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Struggling Graf Finally Finds Way Past Coetzer

May 24, 1997|From Staff and Wire Reports

Steffi Graf, still struggling with her tennis game, defeated Amanda Coetzer on Friday for the first time in three tries this year, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), in the semifinals of the Strasbourg Open in France.

Coetzer beat Graf, 6-0, 6-1, a week ago in the German Open, the worst loss of the German's career. Coetzer also defeated Graf at the Australian Open in January. Those were Graf's only losses this year.

In today's final, Graf will play 15-year-old Mirjana Lucic of Croatia, a 7-5, 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-5) winner over Judith Wiesner.

"It's giving me a lot of confidence heading into Paris," Graf said of next week's French Open. "It's going better than I thought."

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Top-seeded Monica Seles struggled early before regaining her form to defeat Argentina's Florencia Labat, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1, 6-2, in the semifinals of the Madrid Open.

In today's final, Seles will face defending champion and second-seeded Jana Novotna, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Spain's Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Seles lost a set for the first time in the tournament before wearing down Labat.

"With some luck, I was able to get back into the match, but I didn't play like I wanted to," said Seles, the world's third-ranked player.

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Australia advanced to the final of the World Team Cup by eliminating Croatia, 3-0, and will face the winner of today's Netherlands-Spain match at Duesseldorf, Germany.

The Czech Republic beat the United States, 2-1, with Petr Korda rallying to defeat Alex O'Brien, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, and the Czechs taking the doubles after Michael Chang had defeated Bohdan Ulihrach, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Mark Philippoussis and Goran Ivanisevic met in a battle between the two biggest servers in the game, and the Australian won easily, 6-1, 6-2, in 47 minutes.

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Australian Patrick Rafter and Marcelo Filippini of Uruguay scored semifinal victories in the Raifeissen Grand Prix clay court tournament at St. Poelten, Austria.

Rafter, who will play in his third final of the year, defeated Magnus Norman of Sweden, and Filippini beat Dominik Hrabaty of Slovakia.

*

The French Open announced pairings for the first round with top-seeded Pete Sampras facing Fabrice Santoro of France.

The second-seeded Chang drew a qualifier in the first round. Defending champion and third-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia will face Martin Damm.

On the women's side, top-ranked Martina Hingis, 16, is seeded first. Hingis, winner of the Australian Open and unbeaten this year in six tournaments, fell off a horse April 21 and injured a knee. She has not played a tournament match on clay this year.

Track and Field

Michael Johnson has confirmed his plans to run in Sunday's Prefontaine Classic at Eugene, Ore., but Mary Slaney will be a no-show.

Slaney said in a statement that she was pulling out because of a leg injury. She said her decision had nothing to do with recent reports that she tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone at last year's Olympic trials.

"You can tell them that I would like to run," Slaney said, "and that they can test me before the meet, during the meet, after the meet, or whenever they want."

Rumors swirled Friday that Johnson was pulling out of the meet rather than risk an injury a week before his million-dollar match race against Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey.

But Johnson's agent, Brad Hunt, assured meet director Tom Jordan that Johnson will remain the headliner for the Prefontaine, the only event on the international Mobil Grand Prix circuit remaining in the United States.

Olympic gold medalist Derrick Adkins won the 400-meter hurdles in 48.58 seconds in the Gatorade Classic at Knoxville, Tenn.

Soccer

Former Swiss national team star Alain Sutter scored his first goal in Major League Soccer as the Dallas Burn defeated the Tampa Bay Mutiny, 3-1, before 10,112 in Tampa.

Miscellany

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly will return to the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Tour this weekend after a seven-tournament injury layoff. Kiraly will be paired with a new partner, longtime rival Adam Johnson, and could end up facing former partner and fellow gold medalist Kent Steffes in the AVP San Antonio Open.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Major League Soccer Commissioner Doug Logan visited Seattle and the city was promised an MLS franchise but did not get a guarantee of playing host to the Super Bowl if a new $425-million stadium for the Seattle Seahawks is built.

The San Francisco 49ers have spent nearly $1.4 million in urging voters to support a stadium bond issue on the June 3 ballot, far outpacing the roughly $80,000 spent by opponents.

The 49ers' campaign committee spent $1,378,014 of the $1,599,531 it brought in through May 17, according to disclosure statements.

Defending NCAA lacrosse champion Princeton (13-0) will face Duke (12-3) and six-time champion Syracuse (11-2) will play Maryland (10-4) today at College Park, Md., with the winners playing in Monday's championship game.

University of New Mexico basketball center Kenny Thomas has settled a two-year dispute with the NCAA by agreeing to sit out the first semester of his senior season.

Fox Sports West 2 finally made its debut on an Orange County cable system after Fox Sports and Cox Communications reached an agreement, the cable company announced.

The regional sports network is available to nearly all 210,000 Cox customers throughout the county. However, Laguna Beach viewers will have to wait for a cable system upgrade project to be completed, which is expected later this summer.

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