Rubin's win breaks set of records

Tennis
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The Independent Online
Tennis

Chanda Rubin, the 19-year-old American, knocked out the third seed, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, in a marathon match at the Australian Open yesterday, winning 16-14 in the final set on her sixth match point.

At 3hr 33min it was the longest women's match in the history of the Australian Open and also broke the Open record for the most games in a set and the most games in a women's match - 48. It was the sixth longest women's match recorded in the Open era.

In the first Grand Slam semi-final of her career Rubin, seeded 13th, will meet Monica Seles for the first time after the No 1 seed demolished the 18-year-old Croatian Iva Majoli 6-1, 6-2 in the yesterday's first quarter-final.

Seles, bidding for her first Grand Slam title since returning to tennis after her stabbing in April 1993, damaged a tendon above her ankle during the second set and there are worries about her fitness.

The 22-year-old joint world No 1, favourite to win her ninth Grand Slam title in the absence of Steffi Graf, reeled off nine straight games to take the first set in 22 minutes and raced to a 3-0 lead in the second. But in the fourth game, Seles said she felt a tendon pull above the right ankle. "It made it hard when you push off," she said.

Rubin, who will be 20 next month, finally disposed of Sanchez Vicario 6-4, 2-6, 16-14 with a rasping volley after earlier conceding a match point at 14-13 on the Spaniard's service when a deep drive from her opponent looked suspiciously long.

The crowd booed loudly but Rubin, who had earlier let slip two match points at 5-4 on Sanchez Vicario's service, did not let her head drop. "I just wanted to stay in there and keep fighting," Rubin said. "I wanted to keep fighting no matter how long it took."

An exhausted Rubin, who won a marathon 3hr 45min match against Patricia Hy-Boulais at Wimbledon last year, said it had been her most satisfying victory. "It feels great to be in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. It's huge," she said.

Sanchez Vicario, a finalist at the last two Australian Opens, was not disappointed - more elated by the quality of the tennis in the 2hr 22min third set. "It's hard that one of us had to lose, but I am happy with myself, I played a great match and I gave everything," she said.

The crowd appreciated the tennis, particularly Rubin's do-or-die approach with her booming forehands either winning points or going well wide. She made 96 unforced errors against Sanchez Vicario's 48.

In today's two remaining women's quarter-finals, Germany's eighth-seeded Anke Huber plays the world No 2 Conchita Martinez, while the unseeded Swiss prodigy Martina Hingis meets the 16th seed, South Africa's Amanda Coetzer.

The epic encounter between Rubin and Sanchez Vicario delayed the showpiece meeting between the men's second seed, Andre Agassi, and his fellow American Jim Courier, which was finally delayed until today by rain with the No 8 seed leading 5-4 in the first set.

Michael Chang earlier became the first player through to the men's semi- finals by beating Mikael Tillstrom, of Sweden, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 in 1hr 16min.

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