Tennis: Seles makes the best of anti-climax

Monica Seles last night moved into her fourth US Open final, easing past the fourth seed, Conchita Martinez of Spain, 6-4, 6-3.

"I'm just really happy to be in the final again," said Seles, who tomorrow will play her 12th career Grand Slam final.

In nine meetings, Martinez has yet to win a set from Seles. Seven games is the most the Spaniard has won. "I played good and I was aggressive sometimes and coming to the net and then suddenly she would come up with a great shot. There's nothing you can do," Martinez said.

After the drama of Pete Sampras staggering to a fifth-set tie-break win on Thursday, the Seles-Martinez match was something of a let-down. And the spate of errors - 31 for Martinez and 24 for Seles - added to a feeling of anti-climax.

Playing under extremely windy conditions due to an approaching tropical storm may have contributed to the number of balls sailing long and wide, but neither player looked especially sharp in the first set, which at 49 minutes was nearly as long as some of Seles's previous matches.

Part of Seles's inability to keep the points short comes from a shoulder injury that has turned her serve from a weapon into a weakness. "I served way too much in the 60s [miles per hour] and I used to be in the 90s," she said. Even so, belting two-fisted groundstrokes from both wings and punctuating her shots with shrieks and grunts that grew louder as the match wore on, Seles never lost a service game.

Martinez failed to convert five break points in the first set while Seles dropped just three points on her serve in the entire second set. She broke Martinez in the first game of the match and, after saving four break points in the next game, maintained that advantage through the rest of the error- filled first set.

In the third game of the second set, Martinez let a 40-0 lead slip away, putting Seles a break up early. However, in a marathon seventh game, the Spaniard displayed some of the fighting spirit that had been missing from her game earlier in her career.

In a game that went to deuce seven times, Martinez fought off six break points, finally drilling a forehand down the line to keep Seles from serving for the set.

Then came a letdown for Martinez as a series of forehand errors gave Seles the only match point she would need. She hit a lunging forehand volley that Martinez got back, but the No 2 seed put another forehand volley into an open court.

In the men's doubles final, the top seeds, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde of Australia, fought back after losing the first set to beat the Dutch pairing of Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. America's Lisa Raymond and Patrick Galbraith won the mixed doubles title with a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Manon Bollegraf of the Netherlands and their compatriot, Rick Leach.

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