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No. 2 Sanchez Vicario Gets Upstaged by No. 22 Halard

November 15, 1994|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Arantxa Sanchez Vicario's oft-heard claim that she might deserve the world's No. 1 ranking rather than Steffi Graf was rendered void Monday when she lost to the No. 22 player in the world in the opening match of the $3.5-million Virginia Slims Championships.

Julie Halard of France upset the U.S. Open champion, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), before a stunned crowd of 10,378 at Madison Square Garden. Even though this season-ending tournament carries with it no computer points, Sanchez Vicario had hoped for a strong showing to gain at least a reasonable argument that she was superior to Graf, whom she beat in the U.S. Open final.

Halard, 22, was inconsistent, but strong at the start and end. Sanchez Vicario offered only token resistance in the first set, which perhaps fooled Halard into thinking she didn't need to press. Dangerous thoughts against the tour's best scrambler.

Loose play in the second set made scrambling a priority for Sanchez Vicario. Because she got in only 50% of her first serves, she had to exploit her cracking groundstrokes, but met with little success.

Her best forehand came when she clipped the top off a decorative potted fern in frustration.

There was agony enough for two. By the fifth game change, Halard hurled her racket to her chair and then slumped into it. Halard was up 40-0 in the sixth game of the second set when Sanchez Vicario's forehand showed up. Her exploding forehand cross-court winner broke Halard's serve.

Sanchez Vicario broke in the fifth game of the final set and looked poised to roll. But Halard broke back in the eighth game.

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