Hingis and Lapentti win through

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The Independent Online

Nicolas Lapentti of Equador, who has lost in three quarter-finals this year, finally earned a semi-final berth today with a quick victory over Hicham Arazi at the ATP Masters Series in Indian Wells, California.

In marked contrast to his battle with France's Nicolas Escude yesterday which lasted nearly three hours as eighth-seed Lapentti cruised past Arazi - who shocked Andre Agassi in the first round - 6-2 6-0.

"I'm happy the way the match ended today," said Lapentti. "It was short, so I could recover from yesterday's match. I was a bit sore today." Lapentti will now face either sixth seed Magnus Norman of Sweden or Spain's Alex Corretja in the semi-finals and he added: "Either one is going to be a very tough match."

Martina Hingis, taking complete command after losing the first three games, defeated Mary Pierce 6-4, 6-2 Friday to set up a Tennis Masters-Indian Wells showdown between the world's top two players.

No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, who has beaten the top-ranked Hingis the last three times they played, clinched a berth in Saturday's final with a 6-2, 6-1 romp over Elena Dementieva a day earlier.

Pierce, the tournament's fifth seed, played virtually flawless tennis for the first three games of the semifinal against Hingis. But the match turned suddenly when Pierce began hitting groundstrokes out.

After falling behind 4-1, Hingis lost just three service points as she reeled off a five-game winning streak to take the set.

After Pierce held service on the opening game of the second set, Hingis again won five games in a row on her way to victory.

"She came out firing," Hingis said. "I felt like I was in Formula 1, the balls were passing me. I really had to work."

"I got a little tired and she did what she had to do, kept getting the ball back," Pierce said.

Hingis is currently on an 11-match winning streak and is 19-of-21 on the year, assuring herself of keeping the No. 1 ranking by making it to the semifinals at Indian Wells.

But Davenport is proving to be her nemesis, winning six of their last eight meetings and holding a 10-7 overall edge against her.

"It is going to be a very tough match," Hingis said. "Lindsay has a big serve and big strokes and it's hard to attack her."

Following Davenport's semifinal win, she had said she thought she has definitely been the No. 1 player since October or November and that, if she continues to play as well as she has, she will regain the top spot.


(prefix number denotes seed)

Men's quarter-finals

(8) N Lapentti (Ecu) bt H Arazi (Mor) 6-2 6-0. (12) M Philippoussis (Aus) bt S Schalken (Hol) 7-6 (9-7) 6-4

Women's semi-finals

(1) M Hingis (Swi) bt (5) M Pierce (Fra) 6-4 6-2.