Arantxa Sanchez Vicario beat aching defending champion Conchita Mar
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Arantxa Sanchez Vicario beat aching defending champion Conchita Martinez in three sets today to reach her first Wimbledon final.
The second-seeded Sanchez Vicario squandered a 5-2 lead in the second set against her fellow Spaniard before regaining command in the third to win 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-1, in 2 hours, 11 minutes.
After Martinez sailed a backhand long on the third match point, Sanchez Vicario let out a shriek of joy and fell onto her back at the baseline.
The third-seeded Martinez was hobbled by blisters on both feet. She took two three-minute injury timeouts, one during the first set and the other during the final set, to receive treatment from the trainer.
Sanchez Vicario played her usual hustling, dogged game to reach her fourth straight Grand Slam final, following her victory at the 1994 U.S. Open and runnerup finishes at this year’s Australian and French Opens.
A two-time French Open champion, Sanchez Vicario has always been known for her play on slower surfaces. But she adjusted her game this year for grass, playing more aggressively and coming to net more often.
In Saturday’s final, Sanchez Vicario will face the winner of the match between top-seeded and five-time champion Steffi Graf and No. 4 Jana Novotna.
It’s a rematch of the 1993 women’s final, when Novotna cried on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder after blowing a 4-1 final-set lead.
Graf, who leads their head-to-head series 23-3, hasn’t lost to Novotna in six matches since. She hasn’t lost to anybody in 30 matches this year.
On Wednesday, Andre Agassi led a sweep of the top four men’s seeds _ including No. 2 Pete Sampras, No. 3 Boris Becker and No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic _ into Friday’s semifinals. It marked the first time in Wimbledon history that the top four from both men’s and women’s draws have advanced into the semifinals in the same year.
Agassi will play Becker, while Sampras faces Ivanisevic in a replay of last year’s final.
Becker on Wednesday beat Cedric Pioline in one of the most compelling matches in years, a 4-hour, 11-minute duel filled with suspense, tension and great tennis.
Pioline, who almost retired with an injury after losing the first two sets, mounted a remarkable comeback before Becker staged his own rally to reach the semifinals by the score of 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (8-6), 6-7 (12-10), 9-7.
When Becker broke in the final game as dusk approached, the 7,000 fans on Court One rose in a long ovation for both players.
``That’s what the game is all about and the Championships are all about,″ said Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion. ``It was just a very beautiful moment.″
Agassi overwhelmed Dutchman Jacco Eltingh 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Sampras defensively confessed there was ``definitely some room to get better″ after coming from behind to defeat unseeded Shuzo Matsuoka of Japan 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
Ivanisevic, broken only twice in the tournament, again held his serve every time as he rifled 33 aces past sixth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov to win 7-5, 7-6 (13-11), 6-3.