Tennis-Wimbledon-Sugiyama captures grand slam record

LONDON, June 24 Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:28pm BST

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LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - Japan's Ai Sugiyama notched a record 57th consecutive grand slam appearance when she coasted to a 6-4 6-2 first round win over Wimbledon debutant Yanina Wickmayer on Tuesday.

When the 32-year-old Sugiyama contested the first point in her match against the Belgian teenager, she surpassed South Africa's Wayne Ferreira's benchmark of 56 successive appearances.

"I'm very happy. When I heard the number of grand slams I have played, it's actually really huge numbers," Sugiyama, who began her record run at Wimbledon in 1993, told reporters.

"This is my 16th Wimbledon and it's been great."

The Japanese player's best grand slam performances were quarter-final appearances at the Australian Open in 2000 and at Wimbledon in 2004.

On Tuesday, Sugiyama was keen to stress she would wanted to back up her record run here by progressing deep into the tournament.

"I just don't want to be here, I want to perform well, as well," she said.

Asked how long she felt she could keep going, the 38th-ranked Sugyiama said that would depend on her performances.

"Actually I never thought I can play this long and I never thought I would be playing like this really. I never think too much ahead but I would like to play next U.S. Open for sure," said Sugiyama, who has won six singles titles during her career.

"It's a good motivation for me to keep going as long as I can and if I'm fit enough and play good enough to be top 50, 30, 20, that would be great.

(Editing by Clare Lovell)

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