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Hingis, Seles Renew Rivalry


Last year, Martina Hingis made a joyful leap after beating Monica Seles in the French Open semifinals.

The two go at it again in the semifinals Thursday, with the other women's semifinal featuring Lindsay Davenport against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, a pair of 20-somethings occupying spots many fans thought would be taken by teen-agers.

The Hingis-Seles match has the appeal of a final.

Will Hingis get another chance at a celebratory leap or will Seles, playing her first tournament since the death of her father, make it back to the final of an event she has won three times?

It pits the No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Hingis, winner of four of the last five Grand Slams but no French Opens, against Seles, the former No. 1 and winner of nine Grand Slam events.

Hingis has defeated Seles all five times they have played. Last year's French Open match was the only time they have not met in a final.

"The last time I played Martina was here," Seles said."We had a very tough match."

That 6-7 (2-7), 7-5, 6-4 victory by Hingis lasted more than two hours. Hingis called it the most satisfying victory of her career at the time.

This year Hingis has rolled through the first five rounds, losing just 21 games in five matches, including seven to Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. She is 37-4 this year with four titles.

Seles has played only five tournaments this year, with a 13-4 mark. Her father Karolj died of cancer May 14 and Seles has performed courageously throughout the tournament. She said tennis helps her get over the loss of her father.

"I think about my dad every day," Seles said."But for me it's a tennis match, it's a tennis tournament. I'm doing something that I love to do."

Seles said her game has improved with the help of new coach Gavin Hopper.

"We worked really hard with Gavin the first week of the tournament. I think I feel more comfortable now than a week ago," she said.

The other semifinal matches Davenport, the No. 2 seed, against two-time champion Sanchez Vicario. Davenport ousted defending champion Iva Majoli in the quarterfinals.

Sanchez Vicario has a 23-6 record for the year, but her only title came in the first tournament of the season in Sydney, Australia. She has a 6-2 career mark against Davenport, including wins in their only two matches on clay.

Sanchez Vicario knows her experience helps. She won her first French Open title nine years ago and has 60 victories in the French Open.

"I've been there so many years already," she said."I think the experience of being in situations like this before helps. But I also have to play well enough to win."

Davenport knows a victory on clay is not expected from her.

"If you look at this year, I haven't been winning tournaments necessarily on clay," she said."Gosh, I mean, I've surprised myself here."

She has a 32-8 record this season, winning just one tournament. ut that was a big one, handing Hingis a loss in the Pan Pacific final in Tokyo in February. Davenport said she's proud to be a part of tennis' older generation.

"I'm going to be 22 in five or six days," she said."I'm getting old for women's tennis."

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