Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Daniela Hantuchova, on the comeback trail after being sidelined with a foot injury earlier this year, was crushed 6-4 6-2 by German qualifier Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the U.S. Open first round on Tuesday.

The 11th-seeded Slovakian, who reached the last four at the Australian Open in January, struggled to find her range against the big-serving German and was swept aside in 71 minutes.

Groenefeld, world-ranked 141st after reaching a career-high 14th in 2006, kept her opponent on the back foot by dominating from the baseline and firing down seven aces.

"I really didn't get the chance to get into the match," world number 12 Hantuchova told reporters. "She was serving incredibly well and her first serves were around 125 (mph) which gave me no chance. I felt I was always under pressure."

The Slovakian said she had not fully recovered from the foot injury which kept her out of action for two months in the build-up to this year's Wimbledon.

"I don't feel 100 percent fit," she added. "The foot feels much better but I lost the feeling of playing and that takes time to get back."

Groenefeld, slowly working her way back up the world rankings after a protracted contractual battle with her former coach, was delighted to upset Hantuchova.


"It's a kind of a second chance for me in my career and I have a lot more influence now on what I am doing," said the 23-year-old, who stopped playing competitively for nine months when at her lowest ebb.

"I have just beaten Daniela so that's a great start. Ranking-wise, that's the best match I have played this year. Every win gives you more confidence and I believe I am on my way back.

"My serve is a great weapon of mine and I think I have improved it this year," she said after winning 96 percent of her first serve points.

"I was very happy with my first serves because I knew I had to play aggressively against her."

Groenefeld, who had to compete on the lower Challenger circuit after her ranking plummeted, said she had no desire to dwell on the past.

"I didn't play for eight to nine months because of everything that was going on behind the tennis lines," she added. "I had time off to re-group mentally. The final cut came just a couple of months ago.

"Everything is now over. I don't really want to think about the past again. I am much more relaxed and happy outside of the court."

Groenefeld will meet a wildcard opponent, either Australian Jessica Moore or American Melanie Oudin, in the second round.