14-year-old wins in Miami, will face Hantuchova

Mar 22, 2007 - 1:32 AM MIAMI (Ticker) - In the women's draw of the $6.9 million Sony Ericsson Open, the present meets the future.

When 16th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova takes the court, her first match will be against 14-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito, who engineered a stunning first-round upset between the raindrops Wednesday.

The first female Portuguese player in the main draw of a Tier I event, Brito displayed uncommon nerve for a teenager in a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3) victory over American veteran Meghann Shaughnessy.

A product of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Brito is ranked 64th in juniors, the only player in the top 200 born in 1993. She was able to handle Shaughnessy, who is nearly twice her age and has five career WTA Tour titles.

Brito's reward is a match with Hantuchova, a native of Slovakia who ended a five-year victory drought last week by winning at Indian Wells for the second time. Hantuchova was a prodigy herself, winning at Indian Wells as an 18-year-old in 2002.

Hantuchova's quarter of the draw also includes second-seeded Justine Henin of Belgium, and sixth-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia.

Henin skipped the Australian Open for personal reasons but swept through the Middle East, winning at Doha and Dubai. She awaits the winner of Wednesday night's match between American Vania King and China's Tiantian Sun.

The top seed is ravishing Russian Maria Sharapova, who will be trying to shake off an early exit at Indian Wells. In a draw missing many of the sport's stars, she was taken out in the fourth round by compatriot Vera Zvonareva.

Sharapova gets her first shot at redemption against either Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei and fellow unknown Nunia Llagostera Vives of Spain. Down the road could be eighth-seeded compatriot Nicole Vaidisova and 13th-seeded American Serena Williams, who will be playing for the first time since trouncing Sharapova in the Australian Open final.

It was the first win in two years for Williams, who was plagued by injuries and inactivity since late in the 2005 season. Many will be watching to see if she has returned to the form that has made her an eight-time Grand Slam champion.

Williams awaits the survivor of the all-Russian first-round match between Elena Likhovtseva and Anastasia Rodionova.

Belgium's Kim Clijsters, who also skipped Indian Wells, is seeded fourth and appears to have the easiest quarter of the draw. In her way are seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, ninth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze of Russia and 15th-seeded Na Li of China, a surprise semifinalist last week.

Before concerning herself with any of those potential foes, Clijsters faces Akiko Morigami of Japan, who eliminated Canadian wild card Aleksandra Wozniak, 6-1, 7-5.

The third seed is defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, whose quarter also is occupied by fifth-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland and 12th-seeded Ana Ivanovic.

Kuznetsova's first opponent will be either Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine or Aiko Nakamura of Japan. Hingis awaits Gisela Dulko of Argentina of Iveta Besenova of the Czech Republic.

A year ago, Kuznetsova handled Sharapova, 6-4, 6-3, for her biggest victory since the 2004 U.S. Open. She could have added to that resume last week but was taken out in the final by Hantuchova.

Like Sharapova, men's top seed Roger Federer is coming off an upset loss and should be on the defensive when he meets either Igor Andreev of Russia or American wild card Sam Querrey.

Federer took a staggering 41-match winning streak into last week's Pacific Life Open and looked practically unbeatable. But the Swiss superstar was unceremoniously bounced in straight sets in his first match by Guillermo Canas of Argentina.

Canas returned from a 15-month drug suspension in September and has been playing his way back into form. He had to qualify for the main draw of this hardcourt event and will meet Britain's Tim Henman in the first round.

The defending champion, Federer could meet Canas again in the round of 16. His quarter of the draw also includes sixth-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain, ninth-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany and 15th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France, who beat Federer on clay at Monte Carlo in 2005 but has lost the last five meetings.

The second seed is Rafael Nadal of Spain, who capitalized on Federer's absence to storm to victory in the Pacific Life Open and appears to have regained the form he displayed a year ago.

Nadal did not lose a set at Indian Wells, dispatching five seeds along the way, including American Andy Roddick in the semifinals and Serbian upstart Novak Djokovic in the final.

Nadal's first match here will be against Brazil's Ricardo Mello, who defeated Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3). Djokovic is seeded 10th and could meet Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Roddick is seeded third and will play Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina, who eased past Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea, 6-4, 6-2.

Roddick shares a quarter of the draw with fifth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Spain, who lost to Federer in the Australian Open final, and 12th-seeded Andy Murray of Britain, who lost to Djokovic in last week's semifinals and is nursing a handful of injuries.

Both draws have given byes to the top 32 seeds.






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