Sophie Czeched out
By DANIEL PACE
SYDNEY teenager Sophie Ferguson was bundled out of the women's hardcourts event on the Gold Coast yesterday, leaving veteran Nicole Pratt as the sole Australian remaining in the draw.
Czech Republic's Iveta Benesova exposed Ferguson's lack of speed around the centre court at Royal Pines in a 7-5 6-2 first-round victory.
Pratt is the only Australian still in contention at the $175,000 event following Casey Dellacqua's 6-1 6-3 defeat to China's Meng Yuan in qualifying for the main draw earlier yesterday.
The 32-year-old wildcard Pratt has a daunting opening-round match against French teenager and world No.24 Tatiana Golovin tonight.
Ferguson, who won her first-round match at last year's Australian Open, said she felt nervous in the opening set against the nimble Benesova, ranked No.55 in the world.
"I was doing quite a bit of defending," the 19-year-old Ferguson said.
"She really hits out and uses her angles well, being a leftie.
"I was doing a bit of running but I was feeling fine." Asked what areas she needed to improve in the lead-up to qualifying for the Sydney International which starts on Sunday, Ferguson replied: "Speed is always something I have to work on.
"I think really stepping up and taking the opportunities when they are there.
"Maybe that will come with a bit more experience." World No.252 Ferguson had two break opportunities at 4-4 in the first set on Benesova's serve but the wildcard wasn't able to take advantage of either opportunity.
"The second set I played a wild, loose game on my serve and it got away from me a bit," added Ferguson.
"She got some confidence and started hitting out."
In other centre court matches yesterday, the Czech Republic's Klara Koukalova beat American Meghann Shaughnessy 6-4 6-4, while Lucie Safarova of the US upset two-time Gold Coast winner Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-1 6-2.
In first-round matches today defending champion and No.1 seed Patty Schnyder meets France's Virginie Razzano while Swiss superstar Martina Hingis launches her fulltime WTA comeback against Venzuela's Maria Vento-Kanchi.
Tournament director Liz Smylie believes Hingis is primed to make a an immediate impact on the tennis world.
"She seems like she's hitting the ball fantastic. She's been practising twice a day, been at the gym, running, and she looks fit and strong," Smylie said.