Tennis: Kremer's case succeeds on Seles errors

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AS THE best known sports person in Luxembourg (pop 400,000), and their only touring tennis professional, Anne Kremer's goal is to impress upon her fellow citizens that people from a small country can be successful on the international stage.

Yesterday, Kremer defeated her idol, Monica Seles, the former world No 1, in the second round of the Direct Line Championships, 6-4, 6-4. Today, if the Lawn Tennis Association shows initiative, she ought to be recruited to lecture Britain's women players on what it takes to be ranked as high as No 40 in the world.

Although Kremer has spent a good deal of time in the United States, studying English literature at Stanford University, she has some knowledge of the state of the British game, having defeated Sam Smith, the nation's No 1, in the opening round, 6-4, 6-1. "It's strange that you have no top-ranked girls," Kremer said. "But you do have good guys, Henman and Rusedski." (In Luxembourg, two is a crowd).

The 23-year-old Kremer, at 5ft 5in, may not be one of the Amazons of the game, but she was able to unsettle Seles by feeding off her opponent's pace of shot and capitalising on her opponent's errors and lack on pace around the court. "I went into the match," Kremer said, "knowing there was one thing I could do better than Monica - move. In every other domain she was better. It was her first match on grass for a year. I had my first match on grass last week in Birmingham, and I was struggling. I think Monica's going to be all right for Wimbledon."

Seles thinks so, too, and she will have to improve if she is to justify her No 4 seeding by advancing to meet Steffi Graf in the semi-finals. "I was just missing so many balls out there today," Seles lamented, "and I couldn't feel the timing." Kremer had a lot to with that, of course. "She played very good tennis," Seles acknowledged. "She was running down a of balls and hitting some great line balls. But I made tons of unforced errors."

Having lost the first set after 37 minutes, Seles responded by over-hitting many of her shots and failing to vary the pace. Kremer could hardly believe it when she found herself leading 5-1 in the second set. If Seles needed a wake-up call, the sponsors had a giant red telephone close to the court.

Always a fighter, Seles began to play her most effective tennis at that point, and Kremer's nerve began to fail. She was broken when serving for the match at 5-2, but had steadied herself when the second winning opportunity came, at 5-4. In today's quarter-finals, Kremer will play Natasha Zvereva.

Until yesterday, Kremer's biggest win was against Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the second round of the Lipton Championships, in Florida, in March. The possibility of another meeting with the Spaniard here disappeared when the No 2 seed was eliminated by Nathalie Dechy, of France, 7-5, 6- 2.