Tauziat criticises Seles' display

Tennis
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The Independent Online
Monica Seles secured a place in the final of a grass-court tournament for only the second time in her career yesterday, winning two matches in straight sets in rising damp, but she received little credit from her old foe Nathalie Tauziat.

"I don't think she won the match, I thought I lost it, and I'm a little bit frustrated," Tauziat, the defending champion, said after being defeated by Seles, 6-4, 6-4, in the semi-finals of the Direct Line Insurance Championships.

The Frenchwoman, ranked No 21 in the world, hardly rated Seles's prospects at Wimbledon, where they met in the quarter-finals in 1992. "I don't think she has improved her game on grass, and I think everybody knows she's not fit. She was not fit at the French Open, so how can she be fit two weeks later?''

Asked to assess Seles's Wimbledon chances, from one to 10, Tauziat said: "I'm going to say five. I'll be surprised if she wins, but with the mentality she has, she can do anything; that's her power.''

It was Tauziat who helped bring the controversy concerning Seles's grunting to a head at Wimbledon four years ago, complaining after losing their quarter-final, 6-1, 6-3. Martina Navratilova followed up by protesting to the umpire during the semi-final, and Seles barely made a sound when losing in the final to Steffi Graf in straight sets.

Seles has grunted her way through three matches here this week, and Tauziat did not complain yesterday. "No, it was OK," she said.

Seles may be a long way from her form and fitness of four years ago, before the stabbing in Hamburg in 1993, but she still managed to overcome Tauziat in straight sets, just as she had in their six previous matches. The most recent, 6-2, 6-2, was when Seles made her comeback to the tour last August at the Canadian Open.

Yesterday's score was closer than any of their previous matches, and it ought to be borne in mind that there are not many players in women's tennis capable of varying their game as well as the 28-year-old Tauziat, who is equally at home at the net as on the baseline.

Always a dangerous opponent on grass, the Frenchwoman was annoyed to lose her serve in the seventh game of the second set, having broken back to 2-2. Seles who broke in the opening game of both sets, managed to save the only break point against her in the opening set, in the fifth game.

The match took 71 minutes, 10 minutes longer than Seles's 6-3, 6-1 win against the Argentinian baseliner, Ines Gorrochategui, in the quarter-finals. There was a break of two and a half hours between the two matches, the schedule having been rearranged after play was washed out on Thursday.

Seles, who said her suspect shoulder bothered her no more than usual, considered that she played better against the Argentinian. "I was a bit more comfortable coming to the net than against Nathalie, who has a good serve and plays the ball very low," she said. "It's hard to return her shots, and she's a fighter.''

Greg Rusedski, Britain's last challenger in the Nottingham Open grass- court event yesterday, lost his semi-final match 7-6, 6-3 to Jan Siemerink, the No 5 seed from the Netherlands.

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