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Novotna Advances in Pilot Pen Int’l

August 28, 1998

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Wimbledon champ Jana Novotna exacted a measure of revenge Thursday, beating Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) to advance to the semifinals of the Pilot Pen International, and Steffi Graf continued her comeback in dominating fashion with 6-3, 6-0 victory over Amanda Coetzer.

In the late match, top-seeded defending champion Lindsay Davenport made her first appearance in the tournament and advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Anke Huber. She will play Graf in a semifinal Friday.

Earlier this year, Mauresmo eliminated Novotna in the semifinals of the German Open. Novotna characterized that three-set match on the Berlin clay as ``long and tiring.″

Their match in New Haven, at first, appeared anything but.

Novotna dispatched Mauresmo 6-1 in 20 minutes in the first set, but then battled over the next 11 minutes to break her in the first game in the second set. The game had seven deuces and ended on Novotna’s lob that Mauresmo was unable to run down.

``It was a very long game and definitely for me a very important game,″ said Novotna, the No. 2 seed. ``I’m definitely very happy to give it to her back and not just to lose to the same player twice in a row.″

Novotna, winner of four tournaments this year, played an aggressive chip and charge game, consistently pouncing on Mauresmo’s second serve.

Graf, looking whole and healthy after knee surgery 14 months ago, was relentless with her backhand, keeping Coetzer on her heels.

``It was a very important shot today. I kept them pretty low and felt I could go backhand crosscourt with her,″ said Graf, the No. 4 seed. ``She didn’t really know what to do off them.″

Graf, winner of 21 Grand Slam titles, broke the unseeded South African five straight games. The Pilot Pen is only her ninth tournament of the year since undergoing knee surgery on June 10, 1997.

The win over Huber gives Davenport her 13th straight match win. She is making a bid for her fourth straight singles title and became the first player to sweep the Stanford-San Diego-Los Angeles events and the first since Martina Navratilova in 1988 to win three consecutive tour events in a calendar month.

She waited the longest in the field to compete. After receiving a first-round bye, Davenport advanced to the quarterfinals without lifting a racket when second-round opponent Virginia Pascual Ruano withdrew after hurting her left hamstring in practice.

``It’s great to be able to play matches,″ she said.

The 22-year-old Californian broke Huber four times in the first set as Huber struggled with her serve.

``I think of all the shots Anke has, her serve is the most vulnerable,″ Davenport said. ``I was able to break her a few times in the beginning and maybe that got her a little weary.″

Novotna will play Julie Halard-Decugis of France, who advanced 7-5, 6-1 over Mary Joe Fernandez. The match was Fernandez’s second of the day. She beat Sandrine Testud 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the completion of a second-round match suspended Wednesday due to weather.