Capriati gets best of ballistic baseline battle with Seles in quarterfinals

March 19, 1992|By Debbie Fetterman | Debbie Fetterman,Dallas Morning News

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Jennifer Capriati, 15, dispelled any notion that she is tired of tennis and no longer enjoys competing.

Pumped at the prospect of playing top-ranked Monica Seles, the determined Capriati capitalized on an early service break in the third game yesterday. Capriati closed out the 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) quarterfinal victory over the defending champion at the Lipton International Players Championships when Seles double-faulted on match point.

Capriati won a ballistic, baseline battle in which both players pounded the ball into the court's corners, painting the lines in the process. At times, Capriati's grunt even rivaled that of Seles. An appreciative crowd gave the players a standing ovation after Capriati came from 5-3 down to lead 6-5 in the second set.

Yesterday's victory is one of Capriati's biggest. She ranked it second to her stunning upset of Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon last year.

"I'm really excited," said Capriati, as a smile swept across her face. "It was what I was aiming for. I've been working really hard, practicing well. I was really determined."

Capriati advanced to today's semifinals against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, a 6-1, 6-4 winner over Amanda Coetzer. Gabriela Sabatini and Steffi Graf met in the other semifinal.

Capriati's victory, her second over the Yugoslav, ends several Seles streaks. Seles had won 27 consecutive matches dating back to a loss to Navratilova in the Virginia Slims of California final. Until yesterday, Seles also had reached the final of her last 21 tournaments since Tokyo in 1990.

For Seles, losing to Capriati -- or anyone -- mattered more than preserving her streaks. She simply hates losing.

Inexplicably, Seles said she felt tight and did not play as aggressively as she is accustomed. Capriati sensed Seles' hesitation and dictated the points instead.

"I'm going to give myself a little credit," said Capriati, almost apologetically. "I thought I played well. I took it one point at a time and enjoyed it."

In the upset-filled men's division, No. 6 seed Michael Chang continued his domination over longtime challenger and fourth-seeded Pete Sampras with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory. The two have played since they were 7 and 8 years old, respectively. Chang, whose quickness again forced Sampras to overhit, holds a 7-2 edge since they turned pro.

Chang will face No. 1 and defending champion Jim Courier, who needed a rally to score a 6-7 (8-10), 6-2, 6-0 victory over Diego Nargiso of Italy, who's ranked No. 100 in the world.

In the other bracket, Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland rallied past Russian Andrei Cherkasov, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-4, and Alberto Mancini of Argentina edged Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 7-5.

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