Seles, Fernandez in Australian semis
Tuesday, January 21, 1992
Steve Wilstein, AP
MELBOURNE, Australia - Monica Seles barely dodged fellow grunt-and-slug teen Anke Huber, and Mary Joe Fernandez got through Tuesday at the Australian Open to reach the semifinals for the third straight year.
Seles, the 18-year-old defending champion, fought off break points in every game of the second set before finally prevailing 7-5, 6-3 in the quarters against a 17-year-old German who could match her strength but not quite her consistency.
Seles led 4-1 in the first set, and had six break points off Huber in the sixth game. But the gritty, grunting Huber held after eight deuces, and finally pulled even at 5-5.
After Seles held, she took the set on her third break point when Huber weakened for a moment and double-faulted for the second time in the game.
Seles broke Huber twice in a row to take a 4-1 lead again in the second set, but once more the German struggled back and had chances to press her with break points.
Huber's last opportunity came when Seles hit a forehand that was called long. Seles questioned the call, which put Huber ahead 30-40, but then came back to smack a service winner for deuce. She got her first matchpoint on Huber's backhand return long. But after Huber saved it with a forehand winner on the line, Seles hit another service winner, and finished off the match with a clean forehand winner down the line.
"I think the match was a lot closer than 7-5, 6-3," Seles said. "I just had a little more luck. She was hitting very hard, and not missing many balls."
"I played the important points not good enough," Huber said. "I made too many unforced errors on game point. Perhaps you have to come to the net more against her, but it's difficult."
Fernandez overcame a jammed toe that needed lengthy treatment during her match against American compatriot Amy Frazier, then fought back from deficits in the second set and tie-breaker to win 6-4, 7-6 (8-6).
Not so lucky was Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, who strained tendons around the big toe of her right foot in doubles Monday and defaulted her quarterfinal singles match Tuesday against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who next meets Seles.
Fernandez, a runner-up to Steffi Graf here two years ago, broke Frazier twice when she served for the second set, and won four consecutive games from 2-5 to go ahead 6-5 in the second set.
Fernandez, 20, from Miami, Fla., jammed her toe late in the first set, and asked for a time out after her service was broken to 1-2 in the second set. A trainer padded the toe, but Fernandez then went through a bout of wildness on serve. She double-faulted at 40-30 and eventually was broken again when she slapped a forehand wide.
Frazier, more aggressive and taking more chances on both her groundstrokes and at the net, blew several opportunities to push the match into a third set.
"She doesn't have much margin for error," Fernandez said of Frazier's style.
The 19-year-old from Rochester Hills, Mich., hit two unforced errors on forehands after leading 5-2 in the tiebreaker. Fernandez then tied it at 5-5 with a lovely forehand dropshot on a short ball, and went ahead 6-5 on a long backhand by Frazier. Fernandez returned the favor to make it 6-6, then took the match when Frazier netted a forehand and a backhand on the next two
"I love playing down here," Fernandez said. "Hopefully, the third time (in the semis) will be lucky for me. I know I'm competing well and playing well, but I still don't play the way I practice. A lot of it's mental."
She said she has to be more aggressive and go for winners more than she's been doing.
"I'm not going to win the tournament if I don't," said Fernandez, who plays the winner of Jennifer Capriati-Gabriela Sabatini match Tuesday night.
Temperatures cooled down considerably on Tuesday, a day after the Australian Open turned into a colossal steambath - courts sizzling at 127 degrees, players wobbling out of matches, fans fainting in their seats.
Medics treated about 20 fans of all ages who passed out in the heat, and several who suffered other symptoms of heatstroke.
"We treated about 25 heat-related injuries," said Wayne Deakes, duty officer for St. John Ambulance at the National Tennis Center. "Most of them fainted or felt faint. It was purely from the heat."