TOURNAMENT'S TOP FOUR SEEDS STAND ALONE AT AMELIA ISLAND
Saturday, April 11, 1992
AMELIA ISLAND -- This one was painless.
Gabriela Sabatini drilled Jana Novotna 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the Bausch & Lomb Championships Friday. Quick and clean in an hour and 19 minutes.
No blood spilled, no guts wrenched, like the match at Roland Garros, or the one at Madison Square Garden, or the one in Zurich.
Novotna led 7-5, 5-2 at the French Open last year, blew match points and the match. The year before, Novotna lost to Sabatini in third-set tiebreakers at both the European Indoors and the Virginia Slims Championships .
The closest Novotna got Friday was 1-all in the first set. Forty-one unforced errors didn't help.
''I had a good strategy, and at the end, she didn't know what to do,'' said Sabatini, who committed only 14 unforced errors. ''This was my best match of the week. I was a little more focused and now I'm ready to play some tough matches.''
Sabatini meets Conchita Martinez and Steffi Graf takes on Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in today's semifinals (ESPN at noon).
Hopefully now, the Bausch & Lomb will break out of the blahs. Friday's other quarterfinals were as lifeless as the Sabatini-Novotna match. Martinez (4) defeated Zina Garrison (8) 6-3, 6-1; Graf (1) ousted Leila Meskhi (7) 6-0, 6-2 and Sanchez (3) beat unseeded Sabine Hack 6-1, 6-2.
The losers combined for just 12 games -- the quarterfinals were the most lopsided in 20 tournaments on the Kraft Tour this year.
For the first time this year, the four top seeds have reached the semifinals. No surprise considering these favorites. Graf (14-2), Sabatini (29-3), Sanchez (21-4) and Martinez (20-5) are among the winningest players on the tour, and especially potent in any event near I-95.
Graf won the Virginia Slims of Florida, Sanchez won Lipton and Sabatini won the Family Circle Cup. Martinez reached the finals at both the Virginia Slims of Florida and the Family Circle Cup.
What combination will we get Sunday?
Graf, the champion in 1986, 1987 and 1990, is aiming for her fourth consecutive final against Sanchez, who has beaten the German twice on red clay, both times at the French Open.
The second victory was a 6-0, 6-2 stunner in last year's semifinals, the last time they played.
''I played really well that time and didn't miss a ball,'' Sanchez said. ''But I won't think of that match (today). It was a long time ago.''
Graf is 10-2 against Sanchez, including victories here in 1989 and 1990 (6-1, 6-0 in the final).
Graf, who is experimenting with changes in her game (coming to the net, more topspin backhands), has dropped just seven games in her last five sets.
''I expect some tough times, but I need to do this,'' Graf said. ''I'm not looking at the results right now.''
The Sabatini-Martinez semifinal is a rematch of last week's final in Hilton Head, won by Sabatini 6-1, 6-4.
Martinez is battling tendinitis in her right shoulder and arm.
''I can't serve hard, and it's painful when I hit my forehand,'' said Martinez.
''I will treat it and see what happens. I will fight, but if it hurts too much I will stop.''