Sabatini quells Capriati revival

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The Independent Online
Tennis

Gabriela Sabatini, who dealt with Jennifer Capriati when the prodigy was playing her first professional tournament at the age of 13, also proved too good for the comeback kid yesterday.

Capriati's progress at the Lipton Championships was rudely interrupted by the fourth-seeded Argentinian, who advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 win after 79 minutes. Capriati will therefore reappear on the rankings computer next Monday around No 105.

Sabatini won with greater ease yesterday than on the much hyped occasion of Capriati's debut at Boca Raton in 1990, when they met in the final.

Then, a carefree Capriati almost forced a third set, losing, 6-4, 7-5. Sabatini was only threatened in yesterday's match when serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set.

A double-fault helped Capriati break to love - and Sabatini double-faulted three times in the 10th game to give the American the chance to level the set. But Sabatini managed to steady her nerves and served her way through the crisis.

"I think I could have done a little bit better," Capriati said, "but I still feel like I had a great tournament and a great time." Her cause was not helped by a sore foot, which required treatment after the fifth game of the second set.

She was certainly moved around the court by Sabatini, who went into the contest fuming that she had been forced to play her two previous matches on the same day. Her second-round match against Anna Smashnova ended at 12.30 am Sunday morning, and she was back on court against Karin Kschwendt at 2 pm.

"I was extremely mad about it," Sabatini said. "I just can't understand how they can make a schedule like that."

Stefan Edberg's world ranking had dipped as low as No 52 when he arrived here. This situated the former No 1 between two British players, seven places below Greg Rusedski and six above Tim Henman.

While the Lawn Association is entitled take encouragement from the progress Rusedski and Henman have made, there is little doubt that the 30-year-old Edberg has rushed down to meet them during his farewell season on the tour.

Currently only one place above his year-end ranking in 1983, when he was a novice professional ready to stake a place in the top 20 for 13 years, Edberg has not been helped by a wrist injury, which may require surgery. "I've had problems with the wrist for five months," he said. "If it doesn't improve I might have to have injections, and possibly even an operation.''

In the circumstances, it is a minor triumph that the former Wimbledon champion has managed to string together three consecutive wins for the first time since last summer.

Yesterday, he defeated Nicolas Pereira, 6-4, 6-2. Three days earlier the Venezuelan contributed to Thomas Muster's misery by eliminating the world No 1 in his opening match.

Edberg can empathise with Muster to an extent. On the last occasion the Swede encountered Pereira, in 1989, he was knocked out in his opening match at the Stella Artois Championship in London.

There were mitigating circumstances. Edberg had just arrived from Paris after losing to Michael Chang in the French Open final - having accounted for Pereira in straight sets in the second round. Moreover, he recovered in time to advance to the Wimbledon final, losing to Boris Becker.

Andre Agassi, the defending champion, dropped a set for the second time before advancing to the last 16 with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win against Jean-Philippe Fleurian, ranked No 115.

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