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Pink Panther versus Star Spangled in duel of dresses

New York, Aug. 26 (AFP): The US Open dress duel has begun.

Russian teen Maria Sharapova and sixth-seeded American Jennifer Capriati staged a duel of dresses yesterday at the US Open that would make absent reigning champion Serena Williams proud.

Capriati defeated Spain’s 105th-ranked Cristina Torrens Valero 6-0, 6-1 in only 35 minutes while 54th-ranked Sharapova won her opener 6-1, 6-1 over Spain’s 62nd-rated Virginia Ruano Pascual in 74 minutes.

Sharapova, the 16-year-old blonde bombshell regarded by many of the new sex symbol of the women’s circuit, took the court in a revealing pink dress but later said that being a “babe” was the last thing on her mind.

“When I go on court, I like to feel good about myself,” Sharapova said. “The dress is a fun way to say I’m creative and I can really wear that stuff. I’m really happy to be wearing it.”

Williams took the Pink Panther tag here last year with a revealing pink top during her run to a Grand Slam title. But Sharapova showed herself a worthy successor with her Pink Panther II attire.

“To be a babe, that’s the last thing on my mind, even if I’m wearing the dress,” Sharapova said. “I don’t really think it’s important to be the babe of tennis. I don’t really care about that.”

A knee injury has kept Williams from defending her crown and likely showing off more outfits such as the black Catwoman skin-tight body suit that showed her form last year.

But the Americans have their new champion clothes queen in Capriati, who wore a blue dress covered with white stars — a patriotic Star Spangled Jennifer outfit with matching footwear that scored well with the US audience.

“When I saw it, I thought it was great,” Capriati said. “It was just very flairy, but classy all at the same time. When I saw the shoes, I thought that was great, too, matching shoes.

“Hopefully people liked it. Everyone in my family liked it. I wouldn’t wear it if I didn’t think it was good.”

Capriati and Sharapova are on a collision course in the draw as well as in the fashion department.

If Capriati beats Slovakia’s 121st-ranked Martina Sucha and Sharapova ousts France’s 49th-ranked Emilie Loit tomorrow, they will play each other in a third-round encounter on Saturday.

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