Leand takes one step forward, two back Loses in comeback to Likhovtseva TENNIS

August 31, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Andrea Leand held no delusions about her return to the U.S. Open after a two-year absence, just as she has not fooled herself since returning to competitive tennis earlier this year after spending more time recently writing about the game than playing it.

"Every step is a step in the right direction," Leand said yesterday.

As things turned out at the National Tennis Center, Leand was a step -- or two -- slow during a 6-3, 6-2 opening-round loss to Elena Likhovtseva. The 29-year-old from Baltimore had problems with her own game, but nearly as many were caused by the 17-year-old qualifier from Kazakhstan.

But that is the cost of comebacks these days to a Women's Tennis Association Tour that is stronger and quicker than the one she left to become a freelance writer for a number of tennis publications. Even before the Open started, Leand knew that her stay here would be short.

"It's good to play against the top level of the tour," said Leand, who had played in a few satellite events in preparation for the Open. "Even when I was hitting with some of the girls the past two days, everything seemed faster."

This is the second comeback of a 13-year career for Leand, who was ranked as high as 13th in the world in 1982 and then went off to Princeton in 1985. Unable to get her ranking out of triple digits since graduating in 1988, Leand has been on and off the tour while trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her

future.

Offered a full-time writing job at Tennis Week magazine last year, and still contemplating law school, Leand decided to try the tour one more time. "I knew I wouldn't be able to do this in three or four years, so I figured I'd give it one more fling," Leand said last week.

While a comeback at this stage might seem unlikely, Leand is undaunted. If she uses yesterday's match as a gauge at how far back she must come, Leand has a long climb ahead of her. Her serve and ground strokes were erratic, and she seemed a bit short on endurance.

"I have to do a lot more training," said Leand. "If I'm going to play this type of player, it showed me where I am and where I need to go."

Though Leand appeared to have caught a break getting a wild-card entry into the main draw and then playing a qualifier, appearances can be deceiving. Despite being ranked 132nd, Likhovtseva is a promising player who is starting to move up in the WTA computer.

"She's had a good summer, she's won a lot of matches, she reached the quarterfinals in San Diego a few weeks ago," Leand said. "She deserved to win today."

FEATURE MATCHES

Matches today on the show courts and others involving seeded players at the $9.2 million U.S. Open tennis championships at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, N.Y. All courts

begin at 11 a.m. Night sessions begin at 7:30:

STADIUM COURT

Day session

Olivier Delaitre, France, vs. Stefan Edberg (3), Sweden; Jennifer Capriati (7), Wesley Chapel, Fla., vs. Leila Meskhi, Georgia; Andre Agassi (16), Las Vegas, vs. Thomas Enqvist, Sweden.

Night session

xTC Mary Joe Fernandez (6), Miami, vs. Andrea Vieira, Brazil; Fabrice Santoro, France, vs. Pete Sampras (2), Tampa, Fla.

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