-- After opening her U.S. Open campaign with an upset of 14th-ranked Alicia Molik, Washington native Shenay Perry saw her strong start come to an end Wednesday. Perry won the first set against Marion Bartoli of France, but couldn't steady herself after her serve and backhand slice deserted her and she fell, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Still, Perry's second-round appearance was her best showing at the U.S. Open, and she credited her improved result to a shift in attitude. "Usually when I come here I'm pretty nervous," said Perry, 21. "I think a lot of Americans probably agree with me. This year I took a different approach; I just looked at it as any other tournament."

Perry first picked up a racket at age 4 and learned the basics from her father, then a firefighter. At age 6 she got involved with Washington's Tennis and Education Foundation and started playing at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. She made such progress that her family moved to South Florida when she was 12 so she could train more intensely.

"It played a huge role in my tennis," said Perry about the foundation. "If I hadn't had that growing up, I probably wouldn't even be playing tennis now."

Perry, who lives in Coral Springs, Fla., has been hampered by soreness in her right knee since November -- the result, she said, of damaged cartilage that likely will require surgery. She plans to have another MRI exam at the end of the season but intends to keep playing, with an eye toward nudging her ranking (currently 118th) back into the top 100.

Unlike many of her peers, Perry says she isn't troubled by the few Americans among the elite ranks of tennis. There are three seeded Americans in the U.S. Open women's draw: Lindsay Davenport (second) and Serena and Venus Williams (eighth and 10th, respectively).

"Americans can't dominate everything," Perry said. "Hopefully it'll turn for the better one day. But right now I think it's good for the sport that you have so many different players from so many different countries, so many different ages, breaking through. I think that's definitely great for women in general, women's sports and definitely tennis."

Dent's Fame

Taylor Dent is one of two seeded Americans remaining in the men's draw, along with Andre Agassi. Son of former Aussie touring pro Phil Dent, he is ranked 27th and, on Wednesday, advanced to the tournament's second round with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Lars Burgsmuller of Germany. But Dent is best known for his cameo in a TV commercial in which he plays a frustrated tennis player who gets clobbered by the adorable child of Agassi and Steffi Graf. "I got more exposure out of that commercial than anything I've ever done in tennis," Dent said.