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Maleeva Turns On the Jets

November 08, 2002|Lauren Peterson | Times Staff Writer

Daniela Hantuchova may have been running on empty, but Magdalena Maleeva still had a full tank. The unseeded Maleeva defeated the jet-lagged, seventh-seeded Hantuchova, 6-3, 7-5, in the first round of the Home Depot WTA Championships on Thursday at Staples Center.

Maleeva, of Bulgaria, came from behind to win both sets. She trailed, 2-1, early in the first. Then she rallied from a 4-1 deficit by winning four consecutive games and six of the last seven in the second set.

Her resiliency should come as no surprise, because Maleeva, ranked 17th in the world, has been rebounding from injuries in a similarly determined fashion over the past few years.

"I don't know if it's an upset," she said after beating the eighth-ranked Hantuchova. "Obviously, she's a top-10 player, and so maybe it is. But I have worked very hard this year."

Thursday's victory, which sends Maleeva into the quarterfinals Saturday against Jennifer Capriati, is the latest in a string of resurgent performances.

Maleeva won the Moscow tournament in October, beating three top-10 players -- Venus Williams in the round of 16, Amelie Mauresmo of France in the semifinals and Lindsay Davenport in the final.

She followed that with a title-match loss to Kim Clijsters of Belgium at Luxembourg two weeks ago.


Hantuchova led Slovakia to its first Fed Cup title, a 3-1 victory over Spain on Sunday, and she arrived in Los Angeles for the season-ending WTA Championships on Monday night, a few days later than the rest of the field. She was still feeling the effects of the travel and short turnaround time against Maleeva.

"It definitely was a lot for me," she said. "I was just so tired. I felt like I had nothing left."


Eighth-seeded Jelena Dokic, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Anastasia Myskina in another first-round match Thursday, also is anticipating some much-needed rest over the next few weeks before gearing up in January for the Australian Open.

After competing in 29 tournaments this year, Dokic said she plans to cut back next year. She also believes it might not be a bad idea for the whole tour to do the same.

"Maybe it should be looked into," she said. "It's 11 months of tennis, and pretty much only one full month to rest, which is not very much at all.

"It's a very long season, and there are so many tournaments. A lot of players are getting tired."

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