Coria survives scare at Hamburg

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Guillermo Coria of Argentina survived a scare in his opening match at the Hamburg Masters on Monday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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The first day of the week long Hamburg Masters was played in cool weather and under cloudy skies, with occasional light rain. The defending champion, Argentina's Guillermo Coria, has not lost a clay-court match dating back to the semi-finals of last year's French Open. He's now 12-0 on clay for the year, with titles in Buenos Aires and Monte Carlo. But on Monday, Coria - seeded second behind Roger Federer - was stretched by the Spanish qualifier Nicolas Almagro. The 18-year-old produced several stunning winners to unsettle the favourite and took the first set 6-3. Coria, returning to action after fitness worries, was looking rusty and nervous. Leveling set But he leveled by taking the second set 6-4 - and then served for the match at 5-3, only to be caught by Almagro's returns. But the Argentine's experience prevailed in the end when he held two match points on Almagro's serve. Almagro saved the first one with a service winner but fired a forehand long on the second for Coria to run out a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victor. Safin's victory Earlier, Russian Marat Safin had recovered from a sluggish start to squeeze past Sebastien Grosjean 7-6 7-5. The former world number one, twice a finalist in this northern German port city, fought back from 3-0 down and survived two set points before knocking the eighth-seeded Frenchman out of the claycourt event. The towering Russian, who started the year by reaching the Australian Open final, trailed 5-1 in the opening set tiebreak but produced a string of brilliant winners to take it 8-6. The second set was equally close, until Safin converted his first match point with a forehand winner to seal victory in just under two hours. "All the matches are tough in the Masters Series. But, hopefully, the next rounds will be not easy but at least I can play my best tennis so I can get some points here and be seeded in the last 16 in the French Open - that's my goal," said Marat Safin. Other matches In other action, Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan, seeded 11th but not a claycourt specialist, was crushed 6-3 6-4 by Belgian baseliner Olivier Rochus. Afterwards, the Thai was his usual philosophical self about his latest defeat on clay. And the final match on centre court saw the departure of the big-serving Australian, Mark Philippoussis. Philippoussis, a quarter-finalist here last year, is struggling and has not won a match since reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. And today proved no different, as Swede Joachim Johansson beat him 7-6 6-1. On Tuesday, the world number one and top seed, Roger Federer of Switzerland, faces a tough test against Argentine baseliner Gaston Gaudio in his opening match. (PTI)

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