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Sabatini Defeated by Farina; Slump Now Spans 37 Tournaments

May 25, 1994|ELLIOTT ALMOND

PARIS — Gabriela Sabatini continues to play like a shell of her former self.

Playing an opponent who had never won a game against her, No. 8 Sabatini became the latest victim in the already thin women's field Tuesday at the French Open. She lost in the first round to Silvia Farina of Italy, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

A year ago, Sabatini was leading Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-1, 5-1, in the quarterfinals, then lost in three sets. Since then, Sabatini, 24, has not shown the fight that made her one of the best players over the last four years.

Her only other first-round loss in 35 Grand Slam tournaments was against Barbara Potter in the 1985 U.S. Open, when Sabatini was 15. She failed to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros Stadium for the first time since 1990.

Although playing sluggishly, it appeared Sabatini would advance Tuesday when she had two break points to take a 4-1 lead in the third set. But Farina, ranked 108th, held serve, then sensed Sabatini's vulnerability.

"I realized she was scared," Farina said.

Sabatini has not won a tournament since the 1992 Italian Open, a span of 37 events.

"It is kind of hard to believe I lost the first round here," she said.

To overcome her slump, Sabatini has changed coaches four times since January. But she acknowledged that her problem against Farina was attitude.

"I didn't put that much fight in those moments (in the third set)," she said. "I lost a little bit of my patience."

Sabatini's early departure followed by a day No. 4 Martina Navratilova's loss in the first round. Following them out were No. 5 Jana Novotna of Czechoslovakia, who lost to No. 94 Anna Smashnova, a Soviet immigrant from Israel, 6-4, 6-2; No. 6 Kimiko Date of Japan, who lost to No. 18 Amanda Coetzer, 6-2, 6-1, and No. 14 Zina Garrison-Jackson, who lost to No. 81 Silke Frankl of Germany in a match carried over from Monday, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Tracy Austin, 31, continuing her attempted comeback, lost to Marketa Kochta of Germany, 6-0, 6-1. She left the court in tears, but later said she continues because tennis remains fun.

"It's still a challenge," Austin said. "It's still a pleasure . . . that's what keeps me in the game."

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