Lucic, Kournikova advance in A&P Tennis Classic
MAHWAH, N.J. (AP) _ Two young tennis players who represent the sport’s future have moved into the quarterfinals of the A&P Tennis Classic.
Fifteen-year-old Mirjana Lucic and 16-year-old Anna Kournikova won their respective matches Wednesday night at the Crossroads Corporate Center in Mahwah.
Along with 16-year-old Martina Hingis, the youngest player ever to be ranked No. 1, Lucic and Kournikova are expected to be the women to carry their sport into the next century.
Lucic, a 5-foot-10 Croat who was born in Germany, mixed in an occasional trip or two to the net with her powerful ground strokes to trounce Valda Lake 6-1, 6-2.
``I play very aggressive tennis,″ Lucic said. ``I have good ground strokes, but I’m trying to come into the net more.″
The win enabled Lucic to advance to a probable meeting with top seed Monica Seles in Friday’s quarterfinal round. Seles plays her opening match of the tournament tonight against qualifier Terry Ann Zawacki.
``I’m really looking forward to that and that’s another challenge for me,″ Lucic said of playing Seles, the world’s third-ranked player. ``I already played Steff and I’m really looking forward to playing Monica.″
After turning pro earlier this year, Lucic became the first player in WTA history to win her first tour event ever played, capturing the championship of the Croatian Ladies Open as a qualifier in May.
She also reached the finals of her second tour event in Strasbourg, France later in the month and gave Steffi Graf all she could handle before losing 6-2, 7-5. As a result, she debuted on the WTA Tour rankings at 69th, the third-highest debut in the history of the tour.
Because of WTA age restrictions, the U.S. Open will be the only other event Lucic will play this year. She is allowed to play in the A&P Classic, however, because is it not a WTA sanctioned tournament.
Kournikova, the No. 25 player in the world, had to work a little harder against Kathy Rinaldi-Stunkel to earn her spot in the A&P quarterfinals. Kournikova was down 4-3 and a service break in the first set before rallying to win three straight games and the set.
Kournikova, a semifinalist at Wimbledon this year, then utilized a variety of drop shots to break Rinaldi-Stunkel in the second and eighth games of the second set to take it 6-2.
Also advancing to the quarterfinals Wednesday were fifth-seeded Maggie Maleeva, who beat Stephanie Chi, 6-1, 6-2, and fourth-seeded Chanda Rubin, who defeated Mary Carlisle White, 6-4, 6-0.
Earlier in the day, Stephanie Nickitas and Ginger Helgeson Nielsen closed out the first round with straight set victories. Nickitas beat Jeri Ingram. Helgeson Nielsen defeated Bonnie Bleecker of Gainesville, Fla. 6-2, 6-1.