Tenacious Tauziat wears down Rubin

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IN THE final of the Direct Line Insurance International Women's Tennis Championship, otherwise known as Eastbourne, Nathalie Tauziat, of France, ground down Chanda Rubin of the United States, to win 3-6 6- 0 7-5 in an intensely fought match.

It lasted just under two engrossing hours and showed anyone who might have thought otherwise that even though players like Steffi Graf might be elsewhere there are worse ways to spend Saturday afternoon than watching the 11th and 13th seeds hammer it out under the sun at Devonshire Park.

This was supposed to be a tournament without stars but though Rubin lost it at the last gasp yesterday, obviously feeling the discomfort of an abdominal strain, she might well have put a stop to that idea.

This judge's daughter from Louisiana is 19 years old and the junior Wimbledon champion of 1992. She has a good forehand and can hang on in there, as evidenced by her recent performance in the French Open when at 0-5 and 0-40 down in the third set against Jana Novotna she saved nine match- points, went on to beat her and advanced to the quarter- finals. She also put out the top seed Kimiko Date last week, and by the time she reached the final yesterday had won 19 games on the trot and guaranteed herself the position of No 20 in the world.

Tauziat, her eventual conqueror yesterday, is less explosive but wiser and more experienced. She can be aggressive when she needs to be, too. She arrived at the final after putting out the second seed, Natasha Zvereva.

It was Rubin who started yesterday's match best, getting into her service groove well before her opponent and picking off winners with that beefy forehand, though she can still look uncomfortable on her double-handed backhand. Six games went with service before Rubin made her breakthrough, taking Tauziat's service to love to lead 4-3. She faulted a little with the new balls in her own service game but was saved by some weak returning by Tauziat, and broke for the second time with a handful of terrific winners to take the first set 6-3.

Tauziat, though, is one of those quiet, tenacious players. Her persistence was inspirational. Geeing herself up with a string of Gallic squeals of self-reproach, she turned the whole match round in an almost unbelievably one-sided second set, grabbing all of Rubin's service games to level things one set-all.

Rubin's collapse was not inflicted solely by her opponent. Near the end of the set, it was obvious that the muscles under the ribs on her left side were hurting. After holding her serve in the first game of the final set, Rubin left the court to get the injury taped.

At 4-3 up, she took more treatment in the rest period and after that it became clear that on this occasion she was going to have to make do with the Garrard's necklace and pass up on the trophy and big cheque. They went to Tauziat who needed only one of two match points to clinch victory.

"It was my best ever week and my best ever win," Tauziat said, and no one could have failed to be touched when she said that her father had just had surgery - "but he is all right now and I would like to tell him I won it for him."

Rubin was sporting and did not bang on too much about her injury. "I just came up short in the end," she said.