The world's top two players, Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, solved the tricky winds at the National Tennis Center Friday to move into the U.S. Open women's championship match.
Seeking her second Grand Slam title of 1994 and her second straight U.S. Open crown, Graf won the final five games to beat Jana Novotna 6-3, 7-5.Then Sanchez Vicario, the French Open champion, defeated the 1990 champion, Gabriela Sabatini, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6).
The winners will battle for the title today.
"It was difficult with the wind today to play against Jana," Graf said. "She played exceptionally well, but I was able to squeeze it out in the second set."
Novotna's loss brought back memories of the 1993 Wimbledon final, when, on the verge of winning the title, she also lost the last five games to Graf.
"You can't compare this to Wimbledon," Novotna said. "This is hardcourts. It is different games."
Novotna led early in each set, but Graf raised her game and answered with a service break of her own.
In the opening set, Novotna took a 3-2 lead by breaking Graf's service from deuce. The world's top-ranked player used it as a wakeup call.
She broke her Czech opponent from deuce, held at love, broke from deuce again, then held at 15 to wrap up the first set.
While Novotna was down a set, at least she had earned a moral victory. The set took 42 minutes to complete; Graf's longest match before today was 55 minutes long.
Novotna, her nerves and game under control most of the time, broke Graf's service again in the fourth game of the second set. When Novotna held serve after a long battle, she had a 4-1 advantage 71 minutes after the two had begun play.
Two games later, Novotna had a 5-2 lead and was on the verge of tying the match at one set apiece. She reached double set point at 15-40, but couldn't close it out.
Graf finally held, beginning her five-game match-closing string and a berth in the title match.
On the men's side, the spotlight is on Andre Agassi. Michael Stich couldn't be happier.
"Let everybody think Agassi's supposed to win," Stich said. "I like that."
Stich, at No. 4 the highest seed left in the men's field, grabbed a spot in today's semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4 victory over Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman Thursday night. His semifinal opponent will be Karel Novacek of the Czech Republic, who defeated Peru's Jaime Yzaga 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.
Today's other semifinal will pit Agassi and 9th-seeded Todd Martin.
Earlier today, Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands won the men's doubles, defeating Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde 6-3, 7-6 (7-1).
On Thursday, Elna Reinach of South Africa and Patrick Galbraith of Tacoma, Wash., teamed to win the mixed doubles championship, defeating Novotna and Woodbridge 6-2, 6-4.