MARTINEZ GETS THIRD SHOT AT TOURNEY TITLE
Sunday, April 5, 1992
HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- Conchita Martinez lost the Evert Cup final to No. 1-ranked Monica Seles in Indian Wells.
Martinez lost the Virginia Slims of Florida final to No. 2-ranked Steffi Graf in Boca Raton.
Today, Martinez plays her third straight final against No. 3-ranked Gabriela Sabatini at the Family Circle Cup (Channels 4, 5 at 2:30 p.m.)
Is the third time a charm, or strike three?
"This is the moment for Conchita," said Paco Lopez, Martinez's coach. "Not just the final this time, the championship. I think she has the confidence to win."
Martinez's confidence soared Saturday when she defeated her Spanish countrywoman Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-4, 7-5. Sabatini, the defending champion, stopped Brenda Schultz 6-3, 6-2.
"Arantxa is No. 5 and I am No. 8, so normally I would have to lose this match," said Martinez, who previously beat Sanchez only at the 1988 Spanish Championships. "Arantxa is playing good, she won Lipton. But I am playing well too."
Sanchez was up 3-1 in the first set and 4-1 in the second set, but Martinez fought back.
In the first set, Martinez broke back for 3-all, then broke Sanchez in the final game at 15.
In the second set, Martinez won four consecutive games from 1-4 to 5-4. Sanchez held at deuce for 5-all, but then Martinez won eight of the last nine points, breaking Sanchez at love.
"At 4-1, I was thinking of playing three sets, but I was very patient," Martinez said. "Arantxa made a lot of mistakes. I think she was nervous."
Sanchez committed 36 unforced errors to 28 for Martinez, who smashed 15 winners with her powerful forehand.
"I started well, but I couldn't finish the point," Sanchez said. "I missed easy shots I usually miss. This was not my day."
Schultz, the Dutch star who lives in Delray Beach, stayed with Sabatini for six games, but then she lost her serve. Sabatini broke again to win the set 6-3.
Sabatini broke for 3-1 in the second set, lost her serve, then broke open the match, winning the final three games and dropping only three points.
"I tried to mix up the game," Sabatini said. "I knew she would play aggressive. I learned a lot from beating Brenda at Lipton. I've very happy with the way I played. I'm playing with confidence, and mentally I'm very strong."
"Gaby had to play her best today," said Boca Raton's Juan Nunez, Schultz's coach. "Brenda played well, but she should have mixed up her serve. When Gaby played back, Brenda should have spun her serve in. But she kept going for aces and hitting harder, and eventually she lost control."
Schultz committed 30 unforced errors, twice as many as Sabatini.
"Against Martinez, I hope to play the same and take control of the match from the beginning," Sabatini said.
Sabatini is 5-2 against Martinez, but they have split two matches on clay.
Martinez went 3 for 3 in clay court finals last year, and has not lost a clay court final since 1989, to Manuela Maleeva in Geneva.
"Gaby is going to have to fight and attack and be careful of Conchita's forehand," said Carlos Kirmayr, Sabatini's coach.
Sabatini, who needed to win Saturday to keep the No. 3 ranking from Martina Navaratilova, is in her fourth Family Circle Cup final in eight years. Sabatini defeated Leila Meskhi last year, after losing to Chris Evert in 1985 and Navratilova in 1988.
Sabatini was the Lipton favorite but lost to Sanchez. She doesn't want another Spanish underdog biting her foot.
"A victory, if it comes," Kirmayr said, "would be very welcome."