By Matthew Cronin
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles set up a replay of their classic 1991 final here when the two baseliners blew away their opponents in the third round of the $750,000 Acura Classic on Thursday.
Third seed Capriati outplayed number 15 Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia, 6-4, 6-2, while seventh seed Seles trounced number 11 Meghann Shaughnessy of the U.S., 6-4, 6-1.
Top seed Martina Hingis , defending champion Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport also secured their places in the quarter-finals.
The last time the two Americans played here, Capriati, 15, edged 17-year-old Seles, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2), in what was then the youngest final in Open era history.
It was a really tough and important match to me,'' Capriati recalled.It was the first time that I beat her in a regular tour event. Now we’re the same type of players but we’re obviously stronger, wiser and completely different people.”
Seles doesn’t have particularly fond memories of her defeat but can look back with pride at her achievements in that American summer, when she won the U.S. Open title.
It was ard-fought, side to side, really hard-hitting,'' Seles said.We were the two hardest hitters on the tour.
“She beat me 7-6 in the third set in an exhibition a few weeks before San Diego, then she beat me again 7-6 in the third here and then I beat her 7-6 in the third set in the U.S. Open semis. We bring out the best in each other.”
In overwhelming Shaughnessy, Seles played her most impressive match since she returned to the tour last week after nearly five months off with a foot injury.
Seles devoured Shaughnessy’s serve in the second set and was ferocious and precise from the baseline.
“I didn’t want to let her back into the match like I did in Scottsdale,” Seles said of the last time they met, a three-set win for Shaughnessy in March.
“My returning was a lot better than I expected. I always thought that my serve would be the last thing to come along, but I served well in the second set. Getting back my timing will take a while but physically I feel great.”
But defeating Capriati will be a much taller order for Seles. Against the 18-year-old Dokic, the Australian and French Open champion was always a step faster and ran down numerous Dokic bombs to the corners.
That's the best she's played all year,'' Dokic said.She’s serving so well and really striking the ball cleanly.”
Capriati said it was her three-set win over Seles in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January that set up her year.
“That was the start, it was a breakthrough for me,” said Capriati, who went on to beat Hingis in the final.
“I almost lost it, so when I came back it gave me a lot of confidence to beat Lindsay (Davenport) in the semis, and then in the final.”
Both Capriati and Seles said the better server is likely to rule Friday’s quarter-final because both are lethal returners.
“Everyone who isn’t injured is here which makes for a lot of exciting matches,” said Williams after trouncing 18-year-old Czech Daja Bedanova 6-1 6-3.
“I’m even excited about some of the matches. I might go take a peak at some of them. It’s great for the entertainment value of our sport.”
If they should win their quarter-finals, Hingis will meet Capriati and Williams will take on Davenport.
Williams put on an athletic display of all-court tennis to overcome Bedanova.
“She’s a very good young player, but was a little nervous,” said Williams, 21, who now meets sixth seed Nathalie Tauziat of France, a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 winner over Bulgaria’s Maggie Maleeva.
Hingis crushed hometown favorite Alexandra Stevenson, 6-1, 6-3. “I played very well and concentrated,” she said.
The Swiss top seed now plays Japan’s Ai Sugiyama, who won her match against Nicole Pratt after the Australian retired with an ankle injury when trailing, 6-3, 4-1.
Fourth seed Davenport eclipsed No. 16 Barbara Schett of Austria, 6-1, 7-5. The American now plays number 12 Sandrine Testud of France, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over No. 8 Elena Dementieva of Russia.