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Novotna battles back in Fed Cup tennis

July 12, 1997

Wimbledon finalist Jana Novotna, playing with a strained abdominal muscle, beat her Dutch opponent Saturday to pull the Czech Republic even at 1-1 with the Netherlands in their Fed Cup semifinal.

Novotna, ranked No. 2 in the world and two-time loser in the Wimbledon finals, overpowered Miriam Oremans 6-3, 6-0 in just 70 minutes.

Novotna, recovering from a strained abdominal muscle which hindered her at Wimbledon, started poorly _ going 1-3 down before breaking Oremans in the fifth game. She did not lose another game, wrapping up the first set in 42 minutes, then taking less than a half-hour to wipe out her opponent 6-0 in the second.

``At the beginning I was bit uneasy, but I think I didn’t make any mistakes,″ Novotna said after the match.

She said she had withdrawn from the Czech Open that starts in Prague on Monday and complained of pain.

``I’m playing now against the recommendation of my physician,″ she said. ``Next week, I really need to rest.″

In the opening match of the day, Netherlands’ Brenda Schultz-McCarthy beat Czech Sandra Kleinova in two straight sets 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).

Anke Huber, Iva Majoli, Barbara Paulus and Amanda Coetzer also won Fed Cup matches. But it was loser Barbara Shett of Austria who was the biggest surprise of first-round action.

Huber, leading Germany while Steffi Graf recovers from knee surgery, defeated 15-year-old Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-2, 6-2 to deadlock that playoff at 1-1. Majoli, the French Open champion, defeated Meike Babel 6-2, 6-3 in the first singles match.

South Africa’s Coetzer, ranked No. 6 in the world, nearly wasted a big lead against Austria’s Schett. Coetzer was leading 6-1, 4-1 and had two break points before Schett staged a remarkable rally. The Austrian took a 6-5 lead before Coetzer forced a tiebreak and won the match, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).

Paulus then took just 85 minutes to overcome South Africa’s Joanette Kruger 6-4, 6-4 and tie the match 1-1.

Schett’s performance stunned observers. She said her game turned around when she became indifferent, apparently facing a 1-6, 1-6 elimination.

``I always told her she should just free up her game,″ said Austria’s Federation Cup captain, Filip Krajcik.

France and Belgium split their first two singles matches.

France’s Alexandra Fusai, ranked 57th in the world and making her Fed Cup singles debut, rallied to defeat 19th-ranked Sabine Appelmans, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-1.

Dominique Van Roost of Belgium took advantage of key double faults by Sandrine Testud of France to even it with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory in the second singles.

``I thought we had it. When Sandrine was up she tried to think a little bit too much,″ said Yannick Noah, France’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain. ``Every time she was close to winning, she got tight.″

Fusai and Testud replaced the more experienced Mary Pierce, who is injured, and Nathalie Tauziat, who could not adjust to clay after reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

Italy took a 2-0 lead against Indonesia with Silvia Farina defeating Wukirasih Sawundari 6-2, 6-4 and Flora Perfetti outlasting Wynnie Prakusya 6-3, 6-7 (6-7), 6-1.

Slovakia swept its first two matches from Canada with No. 18 Karina Habsudova defeating Rene Simpson 6-3, 6-4, and Henrieta Nagyova downed Patricia Hy-Boulais 6-4, 6-3.

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