Seles, Sanchez semi-tough After two blowouts, women get Open final to shout about

September 12, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- This was not the finest hour, or two, of women's tennis.

Two matches. Two routs. Even CBS-TV pulled the plug.

No. 1 Monica Seles and No. 5 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario easily won their semifinals yesterday to advance to this afternoon's U.S. Open final.

Seles, the defending champion, needed only 78 minutes to defeat No. 7 Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-3, 6-2. Sanchez Vicario got in a 64-minute workout in defeating No. 9 Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, 6-2, 6-1.

But don't despair. Today's final between Seles and Sanchez Vicario might be wonderful.

The last time they met, last month in the final of Canadian Open, Sanchez Vicario defeated Seles for the first time in 11 tries. And they went three sets.

Yesterday, the winners were hardly pushed.

Maleeva-Fragniere had a problem with stage fright in her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance. She won 34 points. She committed 30 unforced errors. And Fernandez said, "I played well," after all but being run off the court by Seles.

The tennis was so dreadful that CBS-TV threw it back to the local affiliates at 5 p.m. in the East, bypassing the Seles-Fernandez match.

Actually, the network did everyone a favor. "I Love Lucy" reruns contained more mystery than the women's semifinals.

Seles was sick. She had a stuffy nose. She had laryngitis. She said she felt lethargic. She had her service broken three times. And she still toyed with an opponent.

But the big news was that Seles' two-syllable grunt returned to the Grand Slams. Seles, who has been mostly silent since the Wimbledon final, was nearly shrieking in the second set, trying for the quick close. so she could get home for some rest.

"I won't be bothered by the grunt," Seles said. "My main concern was focusing on the ball and being in the match."

Seles, appearing in her seventh Grand Slam final over two seasons, will clearly have to play better to beat Sanchez Vicario today.

Sanchez Vicario has been terrific, using a counterpunch style to confound opponents, including second seed Steffi Graf.

"I think I am playing really well at the moment," said Sanchez Vicario, winner of the 1989 French Open. "I have a lot of confidence in my game."

Sanchez Vicario, a native of Barcelona, Spain, even handled a charity announcement with grace. She donated $10,000 in prize money to the "We Will Rebuild Miami Fund," a private-sector foundation created in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.

Reebok and the Lipton Company matched Sanchez Vicario's donation, in a first step by the tennis community to raise more than $50,000 for the foundation.

Today, though, Sanchez Vicario won't be playing for charity. She'll be playing for a Grand Slam title. With a new coach, Marvyn Rose, and an attacking style, she has added a few new weapons to her game.

"Right now, I am very strong," she said. "I beat the best players on this surface and I know that I can probably do it again."

But can she beat the No. 1 player in the world two consecutive times?

"The pressure is all on her because she has to defend the title," Sanchez Vicario said. "I am just going to play my best game. I have the confidence to beat her."

But Seles rarely takes any opponent for granted, and admitted she is particularly eager to face Sanchez Vicario again.

"The last time we played was a very close match," Seles said. "But I don't like to go back there. I know why I lost it. But I can't tell you why yet. I still have to play her."

Seles vs. Sanchez Vicario. Not a bad way to finish an Open. For women's tennis, the finest hours are yet to come.

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