Seles advances in Pilot Pen

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The Independent Online

Monica Seles powered her way into the quarterfinals of the Pilot Pen today with a straight set win over fellow Floridian Kristina Brandi.

Monica Seles powered her way into the quarterfinals of the Pilot Pen today with a straight set win over fellow Floridian Kristina Brandi.

Seles' 98 mph (157 kph) ace closed out the 6-2, 6-3 victory, but it was the zip on her pin-point groundstrokes all afternoon that kept Brandi on her heels.

Seles won their only previous meeting - at Wimbledon in 1997 - in three sets on the slower grass surface. The hardcourts of New Haven provided a speedy tuneup to next week's U.S. Open, where Seles is seeded sixth.

"The key to this week is to try to find the balance between working really hard and not getting injured," Seles said.

She had a two-week layoff before the Pilot Pen due to a strained left forearm and said her timing was off.

"This is the first time I played points," she said. "It took me a while to get into it. I got off to a good start and then had a little bit of a letdown."

She went ahead 4-0 in the first set, breaking Brandi twice. Brandi broke back on the fifth game and held serve to pull to 4-2. Brandi managed just one point in the next game as Seles went up 5-2.

Brandi's hustle and net play extended the final game of the first set through six deuces, before sending a Seles return into the net.

Seles continued dominating from either side, muscling her cross-court winners and passing shots from her two-handed grip. She was up a quick two breaks and led 5-1, before Brandi took the next two. Seles served out quickly for the win, holding Brandi to a point in the final game.

"I was timing quite a few balls today. Her balls come in very flat, very low, so they're tough balls anyway," Seles said.

The second-seeded Seles is looking for her fourth win of the year. This is her fifth Pilot Pen appearance and she lost in the semifinals last year to eventual champ Venus Williams.

The top-seeded Williams played Elena Likhovtseva in a night match.

Patty Schnyder upset No. 8 seed Julie Halard-Decugis, 6-3, 7-5 (5) in match that rattled both with close calls.

Schnyder said she avoided hitting near the line because she was afraid a close call would go against her.

"I think there were a lot of bad calls," Schnyder said. "It was really hard to stay calm."

In other matches, Ai Sugiyama beat Jana Kandarr 6-4, 6-4 and Fabiola Zuluaga defeated Meilen Tu 7-5, 6-1.

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