Seles is back with impressive win

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The Independent Online

Two weeks removed from the worst loss of her career, Monica Seles smoothed over doubts about her health and desire today, winning a repeat title in the Bausch and Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida.

Her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Spain's Conchita Martinez was as thorough as it was predictable.

It gave the third-seeded Seles an 18-1 lifetime advantage over the fourth-seeded Martinez and reestablished her as a player to beat as the clay-court season begins.

After winning the match, Seles immediately acknowledged the crowd, putting her racquet and hand together to applaud - a quite different interaction than two weeks ago at the Ericsson Open, when she was showered with boos after a 6-0, 6-0 semi-final loss to Martina Hingis of Switzerland.

Seles' ankle was bothering her that day and many people were wondering if the ninth-ranked player in the world still had what it took to grit it out against the best in the world.

She showed signs of that at Amelia Island Plantation, winning four matches over the span of 48 hours after rain washed out nearly a full two days' worth of play.

Earlier in the day, Seles defeated Argentina's Paola Suarez 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the final. Martinez beat 12th-seeded Elena Likhovtseva Of Russia by the same score to set up another meeting in one of the most lopsided series on tour.

Over 11 years, Martinez has won only three sets against Seles. In the past year, Seles has surrendered only 16 games to the Spaniard, who celebrated her 28th birthday today.

After the match, the crowd serenaded Martinez with "Happy Birthday to You." It was the only highlight of her 72-minute stay on centre court.

Seles took control of points early, dictating pace and nullifying Martinez' efforts to play the off-pace game that has served her well over the years.

Martinez seemed to sense her fate, walking around with a bemused look and muttering to herself, especially after Seles started painting lines with her patented two-handed forehand early in the first set.

About the only drama occurred early in the second set when a ballboy, Josh Glisson, briefly fainted. He walked off the court under his own power and tournament officials said he was OK.

Seles earned $87,000 for the victory. She hasn't lost a set in her two years of dominance at this tournament.

Results from the $535,000 Bausch and Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida:

Singles Semi-finals

(3) Monica Seles (US) def. (4) Conchita Martinez (Sp) 6-3, 6-2.

Singles Semi-finals

(3) Monica Seles (US) def. Paola Suarez (Arg) 6-3, 6-2. (4) Conchita Martinez (Sp) def. (12) Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) 6-3, 6-2.

Doubles Quarter-finals

(3) Conchita Martinez, and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (Sp) def. (8) Rita Grande (It) and Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) 6-1, 6-3.

NOTE: The doubles draw was abandoned after the quarter-finals due to weather.