Ashley Harkleroad's transition from junior tennis to the WTA Tour hit a hitch Thursday when the Wesley Chapel junior lost to Martina Muller 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Nasdaq-100 Open.
Harkleroad, 16, has climbed to No. 252 in the rankings by winning four matches this year. She also has lost in the opening round six times but believes she's ready to become a tour regular even though she's in the 11th grade at Wesley Chapel.
"I'm going to play more professionals than juniors," she said. "I just feel like I need to move on, you know? I'm putting too much emphasis on trying to win in juniors and not enough in the pros. That's what matters really _ the pros."
Harkleroad is perhaps best known for the colorful, revealing outfit she wore at the U.S. Open last year, which made headlines in New York. She shrugs off comparisons with Anna Kournikova.
"I'm not really like her," Harkleroad said. "I'm a whole different person. I don't think she's very friendly. She's very pretty, but I try to be more perky, I guess."
Three other American women also lost. Amy Frazier was beaten by Greta Arn 6-4, 6-2; Jennifer Hopkins was eliminated by Conchita Martinez 7-5, 6-2; and Cory Ann Avants lost to Kveta Hrdlickova 6-1, 6-1. Brie Rippner beat Petra Mandula 7-6 (7-0), 6-3, and Samantha Reeves rallied to beat Silvija Talaja 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
On the men's side, Michael Chang was eliminated in the first round by Paradorn Srichaphan 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).
"I had opportunities to win the match at the end, and I wasn't quite able to pull it off," he said. "I've got a lot of emotions churning inside, and I can tell you that they're pretty strong."
FED CUP: No. 1 Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles will play on the U.S. team that opens against Austria.
Joining them are Lisa Raymond, the world's top-ranked doubles player, and Meghann Shaughnessy, making her Fed Cup debut.
The United States plays Austria in the best-of-five opening round April 27-28 in Charlotte, N.C. Two singles matches will be played on the first day, two singles and a doubles match the second day.
The winner faces the Czech Republic or Croatia in the second round July 20-21.
POSSIBLE MOVE: The WTA Tour board will vote today whether to move its year-end championship from Munich to Los Angeles. It was moved to Germany last year after being played at Madison Square Garden in New York since 1972.