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Tennis: Novotna ties with Sanchez Vicario

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Jana Novotna shared first prize after the final of the Direct Line Insurance International was abandoned for the first time in the tournament's 19-year history at rainy Eastbourne yesterday.

Delayed by intermittent showers throughout the week, the event went into an extra day after both players completed two matches apiece on Saturday. But after just 46 minutes of fragmented action promised a first-set tie- break with Novotna 6-5 ahead, the plug was finally pulled after the Czech player marched off complaining about the slippery court and gathering storm-clouds.

It earned her a slow handclap from the hundred or so fans who were admitted free at Devonshire Park, only to sit around for more than five hours in vain hope of a satisfactory conclusion.

Now Sanchez, who seemed willing to play on, and Novotna will have to wait to confront each other again until at least the semi-finals at Wimbledon where they are seeded to resume their rivalry. Novotna won their last meeting in Madrid in May and beat Sanchez on the way to the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta last summer.

The American Lori McNeil and Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic shared the doubles prize with Nicole Arendt of the United States and Manon Bollegraf of the Netherlands after that final was also called off.

In Rosmalen, the Netherlands, the Romania's Ruxandra Dragomir, seeded 15 for Wimbledon, won the women's international tournament, beating the unseeded Dutchwoman Miriam Oremans, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.