NEW YORK -- After 13 days of beautiful weather, intermittent rainfall came and threw the U.S. Open into a fitful rhythm.
No. 2 seed Monica Seles was able to play and win her women's semifinal match against No. 4 seed Conchita Martinez, 6-4, 6-3, yesterday afternoon, but her opponent in tomorrow's women's final was left dangling through the evening and into today, as play was suspended.
No. 1 Steffi Graf and No. 16 Martina Hingis played just one game, with Hingis holding her serve for a 1-0 lead before the rain halted play for good.
After that, the main action on the Stadium Court was an entertaining series of drying efforts, with squeegee kids pushing mops and then getting down on hands and knees with towels to dry the court's playing surface.
It was a scene repeated over a half-dozen times as the rain would quit and then begin again just as the court was readied to resume play. Play was officially suspended 3 hours, 20 minutes after the delay began.
Hingis' match is scheduled resume at 11 a.m. today, to be followed by the men's semifinals.
Hingis and Graf caught a break, because, in years past, they would have had to play the championship the same day as the semifinal. Instead, for the first time, the women's final will be played on Sunday.
For those who endured the rain to watch Seles and Martinez, there was the pleasure of seeing one of the best competitions between the two, though the outcome was the same as it had been in eight previous matches.
The match lasted 1 hour and 46 minutes. Seles won because she was able to cash three of 10 break points against Martinez. Martinez stayed in the match because her slice backhand to Seles' forehand prevented the No. 2 seed from controlling some points and because while Seles was getting 80 percent of her serves in, they were not very powerful.
Martinez did not win because she was unable to break Seles on any of her five break-point chances. "There was only one break in the first set," said Martinez. "And I had my chances in the second set, but I couldn't take them. I mean, I didn't play very good in the games she was serving.
"But I did play better against her. I am quite happy today with the way I played. Finally, I could play my own game against Monica. Before, other matches, I couldn't even play. So today, it was good. I just have to try to make my chances instead of maybe rushing or making stupid mistakes."
Like the first game of the second set, when Martinez was up 40-0 and she let Seles come back to take the game.
"You've got to hold when you have chances like that," Martinez said. "If you don't, you are making more pressure for yourself when you have chances on her serve."
As for Seles, there were too many chances on her serve. She has been bothered by a tear in her rotator cuff area all year and is considering surgery at the end of the season.
Yesterday, her shoulder was irritating her and her first serves were clocking between 70 and 75 mph, not good when her biggest rivals, like Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, are putting them in the box 20 mph faster.
"The amount of tennis that my shoulder has taken really since the last three, four weeks has been a lot and I think it has a few more weeks to go," she said. "I need to get back my 90 serves to play against the top players or have a much easier chance holding my serve against somebody like Steffi. I will need to get that back."
She will not get it back here, but she will get a day's rest before the scheduled final -- and her opponent won't.
Today's featured matches
Women's semifinals: Steffi Graf (1) vs. Martina Hingis (16), comp. of susp. match.
Men's semifinals: Andre Agassi (6) vs. Michael Chang (2); Pete Sampras (1) vs. Goran Ivanisevic (4).
.' TV: Chs. 13, 9; 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Pub Date: 9/07/96