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Home, sweet home?


In the end, which came far sooner than anyone but her opponent would have hoped, adopted Kiwi Pavlina Nola (pictured) was left wondering what to make of this so-called "hometown advantage". After marrying Aucklander Grant Nola in 1999, Bulgarian-born Nola was contesting this year‚s ASB BANK Classic for the first time as a New Zealander and wanted desperately to give her new fans something to cheer about.

But that‚s a two-way street and as she lost her first-round Ezibuy singles match 2-6 3-6 to former champion Anne Kremer yesterday, she could only wonder what it would take to get the crowd on her side. Clearly, local fans are slow in warming to their new ace. "I was surprised," admitted Nola afterwards. "OK, I wasn‚t playing great, but I thought they would support me and pump me up." They were quite quiet. Maybe I should have done something crazy. I wanted to play so well in front of the New Zealand crowd, but I didn‚t start well and that made me frustrated.

Stung early by a marginal line call and unsettled by the gusty winds, Nola never really contested the result, contributing to her own downfall with erratic play and costly mental errors. She lost her first three service games and despite a brief flurry in the latter stages of the second set, never really pressured her steady, but spectacular rival. Kremer, who evened her career record against Nola 2-2, gave her own performance a bare pass mark. "I was pretty pleased with my first match, but there are things I need to improve for the next round. I have to be more consistent and more aggressive." Kremer now meets the winner of today‚s Shelley Stephens v Barbara Schwartz match.