Tennis: Schultz a tall order for Sanchez Vicario: Spanish title holder and Sabatini succumb to rising talents of women's game

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The Independent Online
THERE may not be a lot of depth in the women's game, but there is certainly height. Brenda Schultz and Lindsay Davenport, both 6ft 2in, defeated Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Gabriela Sabatini respectively to advance to the semi-finals of the Lipton Championships here yesterday.

The biggest factor was not size but self-belief, or the lack of it.

Schultz saved five match points against Sanchez Vicario, the holder of the title for the past two years and the winner of their five previous matches. The 23-year-old Dutch player apparently psyched herself by writing a message in her diary - 'I'm better than Arantxa, I'm going to beat her' - before going to bed on the eve of the match. 'I wrote it 10 times, and once more for luck.' She won, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Davenport, a 17-year-old Californian who is establishing herself as a major prospect, was able to capitalise on the torpor which has characterised Sabatini's game since the Argentinian last won a tournament, the Italian Open, almost two years ago. The seventh seed overwhelmed the third, 6-2, 6-1, in an hour.

Sabatini was the first big name to fall to Davenport last year. The Argentinian won their next two matches, at the United States Open and in Philadelphia, but never came close to unsettling the youngster here. 'I was in control the whole match and dictated the points,' Davenport said. 'I really played pretty awesome.'

Sanchez Vicario, who defeated Sabatini in straight sets in the 1992 final and Steffi Graf in three sets last year, seemed in control of yesterday's quarter-final. Even though Schultz pushed her into a tie-break in the second set, she established a 6-1 lead and required only one steady shot for victory. She failed to produce it, and her reprieved opponent began to crack the ball past her with ominous regularity, taking the shoot- out 8-6.

Schultz has always possessed a serve to match her size. Her fastest delivery in the tournament so far is 114mph, two miles per hour faster than Andre Agassi's best here. But she has not always had the confidence to make it pay. She did yesterday, acing Sanchez Vicario 10 times.

The Spaniard had coped with Schultz's power in the past, reasoning that the serve would miss the target more often than it hit. On this occasion, her own errors tipped the balance. 'I had the match in my hands, but it went away,' she said. 'I was playing really well in the beginning, but when I got into the tie-break I didn't take my chances. I made some easy mistakes and let her into the match.'

Jana Novotna appears jointly with Schultz in the latest Guinness Book of Records for the fastest serve in the history of the women's game: 115mph. Novotna's serve, which let her down so spectacularly in last year's Wimbledon final, was in reasonable working order yesterday, but the fourth seed could not keep Natalia Zvereva at bay in two tie-breaks. The elegant player from Belarus won, 7-6, 7-6, and will play Schultz for a place in Saturday's final.

In the men's event, Michael Chang, the 1992 champion, lost in the fourth round to the unseeded Australian Patrick Rafter 6-2, 6-7, 6-2.

Mary Joe Fernandez's health problems forced her to withdraw from the doubles yesterday. The 22-year-old world No 8, who had already pulled out of the singles, underwent stomach surgery in September after doctors discovered her abdominal pains were symptoms of endometreosis - the abnormal growth of uterine tissue.

(Photograph omitted)