Navratilova’s back — but is she welcome?

Martina Navratilova’s return to Grand Slam singles after a 10-year absence is generating plenty of talk — not all of it positive.

Amelie Mauresmo thinks a young French player should have received the wild card that organisers gave Navratilova (47).

”We’re lucky enough to have a Grand Slam in our country. Obviously, we want French players to get priority,” the third-seeded Mauresmo said on Monday after beating Ludmila Cervanova 6-3, 6-3.

”I think the tournament hoped Martina would create more of an event and would probably attract more people,” said Mauresmo, France’s top player. ”It’s obvious that this penalises the young French players.”

Still a top doubles player, Navratilova asked for a singles wild card at the French Open this year, which she has said will be her last on tour.

In her first singles match at a major since 1994, Navratilova faces teenager Gisela Dulko of Argentina on Tuesday. Navratilova won the French Open in 1982 and 1984, two of her 18 Grand Slam singles championships.

Mauresmo said she and Navratilova have talked tennis on several occasions but not much came of it.

”She has a very rigid way of looking at things. That didn’t suit me very well,” Mauresmo said.

Ferrero’s decision

After a practice session on Monday, defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero planned to play in the French Open despite a rib injury, Spanish tennis federation spokesperson Pedro Hernandez said.

Ferrero, scheduled to play his first-round match on Tuesday against Tommy Haas, said on Sunday there was a 60% chance he would withdraw.

Tournament spokesperson Christophe Proust said organisers hadn’t heard from Ferrero on Monday, and they assumed he was waiting until Tuesday to make his final decision.

Ferrero bruised his right ribs in a fall on May 8 while practising in Spain.

Way out there

It doesn’t get much farther from centre court at Roland Garros than court 17.

It was there, in the hinterlands of the vast 20-court complex, that Alex Corretja of Spain played his first-round match. Is that any way to treat a two-time French Open finalist?

”I’d prefer to play on a better court,” Corretja said after beating Jan-Michael Gambill of the United States 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

”It was very distracting, there were people walking around all the time, I could hear car horns beeping.”

Corretja has slipped to 97 in the ATP rankings from a career best of number two in 1999.

”I’m obviously not one of the favourites right now from a ranking point of view,” said the Spaniard, who reached the finals at Roland Garros in 1998 and 2001. He was a semifinalist in 2002.

”My main motivation is to win,” Corretja said, shrugging it off.

”I can’t say to myself, ‘I won’t play my best because they put me on court 17.”’

Slump continues

Mark Philippoussis is stuck in a rut.

The two-time Grand Slam runner-up’s dismal start to the year continued with a 6-1, 7-6 (9), 6-3 loss to Luis Horna of Peru. It means the Australian has won eight of his 20 matches in 2004.

The slump began in February at the Davis Cup, when defending champion Australia lost their first-round clash with Sweden.

Philippoussis lost both his singles matches in straight sets and carried the burden of defeat.

The big-server, a finalist at Wimbledon last year and the 1998 US Open, lost his next five matches — at Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome and Hamburg.

One small consolation for Philippoussis: Horna has good credentials.

In last year’s French Open, he knocked out current world number one Roger Federer in the first round.

Sick call

To the list of injured players sitting this one out, add Dutchman Sjeng Schalken and American Chanda Rubin.

Both pulled out ahead of first-round matches Tuesday, number 15 Schalken because of a viral infection and Rubin, seeded 13th, with a recurring knee problem.

Rubin injured her left knee at the Pan Pacific Open in February in Tokyo. Tzipora Obziler of Israel will take Rubin’s place in remaining first-round matches on Tuesday, while Lee Hyung-taik of South Korea will replace Schalken.

Earlier, Kim Clijsters, the 2001 and 2003 French Open runner-up, pulled out because of tendinitis in her left wrist, while Mardy Fish withdrew with a hip injury.

Other withdrawals include James Blake, Younes El Aynaoui, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Jarkko Nieminen, Rafael Nadal, Iroda Tulyaganova and Amanda Coetzer. — Sapa-AP

Associated Press writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.

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Jocelyn Gecker
Jocelyn Gecker works from San Francisco. Associated Press Jocelyn Gecker has over 400 followers on Twitter.

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