Finishing up the 1992 AO. Sorry it took so long.
Fernandez Restrings Her Strategy, Thumps No. 3 Sabatini
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Friday, January 24, 1992
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Mary Joe Fernandez looked back on her last match against Gabriela Sabatini and didn't like what she saw.
Fernandez had won only five games against an aggressive Sabatini in the semifinals of the New South Wales Open in Sydney two weeks ago.
But she reversed that in the Australian Open on Thursday, stunning the No. 3 seed 6-1, 6-4 and advancing to a meeting in the Grand Slam tournament final against Monica Seles. The top seed and defending champion, Seles needed only an hour to devastate No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-2, 6-2.
Fernandez and her new coach, Harold Solomon, watched a tape Wednesday night of her mistake-plagued loss to Sabatini.
''I said I had to do something drastically different,'' the seventh-seeded Fernandez said. ''I tried to attack a lot and come in a lot.''
The attacking style took Sabatini by surprise. She had used the same tactics in ousting Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals, but couldn't handle a mirror image of herself.
Sabatini broke Fernandez in the first game, then lost the next six games as Fernandez charged the net regularly, demonstrating her best form by far in the tournament.
''She played very well,'' said a subdued and downcast Sabatini, who had looked sharp while not dropping a set in her last two tournaments. ''She changed her strategy from last week. I was feeling a little frustrated because I was making too many mistakes. My shots weren't working too well.''
Solomon, ironically a pure baseliner ranked among the top 15 men's money winners in 1974-80, has pushed Fernandez to attack more since he started working with her last month.
''It's still not easy,'' Fernandez said. ''You look at the other side and know if you don't hit a great shot, you're going to get passed. It's hard when you've played a certain way for a long time - 17 years - to change. Harold made me realize I had no choice.''
It's the second time in three years that Fernandez has reached the final of the year's first Grand Slam tournament. She lost to Seles last year in the semis, with the third set going to 9-7, and has won only the first of their nine meetings.
Seles looked as sharp as Sanchez Vicario was off. After losing her first service game at love, Seles won the next five while dropping only five points.
''I definitely hit much better than any match I've played up until now,'' said Seles, who won all three Grand Slams she entered last year.
She had been having trouble with her serve, but said she picked up some inspiration after watching the men's quarterfinal duel between Michael Stich and Richard Krajicek, who combined for 37 aces.
The center court crowd was almost silent in watching the lopsided match on a cool, breezy and overcast day.
While Sanchez Vicario didn't give up easily, Seles ran her ragged with shots from corner to corner. Sanchez Vicario found herself forced to hit two or three great shots to win a point, while Seles blasted winners almost at will.
After Sanchez Vicario held to pull even at 2-2, Seles ran off seven consecutive games. When Sanchez Vicario briefly rallied by winning back-to-back games halfway through the second set, Seles extinguished the fire by winning nine points in a row.
Typical of the way the day went for Sanchez Vicario, she committed unforced errors on four of the last points, hitting two forehands long at deuce.
The only light moment came when a ball girl tried to chase a bug off court, and Sanchez Vicario had her service motion interrupted when she realized a bird had landed on the net in the meantime.
Meanwhile, Jim Courier, the No. 2 seed, was scheduled to play Krajicek in the semifinals, with the winner going to the final against either No. 1 Stefan Edberg or unseeded Wayne Ferreira, the conqueror of John McEnroe.