playing blackjack.

Asked if he had a system for gambling, Sampras looked puzzled.

"Do I have a system?" Sampras said. "Yeah, I try to walk away with money in my pocket."

*

Top-seeded Martina Hingis advanced Thursday, defeating Barbara Rittner, 7-5, 6-1. She will play Anna Kournikova in the third round. The unseeded Kournikova defeated Corina Morariu, 7-5, 6-2.

*

Outspoken Jeff Tarango was fined $3,000 for unsportsmanlike behavior during his first-round loss to Rafter.

Tarango questioned several calls, and was given a warning for unsportsmanlike behavior.

Meanwhile, Croatian Goran Ivanisevic was fined $5,000 for failing to conduct a post-match press conference after his first-round loss. He also was fined $4,000 for unsportsmanlike behavior.

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