Tennis: Double joy for Novotna

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The Independent Online
Lindsay Davenport of the United States and Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic capped their first year of partnership on Saturday with a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over the French duo of Alexandra Fusai and Nathalie Tauziat in the doubles final at the end-of-year Chase Championships in New York.

Davenport and Novotna, seeded No 3, have won four of seven finals they played in 1997, including the US Open.

"Jana is the best serve and volleyer in the women's game," Davenport said. "That helps when you have a doubles partner like that. We've had a good year, especially winning both times in New York."

Novotna also won her singles semi-final before the doubles match, beating Romania's Irina Spirlea in straight sets to move into yesterday's final against Mary Pierce. She became the first Czech player to reach the final at the championships since Martina Navratilova in 1981. Pierce, meanwhile, is the first French player to reach the final.

Davenport's serve was broken once in the first set of the three-set match, but Novotna was able to hold off all three break points she faced in the match. Both of the Frenchwomen had their serves broken twice in the match, which lasted just under two hours.

Fusai and Tauziat defeated two seeded pairings on their way to the final - the second seeds, Martina Hingis and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, in a straight- sets quarter-final, and the fifth seeds, Nicole Arendt and Manon Bollegraf, when Bollegraf had to retire during their semi-final due to a shoulder injury.

For Tauziat, the day brought two disappointing defeats - in the doubles final and in the singles semi-finals, where she lost to her compatriot and Fed Cup team-mate Pierce 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

"They were a tough team to play and it was a little difficult for me since I was a little bit tired after the singles," Tauziat said. "She [Fusai] can't play alone out there and today I didn't play my best."

This event has featured at least one unseeded player in the semi-finals every year since 1992. Gabriela Sabatini was the last unseeded player to win the championship when she defeated Davenport in the 1994 final.

Pierce went into her semi- final on a high after giving Martina Hingis only her fifth defeat of 1997 in the quarter-finals.

The usually baseline-hugging Pierce went to the net frequently. The tactic worked to perfection as she dominated the opening set, breaking Tauziat in the fourth and eighth games.

The two battled evenly through most of the second set, but after Pierce held to 5-4, Tauziat called for a trainer and was treated for a blister on her right foot. It apparently worked as Tauziat held at 15 - losing the one point on a double-fault - before breaking Pierce from deuce to capture the second set and level the match.

Early in the final set, both players made numerous unforced errors but Pierce broke Tauziat in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Trailing 5- 3, Tauziat broke back to love but in the longest game of the match, a 14-point battle, Pierce prevailed when Tauziat hit a forehand into the net on the second match point.