Something for Seles to shout about U.S. OPEN


NEW YORK -- She screamed. She screeched. She gave a demonstration of an operatic death scene. And then Monica Seles took control of herself and the match and beat Jana Novotna, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, in her most challenging match of the U.S. Open.

"I was just so angry with myself," said Seles after moving into the women's semifinals. "I was so tight. Finally, I had just had enough. I told myself to smile. I told myself to just go for the shots, that I had nothing to lose because I couldn't get any tighter."

And then, of course, she giggled.

There was no giggling in the late afternoon when Patrick McEnroe stretched No. 4 Boris Becker to three tiebreakers in a four-hour, four-set match, before Becker was able to hit a final service winner for a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (8-6) victory. Next for Becker is a semifinal date with Andre Agassi, who struggled to get past unseeded Petr Korda, 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 6-5.

"I have played many matches in the U.S. Open," said Becker, "and in a match like this, over four hours, there are many ups and downs. At times, I enjoyed it very much and at other times, I didn't enjoy it.

"I am proud of the fact that I was a part of such a match. I think it was one the best matches I've ever played at the Open."

Becker served 30 aces to McEnroe's five, and had 101 service winners to McEnroe's 56. But McEnroe served better, connecting on 62 percent of his first serves to Becker's 55 percent; and he made only three double faults and 34 unforced errors to Becker's 14 doubles and 70 errors.

"You don't want to go down two sets to Boris Becker," said McEnroe. "I did what I could after that and I learned that I can lift my game in that situation and play better. He's a real strong guy and he came up with the big serves when he needed them and that's why he has won all the titles he has. But I now know that I can still improve and go further than I ever have."

Seles, the No. 2 seed, is simply trying to go as far as she has in the past and win a third U.S. Open, which would be her eighth Grand Slam title. Her next step will be to play No. 4 seed Conchita Martinez in the women's semifinals.

Martinez joined Seles, Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini in the semifinals by surviving a three-set match against Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2. But if she thought she had troubles yesterday, just wait until she gets across the net from Seles.

Novotna, it's true, is not known for making the big play at the big moment. But she did give Seles her toughest match since she reappeared on the tennis scene July 28. For the first time, Seles found herself down 4-2 in a set, found herself facing two set points. Everyone had been wondering how Seles would respond to such a situation. Everyone found out.

When Novotna had her first set point opportunity on her own serve, at 6-5, 40-15, Seles delivered a great forehand return for a winner. And when Novotna had her second set point, Seles stretched her right then left and then connected on a dropped volley for deuce and went on to break to force the tiebreaker, which she won 7-5.

"I think Monica showed she didn't worry about it at all when it was 6-5 and 40-15," said Novotna. "She just went for her shots. That was the first time practically that she was at the net and she made a good volley. It was very gutsy play for her . . . And after that, once the first set was over, it was over for me, as well, because Monica became much more confident."

Actually, Seles has been on the offensive attack ever since she arrived here. She said she just wanted to play and have fun and so far she has done little else.

The Open has been almost a continuous giggle. She has beaten her every opponent in two sets. Until yesterday, she needed less than hour each time. Yesterday, Novotna stretched her to an hour and 27 minutes, long enough at least to get some fans in the Stadium seats.

NOTES: The Pam Shriver-Chanda Rubin doubles team was stopped just short of the women's semifinals yesterday, losing to the No. 2 seeded team of Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.

"When we were up 40-15 on Chanda's serve, I let her down," said Shriver. "But for an unseeded doubles team who had never played before, getting to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam is pretty good. As well as we've connected here, I think it might be possible that we'll play together again, possibly in Australia, though we haven't talked about it yet."

For Shriver, this was her sixth different doubles partner in seven tournaments this year.

"I think if I good get a regular partner like Chanda, who can benefit from my experience, while I feed off her youth and enthusiasm, we could still win another Grand Slam title."

Men's singles, quarterfinals

Boris Becker (4), Germany, def. Patrick McEnroe, New York, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (8-6); Andre Agassi (1), Las Vegas, def. Petr Korda, Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.

Doubles, semifinals

Alex O'Brien, Amarillo, Texas, and Sandon Stolle, Australia (15), def. Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez, Spain, 6-2, 6-4; Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, Australia (2), def. Grant Connell, Canada, and Patrick Galbraith, Seattle (4), 6-0, 6-2.

Women's singles, quarterfinals

Monica Seles (2), Sarasota, Fla., def. Jana Novotna (5), Czech Republic, 7-6, (7-5), 6-2; Conchita Martinez (4), Spain, def. Brenda Schultz-McCarthy (16), Netherlands, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

Doubles, quarterfinal

Gigi Fernandez, Aspen, Colo., and Natasha Zvereva, Belarus (2), def. Chanda Rubin, Lafayette, La., and Pam Shriver, Baltimore, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.

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