PARIS (Reuters) – Fourth seed Jelena Dokic won a battle of the generations by defeating Monica Seles 6-3 3-6 6-4 in the semifinals of the Paris Open indoor tournament on Saturday.
It was the first time in five encounters between the two that the 18-year-old Yugoslav has come out on top.
“We’ve had a few tough matches but I was never really able even to have a chance of winning so I’m very happy,” a beaming Dokic told reporters.
“I really didn’t think I was going to win even after I won that first set because she’s such a great player and she always comes back. I just went for every point and didn’t really worry about the score.”
Dokic romped to a 4-1 lead in the first set, overpowering fifth seed Seles with unstoppable serves and groundstrokes.
The Yugoslav-born American raised her game in the latter part of the set but it was not enough to counter an inspired Dokic.
The second set looked like it was going to go the same way when world number nine Dokic broke to lead 2-1, but her 28-year-old opponent immediately broke back.
Seles upped the pressure, producing some lightning-speed returns and clinical baseline shots into the corners of the court.
Dokic seemed to wilt under Seles’s punishing blows and two double-faults at 4-3 gifted the American a break-point.
Dokic saved that point and two more but Seles eventually won a superb rally to break and then held serve to seal the set.
In the third set Seles, the world number ten, matched her opponent’s hitting power but she could not live with Dokic’s speed.
The Yugoslav surprised Seles with several perfect drop-shots and sent her racing around the court.
Dokic contested several line-calls and at one point became so frustrated with the umpire she had to wipe away a tear before serving. But she held her nerve and did not drop a single service game in the set.
At 5-4 she produced two searing returns to gain two match points. Seles saved the first with a hefty backhand volley but hit a baseline shot wide on the next point, sending Dokic leaping around the court in an explosion of joy.
Dokic, who broke into the top ten last year after winning three singles titles, had lost her first match of the year to Anne Kremer of Luxembourg in Tokyo last week.
“Today has given me confidence. It’s only my second tournament of the year so to reach the final is very good for me,” she said.
She will face either world number two Venus Williams or defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France in the final.