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Second-seeded Australian Patrick Rafter began final preparations for defense of his U.S. Open title with a first-round victory at the $315,000 Hamlet Cup in Commack, L.I. on Tuesday but top seed Marcelo Rios of Chile was ousted.

Rafter held on for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 triumph over Spain's Javier Sanchez before Rios fell to 1997 French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Rios' defeat came one day after he lost the world No. 1 ranking to Pete Sampras for the second time this year. The Chilean left-hander will head into the year's final Grand Slam event with four losses in his last five matches.

In New Haven, Conn., Steffi Graf dismantled Henrieta Nagyova of Slovakia, 6-1, 6-3, to advance to the quarterfinals of the Pilot Pen International women's tournament.

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