SAME OLD SABATINI IN HILTON HEAD SEMIS
The Charlotte Observer
Saturday, April 4, 1992
It`s been seven years since Gabriela Sabatini made her first big splash in tennis, advancing to the final of the Family Circle Magazine Cup at age 14.
As she prepares for today`s semifinal against Brenda Schultz of the Netherlands, it remains one of her fondest memories.
"That`s going to be in my mind always," Sabatini said Friday after cruising to a 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Canada`s Patricia Hy in the 1992 Family Circle Cup . "It seems a long time ago. I feel old now."
Today`s other semifinal features the Nos. 1 and 2 players in Spain: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who defeated Leila Meskhi 6-3, 6-3, against Conchita Martinez, who beat Natalia Zvereva 6-2, 6-2. TV coverage begins at 2 p.m.
(NBC, WCNC-TV, channel 36 in Charlotte).
The tournament, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, started with seven of the world`s top 10 players. But top-ranked Monica Seles withdrew after spraining her right wrist when she fell off a bicycle while groping for her cellular phone.
Then came a flurry of upsets: fourth-seed Jennifer Capriati, followed by sixth-seed Jana Novotna and second-seed Martina Navratilova.
Of the field that remains, Sabatini`s half of the draw is the easier. She may say she "feels old" going into today`s match, but she`s acting anything but.
Sabatini, third best in the world, said she`s enjoying her life and her tennis as she hasn`t in years.
She brought her motorcycle to the tournament, and rides it to matches while a car follows behind carrying her gear. It`s a black and lavender Honda 600 with pink stripes, which she rides without a helmet.
"I`m very happy in everything that I`m doing," she said. "My tennis is improving, and that`s what I`m looking for."
Sabatini has won both previous meetings with Schultz, who beat qualifier Caroline Kuhlman 6-2, 6-2 in Friday`s last quarterfinal.
If Sabatini and Sanchez-Vicario win today, Sunday`s championship would be a rematch of last month`s Lipton International Players Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., where Sanchez-Vicario upset Sabatini 6-1, 6-4.
Sabatini and Sanchez-Vicario are at home on the tournament`s slow-paced clay courts. And both are fit enough - and patient enough - to wear down opponents with a barrage of steady, rarely erring strokes.
Against Hy, Sabatini showed more stability than flash. She hit hard, aggressive ground strokes but came to the net only sparingly, getting stung four times out of 17 by Hy`s crisp passing shots.
"She doesn`t do any fancy stuff, but you can`t find a solution," Hy said. "The ball is so spinning and high, I can`t hit through it. I try to take it early on the rise, but your shoulder can only do so much."
Sanchez-Vicario mixed up her shots to keep Meskhi off balance, peppering her topspin ground strokes with lobs and drop shots.
"You never know what kind of game I`m going to play," Sanchez-Vicario said. "I have great confidence in every shot."
Family Circle Cup
Gabriela Sabatini (1), Argentina d. Patricia Hy, Canada, 6-2, 6-3.
Conchita Martinez (5), Spain, d. Natalia Zvereva (10), Belarus, 6-2, 6-2.
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3), Spain, d. Leila Meshki (7), Georgia, 6-3, 6-3.
Brenda Shultz (12), Netherlands, d. Caroline Kuhlman, Lakeside Park, Ky., 6-3, 6-1.
(beginning at 11 a.m.)
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario vs. Conchita Martinez
Gabriela Sabatini vs. Brenda Shultz