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Sanchez Vicario in Tennis Final

June 19, 1998

EASTBOURNE, England (AP) _ Jana Novotna worked for her spot while Arantxa Sanchez Vicario got a free pass to the finals Friday of the Eastbourne grass-court tournament.

Novotna won her quarterfinal 6-4, 7-5 over fifth seed Irina Spirlea of Romania. She then beat Natasha Zvereva of Belarus in the semifinals 6-2, 6-1.

Sanchez Vicario beat Serena Williams in three sets in Friday’s quarterfinals. She was to have played Anna Kournikova, but the Russian teen-ager withdrew to rest a right thumb injured in her quarterfinal victory over Steffi Graf on Thursday.

X-rays taken on the 17-year-old Kournikova were negative but Kournikova _ a 1997 Wimbledon semifinalist _ withdrew, as a precaution, from a doubles quarterfinal Thursday and the singles Friday.

Saturday’s final between the French Open champion and Novotna is a repeat of last year’s Eastbourne championship, which was cut short by rain as the two shared the title.

``I’m going to do everything possible to be ready to play at Wimbledon. I’ll be in treatment for 24 hours a day,″ Kournikova said. ``I just have to rest, like for all injuries, but it’s just a minor sprain. I’ve pulled out as a precaution. The doctor told me it wasn’t worth putting pressure on it.

``And actually I think I’ve played enough this week so I think it’s good for me to rest a little bit. I’m not going to lose my timing or my feeling in two days.″

Third-seeded Sanchez Vicario completed her quarterfinal match against Williams Friday after the match was tied 1-1 when rain stopped play Thursday.

Sanchez Vicario’s experience was the difference in her 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Williams, who was playing her first tournament on grass.

It was her third loss this year to Sanchez Vicario and followed a tense battle at the French Open in which the Spaniard accused the 16-year-old of showing no respect for other players.

Although Williams tested her with a fierce forehand, Sanchez Vicario responded and both players were often at full stretch in several fiercely contested rallies.

But Williams was often careless with her volleys, one of which missed the court and had spectators diving for cover.

Williams had her right thigh strapped, and also received treatment to her lower right calf during play Thursday.

``It’s a little serious in some areas,″ Williams said. ``I had my knee taped today, and my ankle and the side of my leg.

``It would have been tough for me to continue on in the next rounds, but I’ll definitely be all right for Wimbledon.″

Despite the nagging injuries on grass, Williams said she was growing accustomed to it.

``I’m playing pretty well on it and like the grass a lot. It’s definitely going to be one of my favorite surfaces.″

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