Monica Seles played near-perfect tennis today over the final 11 games to speed past Laura Gildemeister and into the quarterfinals of the French Open.
Down 1-4 in the first set and having trouble controlling her two-fisted shots, the 16-year-old suddenly exploded and blew Gildemiester away 6-4, 6-0.Not only did second-seeded Seles win the last 11 games in a row. She did it with the loss of just four points in the second set, which took 16 minutes to complete. Of the last 38 points, 32 went to the Florida-based Yugoslav.
"I started winning a couple of important points and in the second set my game came together," Seles said.
The victory in the fourth round also extended Seles' winning streak to 29 matches and avenged her last defeat. Gildemesiter, seeded 16th, was the last player to beat Seles, more than 2 1/2 months and five tournaments ago.
Most of Seles' extraordinary second set was watched by one of her prime challengers, 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati. The two will meet in the semifinals if they get past quarterfinal opponents - Capriati against Mary Joe Fernandez and Seles against Manuela Maleeva.
The tournament, already bereft of a half-dozen top players through early round upsets, lost another glamour player when fourth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini was upset by 11th-seeded Jana Novotna of Czechoslovakia 6-4, 7-5. It was the second year in a row that the 20-year-old Argentine was eliminated in the fourth round at the French, and the second year in a row that Novotna has reached the quarters here.
After a day of rain and postponed matches, the Grand Slam tournament's second week started cool and sunny. Seles was ice cold early but quickly turned the heat on Gildemeister.
The 26-year-old from Lima broke Seles for a 3-1 lead and held serve for 4-1. Her powerful groundstrokes were ripping Seles apart and the she was hurting herself with errors.
After forcing Gildemeister to a fourth game point in the fifth game, Seles opened the sixth with a double fault and a lob that landed long. Those were virtually the last errors she made.
She held for 4-2, broke for 4-3 and held for 4-4 on an ace. Then came a big point.
Gildemeister, exchanging cries of "vamos" with her husband, Heinz, in the front row of the stands, had a 40-15 lead to go up 5-4. She drew Seles out of position and had a putaway off a short lob - and promptly put the ball out.
"It was a pretty easy shot," Gildemeister said. "I wasn't going to go close to the line but I saw her standing there and that's why I went for a winner. I'm still thinking about that shot. And all through the second set I kept thinking about it and why didn't I put that volley away."
Flustered, she dropped the next two points to give Seles a 5-4 lead. Seles served out the set when Gildemeister netted a forehand.
Seles let out a "Yes!" and charged into the second set.
She broke at 15 on a double fault for 1-0, held at love on an ace for 2-0, broke at 30 for 3-0 on a backhand winner, held at love for 4-0, broke at 15 on a dropshot service return for 5-0 and held at love to finish the match.
It was the most impressive performance of the tournament so far by Seles, who has the longest winning streak in tennis but had looked less than unbeatable in the earlier rounds.