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Unfocussed Pierce crashes out of Aus Open

Fifth seed Pierce was blindsided by little known Czech Iveta Benesova as contact lens problems helped send her crashing from the second round.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2006 17:27 IST

Fifth seed Mary Pierce was blindsided by little known Czech Iveta Benesova on Thursday as contact lens problems helped send her crashing from the Australian Open second round.

France's Pierce fell 6-3, 7-5 as she struggled with dry contacts in the face of a hot Melbourne Park wind, repeatedly massaging her eyes and applying sailine solution during the 90-minute match.

"When it's hot and windy, it makes it very difficult to see the ball because they dry out and it gets kind of blurry," she complained after the loss.

The 31-year-old's dream of repeating her 1995 Australian Open success ended as she racked up 41 unforced errors to Benesova's 19 and failed to find the sizzling comeback form that swept her to two Grand Slam finalsin 2005.

"What went wrong? ... what didn't?," she said "It was just one of those days. Not my day really," she added, admitting she failed to see the threat posed by Benesova.

Even seven aces could not keep Pierce in the match as her terrier-like opponent chased down every ball to break her serve five times.

Pierce said even when she went a set down she remained confident of victory against her 42nd ranked opponent, who she crushed 6-2, 6-1 at a tournament in Antwerp last year.

"I did my best, tried to get into the match, I felt confident in the second set when I went ahead," she said.

"I thought I was going to win the second set, then felt pretty confident if I did that I would win the match in the third set -- (I was) a bit surprised that didn't happen. You know, what can I say," she said.

It was a disappointing start to 2006 for the Canandian-born Frenchwoman, who staged a remarkable career revival in 2005 to reach the finals of the French and US Opens, as well as the season-ending WTA Tour Championship.

An overjoyed Benesova said she was thankful that the best win of her career came in a Grand Slam when she was pitted against a top veteran such as Pierce.

"It wasn't the best day for her today," the unseeded 22-year-old said. "She made many errors, she was missing a lot. She can play much better, definitely, but she gave me the chances and I'm happy I could use them."

Benesova was particularly proud she kept her cool when the umpire incorrectly ruled her forehand drive out on match point, then recovered to send a skillful drop shot over the net to seal her victory.

"It was awesome definitely, it was the best shot of the match," she said.

The Czech said it was a totally different game to her Antwerp embarrassment at Pierce's hands.

"I felt like a ball boy on the court (in Antwerp) because she was hitting winners everywhere," she said. "Today she was totally different. She gave me the chances from the beginning, and she was missing a lot."

Benesova will play either Martina Hingis, who is own her own Pierce-inspired career revival, or Emma Laine of Finland in the third round.

First Published: Jan 19, 2006 17:27 IST