IVAN Lendl blew hot and cold as he began the defence of his Marlboro Championships title in haphazard fashion at Victoria Park last night. Lendl, aiming for his fourth title in succession, had to endure three tense sets before finally overpowering Frenchman Henri Lenconte 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a Gold Group match before a near-capacity crowd on Centre Court. The world number 18, fresh from victory in the Seiko Super Tennis tournament in Tokyo last week, suffered an inexplicable loss in form in the first set as the brilliant Leconte - who just two hours earlier had won his doubles match with John McEnroe - capitalised with his own brand of superb touch tennis. Leconte, who won the admiration of the crowd with his whipping forehands and crisp volleys, showed his class but wilted under Lendl's onslaught in the deciding set. Lendl won the second set with a superb forehand passing shot down the line and after a tense deciding set, wrapped up the match with an ace after Leconte threatened to take the match into a tie-break. Earlier, Australia's Mark Woodforde blew a 4-1 lead in the second set having won the first set 6-4 against Dutchman Richard Krajicek who made good his escape in a topsy-turvy Blue Group match on Court One. Krajicek, the second-highest ranked player in the tournament behind Sweden's Stefan Edberg as world number 11, was almost sent packing before he fought back valiantly to score a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory. Woodforde had trouble acclimatising to the ''heavier'' conditions which prevailed late in the second set and which made the balls more suited to Krajicek's power game. The Australian, better known as one half of the world's most formidable doubles team with Todd Woodbridge, also had a calf strain and struggled against Krajicek whose confidence grew with each game. ''I was a bit sore during the match. I was hindered and I wasn't playing as well as I should have been,'' said Woodforde, ranked 25th in the world. ''I pulled my calf wearing the wrong pair of shoes in the Sydney Indoor tournament two weeks ago and it has become a bit of a problem to me, particularly when I'm playing singles. ''I should have closed out the match when I had a chance. But once it started to get darker, the balls were getting heavier and it was swinging in favour of Richard who was playing well by then. His serves were all going in,'' he said. Krajicek was staring defeat in the face when trailing 1-4 in the second set but he got his powerful serve back in good working order and he gradually wore down his opponent, taking the match with a service winner down the middle. ''It didn't look too good for me in the second set,'' said the 21-year-old, a semi-finalist at this year's French Open. ''But I played well after that and I was lucky to get out of that situation. I feel pretty good at the moment and I think it's a good start for me. I hope I'll do well in my next singles. I'd rather have a tough match than an easier opening match,'' said the Dutchman. World number six Edberg had no such problems, winning his opening match with consummate ease against Woodforde's doubles partner Woodbridge. The former world number one breezed past his opponent in just over an hour with a 6-3, 6-1 victory on Centre Court. Edberg, making his first appearance in the tournament since 1990, served immaculately, showing glimpses of his brilliance by taking the first set in 30 minutes before storming past the Australian to snatch the second set in hurried fashion. Woodbridge's serve continued to let him down and he wasn't able to impose any authority against the two-time Wimbledon champion. ''I felt quite comfortable out there. It's always nice to win your first match and to get a good start. My second serve was a lot better in the second set and his game suited me because we practice a lot together and I know his game pretty well,'' said Edberg. ''Todd didn't serve so well but normally I can overpower him and I was a bit stronger than him today,'' said the 27-year-old Swede, last year's US Open champion.