Sabatini ready to call it a day

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Gabriela Sabatini is planning to end her freefall down the women's world rankings by retiring from the game at the age of just 26.

The Argentinian, who was for a long time the world No 3 but who has seen her ranking slip to a lowly 29, is expected to make her announcement at a press conference at Madison Square Garden tomorrow.

The venue might provide a few poignant memories for Sabatini, who claimed the 1994 Virginia Slims Championship there, her last victory in an important event. She has won 27 singles title in her professional career but reached only three grand slam finals and has been unable to win any tournament in nearly two years.

A source close to Sabatini said yesterday that the retirement was to take effect immediately, and that there were no plans for her to play in selected tournaments or to make a farewell tour.

Sabatini has been troubled by a stomach injury in recent months and was unable to play in the French Open and Wimbledon. She did not advance past the third round of the US Open, a tournament she won in 1990 by beating Steffi Graf in the final for the biggest victory of her career.

In Argentina, where Sabatini is the greatest female tennis player in the nation's history, newspapers blared word of her retirement yesterday.

"Gabriela is Leaving " and "Gaby is Retiring From ," the major newspapers La Nacion and Clarin announced respectively in front- page headlines. Other papers published similar reports.

Sabatini turned professional in 1985 and despite being among the top 10 women players for nearly a decade her play has steadily declined over the last two seasons.

Her last tournament title came at the New South Wales Open in Australia in January 1995. In what looks like being her last match on the circuit she lost in the first round to Jennifer Capriati in the European Indoor tournament in Zurich, Switzerland last week.

Always a player who threatened more than she achieved, Sabatini will perhaps be best remembered for her achievement in reaching the Wimbledon final in 1991 when she served for the match against Graf before ultimately losing 8-6 in the final set.

Rusedski wins, page 24