LOSS PUTS CRAMP IN THE KID'S STYLE
The Times Union
Tuesday, August 25, 1992
She looks like Monica. She talks like Monica. And, yes, she even grunted like Monica Seles, the world's No.1 woman tennis player.
So far, though, Iva Majoli of Croatia has yet to win like Seles. Only because she hasn't had enough time.
Majoli, who turned 15 on Aug. 12, displayed a bankroll of promise Monday before stomach cramps and No. 3 seed Barbara Rittner caught up with her.
"It was a lot closer than the score," Rittner said after posting a 6-3, 6-2 triumph in a first-round match at the OTB Open Monday. "I knew she (Majoli) would be tough. I had never played her, but I have heard about her."
Majoli began competing on the pro tour 10 months ago, soaring from obscurity to 100th in the world in less time than it takes to finish eighth grade.
"I'm happy with what I've done so far," said Majoli, whose career, although brief, exhibits an uncanny parallel to that of Seles.
Both were born and raised in Yugoslavia when it was still Yugoslavia. Both came to the United States to train at Nick Bolletteiri's Academy in Bradenton, Fla. And both prefer to punish opponents from the baseline with unladylike bullets, punctuated by those animal grunts.
"I don't try to copy her (Seles)," Majoli said. "I play my own game."
Which is quite formidable for somebody who is at least a year away from getting a driver's license.
By then, however, she might be able to hire a chauffeur. Majoli beat Lori McNeil in her hometown of Houston in April before dropping a close decision to Zina Garrison.
"Her (Majoli) spin has a lot of pressure and she has good length on her strokes," said Rittner, ranked 27th in the world. "But she does not have much experience. I knew she couldn't keep up that pace that she started."
Majoli needed to call the trainer halfway through the second set.
"My stomach was hurting," she said. "And I made too many mistakes."
After the five-minute stoppage while trainer Dave Casey applied ice and a wet towel to her face and neck, Majoli returned to action. She could have saved her breath. She committed four double faults while losing two service games at love, all on unforced errors.
Not that Rittner backed into the win. She displayed an all-court attack but with special relish for crisp volleys.
"I know I can beat anybody in this draw," Rittner said. "Players between 10 and 20 (world ranking), that's my level. I've already played a lot of players in the Top 10. I lost to (Arantxa) Sanchez in three sets in the Olympics. It's always very close when I play somebody above me."
Only 18, Rittner is already a close third to Steffi Graf and Anke Huber in Germany.
"I started two years ago and didn't expect I'd be where I am now," Rittner said.
She'll face Sandrine Testud in her second-round match. Testud defeated Linda Harvey-Wild 6-4, 6-1 Monday.
Florencia Labat of Argentina posted the only upset Monday. She knocked off the sixth seed, Natalia Medvedeva of the Ukraine, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Five women's qualifier matches were completed Monday. Advancing to the main draw were Stephane Rottier, Miriam Oremans, Shi-ting Wang and Ginger Helgeson.
Helgeson pounced on weary Elna Reinach, who was participating in her sixth three-set match since Thursday.
"I can't walk," Reinach said while nursing blisters.
The South African resident didn't arrive in Schenectady until Sunday afternoon because she was still competing in a tournament in Montreal. Then she played three long qualifying matches here before Helgeson stopped her drive for the main draw.
"There was a drastic change in temperature from Montreal to here," Reinach said. "It was cold up there. It's been quite hot here."
Although Reinach didn't make the singles draw here, she and Nicole Provis are the top-seeded doubles team.
"The blisters should be OK, I hope," Reinach said.