Sabatini struggles past 42nd-ranked Helgeson To meet Davenport in fourth round

September 04, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The type of year Gabriela Sabatini has had in 1993 would not be bad for most players, but calling it a bust is not overstating the point.

For the first time since 1985, Sabatini has yet to win a tournament. And she has watched her ranking slip from No. 3 to No. 5, falling behind Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Martina Navratilova.

"I don't think I've had a bad year, I think the reasons were different," Sabatini said last night. "I was sick at the beginning of the year and it took me time to get back to my level. It was a tough year."

Sabatini's struggle continued in the third-round of the U.S. Open. Against a player she had never faced, Ginger Helgeson, Sabatini came from behind to beat the 24-year-old, 42nd-ranked Californian, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

In a match that saw 16 service breaks, the 23-year-old Argentine had all kinds of problems with Helgeson, a former All-American from Pepperdine. In part it was because she didn't know what to expect.

"It was kind of hard to get control of the match because she came in a lot and hit the ball deep," said Sabatini. "I was trying to defend myself all the time."

Said Helgeson, "It's disappointing. I had a good chance to beat her."

After breaking Helgeson to take a 5-2 lead in the third set, Sabatini had a chance to close out the match. But she was broken back and found her lead closed to 5-4. Sabatini finally held serve to end the match, which lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours.

The victory puts Sabatini into the fourth round against 17-year-old American Lindsay Davenport, whom she lost to in straight sets in the second round of the Virginia Slims of Florida back in March.

"Lindsay's a player who hits the ball very hard," Sabatini said of Davenport, ranked 24th. "I'm going to have to mix it up. I'm not really concerned that I haven't won a tournament all year. I'm looking forward to doing well here."

Sabatini hasn't won a Grand Slam event since winning her first here at the National Tennis Center three years ago. It was supposed to be a breakthrough, but Sabatini seems to be faltering.

"I know I have a chance to lose every time I play," she said. "Today, tennis is tough."

For Sabatini, it seems to be getting tougher all the time.

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