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Graf, Seles Advance At French

Showing power and resilience from years past, Steffi Graf defeated Lindsay Davenport in three sets today to advance to the French Open semifinals.

There, she'll be joined by three familiar faces: top-ranked Martina Hingis, defending champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Monica Seles, her next opponent.

Among the men, Marcelo Rios exited a tournament he seemed primed to win. He fell 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 to Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia, one of season's big surprises.

"I think he played better than me today," Rios said. "Losing is always sad. I'll try again next year."

Hrbaty knocked out top-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov in straight sets in the second round. In the semifinals, Hrbaty could well meet another man having an exceptional run Andre Agassi, who played later in the day.

Graf, a five-time champion in Paris, missed last's year's French Open because of one of her many injuries. But against the world's No. 2 player she produced one of her best victories of late.

In their first meeting on clay, Graf was overpowering in the first set, but Davenport came back in the second, winning in a tiebreaker. Graf broke Davenport twice in the third set to win 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 on her fifth match point.

Steffi Graf uses pure power to beat Lindsay Davenport in Paris.
Steffi Graf used her power to beat Lindsay Davenport in Paris. (AP)
Davenport has a distaste for clay, which limits her mobility.

"I really don't like this stuff and I'm not shy to say it," she said. "I don't like anything about it. It's just such a different game. It slows everything down."

Still, she said, "I was trying to go for it. I fought so hard in the second set. I should have fought harder in the third."

Next up for Graf is Seles. A finalist last year, Seles had an easy time with Conchita Martinez of Spain. She won 6-1, 6-4, closing the match with an ace. Martinez, who once won Wimbledon but is now ranked 22nd, offered little resistance to Seles' powerful groundstrokes.

Hingis surged into the semis with a commanding 6-2, 6-2 victory over the player who upset Venus Williams, Barbara Schwartz, an Austrian qualifier ranked 125th. She'll next meet Sanchez-Vicario.

"It's the best match so far I've played," Hingis said. "I had to think a lot on the court."

Sanchez-Vicario had almost as easy a time defeating another Austrian, Sylvia Plischke, 6-2, 6-4.

After Schwartz broke serve at the beginning of the match, Hingis won seven straight games and never was in trouble after that.

"She's very aggressive," Hingis said of Schwartz, who toppled Williams in thresets Sunday. "You never know where she's going to hit the ball."

Sanchez-Vicario was serving for the match at 5-2 in the second, but then faltered. Plischke, who earlier downed Jana Novotna, broke serve.

Serving for the match again at 5-4, Sanchez-Vicario blew two match points but finally converted on her third, when Plischke netted her final shot.

In his quarterfinal, Rios made more errors than usual against a player serving well and at the top of his game. Hrbaty never lost a service game, and Rios was unable to dominate from the baseline as he likes to.

After a close first set, Hrbaty easily won the second. In the third, the players fought to 6-6, and the ninth-seeded Chilean took a 2-0 lead in the tiebreaker.

Rios had two set points at 6-4 in the tiebreaker, but failed to capitalize on either one. But at 6-6, Hrbaty netted a shot and then hit a forehand long, giving Rios the set.

In the final set, Hrabty rolled to a 5-2 lead. At 5-3, with the Slovakian serving for the match, Rios made three consecutive errors, the last a backhand that hit the net cord and landed a few inches wide.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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