Tennis / Wimbledon '93: Sabatini shows her shaky side: Edberg made to toil against Canadian qualifier

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The Independent Online
GABRIELA SABATINI had been this way before and here she was again, throwing away match points like there was a tomorrow but one that would only bring a fast plane out of London en route to Argentina, writes Trevor Haylett.

It happened in the quarter-finals of the French Open when she lost after being a set and 5-1 ahead against Mary Joe Fernandez. She held five match points then and, starting with a double fault, frittered away the lot.

That loss was symptomatic of the demise in her game. Without a tournament win in 13 months and dispatched disappointingly from Eastbourne last week she is a tennis player in need of a long stay here. On her first day at Wimbledon there was little, surely, for her to worry about against Carrie Cunningham. But the petite American, wearing sunglasses, had a forehand primed to exploit any flaws in the Sabatini armoury.

The No 4 seed won 7-5, 6-2 but it took her 1hr 44min and, tantalisingly, she needed four match points to close it out. There were too many unconvincing shots, too many elongated rallies to encourage the prospect that this is Sabatini's time when she will at last justify all the thousands of words that have been written about her.

The American magazine, Tennis Week was at it again recently, depicting her on its front cover as a modern-day Mona Lisa and asking the inevitable question whether it is her career that has hit the canvas.

Afterwards Sabatini did her best to disarm the prophets of doom. 'Of course it crossed my mind when the match points started going away but you can not afford to worry about that,' she said. 'I was just concentrating on playing a good point and working out a way to win. I'm feeling quite good about my chances. I'm playing a lot better than last year and its just a question of taking it match by match and trying to find a rhythm.'

However, it was the interrogation surrounding Ossie Ardiles which proved more illuminating. 'I think he will do a very good job for Tottenham,' she said of the club's new manager and her compatriot. 'He has a good mind and is a very nice guy. I will make sure I look out for their results every week.'

Tottenham's newest fan was one of six womens seeds to go through unscathed and only the South African, Amanda Coetzer, required a third set.

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