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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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SHANGHAI, CHINA (TICKER) -- Top seed Monica Seles of the United States advanced to the semifinals in her Kiwi Open debut, posting a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over France's Stephanie Foretz on Friday.

Seles dropped her first set in three matches at the event but moved a step closer to her third straight title, having won last week's Japan Open and last month's Brasil Open.

Local favorite Ai Sugiyama will not have a chance to end Seles' run in the Far East. The fourth seed retired due to a spine injury and heat illness while trailing seventh seed Rita Grande of Italy, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 1-0.

Also Friday, a pair of Australians advanced to the semifinals for the first time in their careers as Alicia Molik upended Yoon Jeong Cho of Korea, 7-5, 7-5, and Nicole Pratt defeated Janet Lee of Taipei, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.

Seles, 27, will face Molik with a chance to move within a match of her fourth title of the season and 51st career. She also won this year's IGA U.S. Indoors before suffering a foot injury that sidelined her five months.

A nine-time Grand Slam winner, Seles is the heavy favorite among the semifinalists. She is ranked eighth in the world and has career earnings of over $13.4 million -- nearly six times more than Grande, Molik and Pratt combined.

Molik, 20, has lost just one set this week, holding off Cho in one hour, 41 minutes. She is the top-ranked Australian in the world at No. 59.

"I played well and I'm very happy to be in my first semifinal," she said. "I've never played Seles before, but I think my record against top-20, -30 players has been good this year, so I'm just going to go out there and go for it."

Pratt, 28, has gone to three sets in knocking off her last two opponents. She is ranked 65th in the world.

Grande, 26, is 42nd in the world. She had to survive a hard-fought match against Alexandra Fusai just to make it to the second round and now is within two victories of her first career title.

[ October 12, 2001: Message edited by: Josh ]
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