Martina Hingis breezed through the first round of the French Open - the only Grand Slam she hasn't won - beating Maria Sanchez Lorenzo of Spain in 49 minutes.

The top seed closed her 6-2, 6-1 victory today with a backhand winner."It's good to be back here," Hingis said. "I won my first match, so I feel good. . . . As everybody knows, I lost in the finals last year. I want to do better this year."

Also to play today was Pete Sampras, who like Hingis has never won in Paris, and has made a French Open victory his major goal. He faced fellow American Todd Martin.

Two of Hingis' potential rivals - attention-getting teenagers Venus Williams and Anna Kournikova - both won easily.

American teenager Williams, who played her first Grand Slam tournament at last year's French Open, had a shaky first few minutes against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, losing the first two games. But then she coasted to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Venus, seeded eighth, had back-to-back service winners at 108 mph in the third game of the second set.

"I was having fun last year, sliding and sliding and sliding" on the clay, she said. "Now I know what to do on the court. I'm able to adjust to my opponent."

Kournikova, the No. 13 seed from Russia who has become a darling of the French press, defeated Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-2, 6-4.

In an all-American matchup, Chanda Rubin defeated Lori McNeil 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

On the men's side, No. 3 seed Marcelo Rios of Chile began what was expected to be a good run on the red clay of Roland Garros, beating Brett Steven of New Zealand 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Rios had a little scare in the third set when he lost the first three games and a trainer examined his left arm.

Among the first seeds to lose was No. 5 Greg Rusedski of Britain, who fell to Johan Van Herck of Belgium 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 - thus erasing his long-shot chance of taking over the No. 1 ranking during the French.

No. 9 Karol Kucera of Slovakia lost to Todd Woodbridge of Australia 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

No. 12 Carlos Moya of Spain defeated Sebastien Grosjean of France 7-5, 6-1, 6-4. And Jim Courier defeated Australian Richard Fromberg 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 0-6, 6-4.

In a bad day for the Brits, Tim Henman followed Rusedski's loss by retiring in the first set while trailing 5-2 against Sargis Sargsian of Armenia.

Big-serving Australian Mark Philippoussis beat Oliver Gross of Germany 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.

Sampras holds a 13-2 career record against Martin and won their only previous match on clay - a five-set struggle at the 1996 French Open.

Sampras' serve-and-volley game is least effective on clay, which favors baseline players or those with the patience to outlast more powerful opponents. Martin also is a power player, but perhaps has the patience to stay with Sampras.

Much of the attention this year, however, is on the women - particularly the Williams sisters and Kournikova.

Venus and her sister, Serena, are treating their stay in Paris as a business trip.

There will be no sightseeing, no museums, no leisurely walks along the banks of the Seine for the tennis-playing sisters - just plenty of time on the practice courts, a few interviews and, of course, some shopping.

An older sister tried to convince Venus and Serena to join her at a museum.

"We have no desires at this time - other than on the court," Venus said. "My sister wants to go to the Louvre, but I don't think so."