Stevenson falls with a fight
Date: September 1, 2004, 4:24pm
The frustrations Alexandra Stevenson is experiencing in tennis are continuing. For Abigail Spears, the game's trials are just beginning.
Appearing in the main draw of the U.S. Open for the first time yesterday, Spears, of Valley Center, experienced the most wrenching of defeats, denied a possible first-round upset of Silvia Farina Elia by what she and the No. 19 seed agreed was a single shot.
The Italian woman brought it off when she was serving at 1-3 in the third set and was down a break point. On it, Spears, commanding the point, sliced a backhand volley into her opponent's forehand corner. Farina Elia sprinted across the baseline and, reaching the ball, spun back a heavily topspun forehand that found the court.
"You just go for it. You try," Farina Elia said following her 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 escape. "Sometimes, it goes well. I put all my energy into that shot."
Had Spears won this point, she would have held a 4-1 advantage with two breaks. As it was, she appeared disheartened. She surrendered the next eight points, and Farina Elia was able to close her out when she held at 5-4.
Stevenson, without a victory in six matches this season on the WTA Tour, had chances to achieve one yesterday while engaging Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain, one of the tour's ranking doubles players. The San Diego player gained a 5-2 second-set lead and later held a set point with Ruano Pascual serving at 4-5, but Stevenson could not consolidate her advantages and the Spanish veteran advanced 6-4, 7-5.
The defeats of Spears and Stevenson came after the eliminations of Amber Liu and Conchita Martinez on Monday and left the San Diego area without a delegate in the women's competition.
Though Spears lost, she achieved a breakthrough as a singles player in this tournament, battling through qualifying to gain the main draw and departing with the $14,000 that the Open pays to first-round losers.
"I'm totally excited about my week," said Spears. "I couldn't sleep the night after I qualified."
She said she was nervous throughout her experience here. "But it was a good nervous, because I was so excited," said Spears.
Spears is a big hitter who controlled most of the points against Farina Elia and played with resolve. In the first set, to make this point, she had five service games. She was down break points in four of them. She held each time.
In the second set, however, Farina Elia's experience began to tell. With the dismissal of Martinez, also 32, on Monday, Farina Elia is the senior player in the women's field.
"She has improved a lot," the Milan native said of Spears. "She is very solid in the rallies, and she has a really good serve."
Stevenson's match was her first since April. Shoulder problems had been idling her, and they beset her again yesterday. She called for a trainer to massage her right shoulder and neck when she led 2-1 in the second set.
Serving for the set at 5-3, however, Stevenson double-faulted three times.
Natasha Khan - Tatiana Perebiynis - Lucie Safarova - Kelly Liggan - Maria Sharapova - Andrea Petkovic - Anna Smith - Jie Zheng - Jelena Dokic - Francesca Schiavone - Kim Clijsters - Tamira Paszek - Iveta Benesova - Cara Black - Jane O'Donoghue - Alicia Molik - Elena Bovina - Emily Webley-Smith - Emma Laine - Casey Dellacqua - Patty Schnyder - Carly Gullickson - Caroline Wozniacki - Jennifer Russell - Jelena Jankovic - Trudi Musgrave - Nicole Vaidisova - Anna Chakvetadze - Pemra Ozgen - Shuai Peng - Bryanne Stewart - Alexandra Stevenson - Abigail Spears - Sania Mirza - Irina Bulykina - Tatiana Golovin - Jill Craybas - Bethanie Mattek