Hingis Wins To Reach Aussie Semis
Jan. 27, 1999
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ The shrill grunts, the staunch groundstrokes, the stubborn, gritty refusal to lose _ all the traits that made Monica Seles a great champion came back once more in a romp over longtime nemesis Steffi Graf.
The duel of four-time Australian Open champions Wednesday dissolved into a one-sided affair as Graf's vaunted serve failed her and Seles asserted her baseline superiority to keep her record Down Under unblemished at 33-0 with a 7-5, 6-1 victory.
``Steffi has been playing some awesome tennis. It was just do or die,'' said Seles, who won the Australian in 1991, '92, '93 and '96, but stayed home the past two years.
Two-time defending champion Martina Hingis, skipping lightly with uncanny anticipation, also surged into the semifinals for a matchup against Seles in an unprecedented parade of Grand Slam champs.
Hingis notched her 19th straight victory at the Australian and third in a row against former champion Mary Pierce with a 6-3, 6-4 rout Wednesday that showed off her talent for guessing where an opponent is going to hit before the ball is struck.
Broken in the first game, Seles trailed 5-4 with Graf serving for the first set when the 29-year-old German's serve began to wilt in the warm sun. Graf double faulted and was broken at 15-40 when she netted a backhand.
That started a run of eight straight games for Seles, who was given a gift of a double fault by Graf on set point in the first set.
``I had a very slow start today,'' said the 25-year-old Seles, who is now 9-5 against Graf. ``Steffi won't give you a free point, so I knew that even at 5-love, the match is never over against Steffi.''
Graf, who owns 21 Grand Slam titles, won their last two matches in majors, both in the U.S. Open finals in 1995 and 1996. Seles, who has won nine majors, last beat Graf in the Australian Open final in 1993.
U.S. Open champ and top seed Lindsay Davenport earned a semifinal berth Tuesday night against former Wimbledon and French junior champion Amelie Mauresmo.
Never in women's tennis history have winners of so many Grand Slam events packed a quarterfinal lineup.
Pierce, who won the Australian in 1995 and was runner-up to Hingis in 1997, couldn't stay up with the 18-year-old Swiss teen in long rallies and couldn't overpower her with deep groundstrokes.
Pierce tried every trick she could conjure, but not much worked. And whatever Hingis attempted succeeded.
``I was attacking her serve very well and hit some great returns down the line,'' Hingis said. ``She stands out wide. I had open lines so I went for them.''
On the fourth break point against Pierce at 3-1 in the second set, Hingis flicked a near perfect backhand drop from midcourt. Pierce raced in to scoop it up, only to see Hingis tap the ball away into a wide open court. It was the kind of play that summed up the match, showing Hingis' range and touch, and Pierce's utter frustration.
``She really surprised me with the way she played today,'' Pierce said. ``She hit some amazing shots. I had a few chances, but I made too many unforced errors, and missed a few easy shots.''
Pierce said her serve was hampered by an abdominal muscle strain. A touch of illness didn't help, either.
``I was a little bit sick,'' she said. ``I felt a little winded and weak.''