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TENNIS : Upsets Eliminate Top Challengers to Top-Seeded Graf

March 16, 1994|From Associated Press

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Upsets eliminated Steffi Graf's three foremost challengers Tuesday at the Lipton Championships.

Two-time defending champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Gabriela Sabatini and Jana Novotna--seeded second, third and fourth--all departed in the space of less than three hours.

The quarterfinal results left only longshots to face Graf, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over fifth-seeded Kimiko Date.

Graf has won 30 consecutive matches and 53 sets in a row. Her dominance underscores a predictability and lack of depth that have hampered women's tennis in the absence of Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati.

"I hope all of women's tennis gets maybe a little bit more recognized," said Lindsay Davenport, a 17-year-old senior at Murrieta Valley High who defeated Sabatini, 6-1, 6-2. "Maybe some more players will be pushed into the media and the public's knowledge."

The biggest stunner claimed second-ranked Sanchez Vicario, who squandered five consecutive match points and lost to Brenda Schultz, 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

"I have the match in my hands," Sanchez Vicario said, "but it went away."

Novotna blew a 4-0 lead in the second set against Natalia Zvereva, who won, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4).

Zvereva will play Schultz in Thursday's semifinals. Davenport will face Graf.

The top men weren't immune to upsets, either. Unseeded Australian Patrick Rafter defeated eighth-ranked Michael Chang, 6-2, 6-7 (7-2), 6-2.

Jim Grabb, ranked No. 185, defeated Aaron Krickstein, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. Andre Agassi eliminated Cedric Pioline, 6-4, 6-2.

No. 6 Goran Ivanisevic won in singles, then retired from his doubles match when he was hit in the side of the neck by a serve from partner Marc Rosset. Ivanisevic is expected to play singles tonight against Jim Courier, but will be re-evaluated beforehand.

Courier, top-ranked Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg and Petr Korda all advanced to the quarterfinals with straight-set victories.

Sanchez Vicario nearly was a straight-set winner. She led Schultz, 6-1, in their second-set tiebreaker, but the Dutchwoman took the next seven points to force a third set.

Schultz, at 6 feet 2, slammed 10 aces and won 38 points at the net to 10 for Sanchez Vicario.

"She hits the ball very hard, harder than maybe any woman," Sanchez Vicario said. "When she puts in her serve, she is really dangerous."

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