Tennis: Erakovic falls in Paris

New Zealand tennis number one Marina Erakovic has lost her first round of the French Open singles early this morning.

The world number 42 Kiwi recovered from a break down at 3-2 in the first set to lead Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino 5-3. But the momentum changed quickly with the former French Open junior champion winning the next three games to take the set 7-5.

It went with serve until the 11th game of the second set when Erakovic's serve was broken. The Spaniard then kept her cool to serve out the set and the match 7-5.

Erakovic did all the attacking against the defensive minded Dominguez Lourdes. The Kiwi was aggressive throughout and at times her forehand was lethal. But little lapses of concentration cost her and Erakovic had 49 unforced errors to the Spaniard's 12.

"I tried to attack and dominate but she got a lot of balls back." Erakovic said.

"It's a tough one to take because I feel I did the right thing out there today but what it came down to I needed a little more sting on my shots but didn't have it today."

Despite the loss Erakovic feels happy with the progress she is making on clay and still has doubles to focus on at the French Open.

"I think always when I have a bit of time on the surface I tend to improve, i move better and hit bigger. It's a game where you try to set early and position yourself well for each shot." Erakovic now turns her attention to the doubles where she will team with Romanian Monica Niculescu. They play the French wildcard pairing of Severine Beltrame and Laura Thorpe in the first round.

The 24-year-old Aucklander, who is ranked 42 in the world, needed a good performance at Roland Garros to convince the NZOC she is capable of a top-16 finish at the Olympics.

The chances of her playing at the London Olympics looked to have improved before her defeat, with the International Tennis Federation set to clear the way for the New Zealand No1 to participate should the New Zealand Olympic Committee ratify her nomination when the French Open finishes next month.

Because of New Zealand's Fed Cup ban, Kiwi players are not allowed to compete at the Olympics with ITF rules requiring players to turn out for their Fed Cup country in two of the four years of the Olympic cycle, including one of the past two years.

Tennis New Zealand decided not to send a team to the Asia Oceania Fed Cup qualifiers in Thailand last year because Erakovic and Sacha Jones, who has since decided to play under the Australia flag, were unavailable.

The national body has to seek dispensation to allow Erakovic to compete in London and Tennis New Zealand boss Steve Johns has written to the ITF outlining Erakovic'scase.

An ITF spokesman confirmed they would not stand in the way of Erakovic competing at the Olympics because of the extenuating circumstances.

"All we need is a satisfying explanation from Tennis New Zealand, outlining that Marina was available to play Fed Cup," ITF spokesman Nick Imison said.

Tennis New Zealand will argue she would have played this year had New Zealand been allowed to compete.

- APNZ

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