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New top women's player Sharapova to start U.S. Open against Greek

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New York (dpa) - Maria Sharapova will play her first match after being crowned world number one against Greek Eleni Daniilidou when the pair clash in the first round of the 17.75-million-dollars U.S. Open.

At the final grand slam of the season, the 18-year-old Russian will bid for a third win this season over the Greek number 63.

Sharapova awoke Monday after taking over the top ranking spot on the computer from Lindsay Davenport, seeded second in New York with an opening encounter against China's Na Li.

The Californian had a close call with another Chinese, Shuai Peng, in the second round at the French Open, losing a set before recovering to victory.

Sharapova goes into her first grand slam on the top spot full of confidence: "I just know for a fact that I never have to prove anything to anyone. No one expected me to win Wimbledon at 17 and no one expected me to be number one at 18."

France's Amelie Mauresmo, seeded third, starts against Italy's Roberta Vinci while fourth seed Kim Clijsters, the form player of this summer with three titles, gets a qualifier.

Former world number one Serena Williams, who has played only one hard-court match this summer before pulling out with a knee injury, gets an eighth seeding and starts with a qualifier.

Her sister Venus is ranked tenth, with the current Wimbledon champion facing Japan's Rika Fujiwara.

The path looks relatively clear for men's world number one and top seed Roger Federer, who begins his title defence against Czech Ivo Minar.

Up until the semifinals, it looks good for the Swiss, who lifted his ninth title of the season last weekend in Cincinnati over Andy Roddick.

Federer goes in as the target with a 54-3 record this season and victories in his last 28 hard-court matches.

Level with Federer this season is Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who comes to New York with a Montreal title and a few days of down-time at home on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca to recharge his batteries.

The teenaged French Open winner faces American Bobby Reynolds in the first round.

Australian Lleyton Hewitt takes the third seeding and a match against Spain's Albert Costa. Gilles Muller of Luxembourg will be the opener for fourth seed Andy Roddick.

Sixth seed Andre Agassi will return to the event for the 19th time after resting a sciatic nerve problem in his back following a finals appearance in Montreal against Nadal.

The veteran begins his campaign against Romanian Razvan Sabau, and could play Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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