LOS ANGELES – Monica Seles fought back from seven match points in the second set, then took control in the third Wednesday night to beat Lindsay Davenport in their WTA Championships match.
Seles, faced her first match point in the 10th game of the second set and then was down double-match point in the 12th game. She trailed the second-set tiebreaker 6-2.
The sixth-seeded Seles, however, simply refused to lose. She rallied to win the final six points of the tiebreak and took the match 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 over Davenport.
Both Seles, who’s been coming back from a foot injury, and Davenport, in her ninth tournament since having knee surgery in January, played well in their first-round match, with a string of long rallies and sizzling winners down the lines.
Davenport, who finished last year as No. 1 in the world, had reached the finals in four of the events she played since returning to the tour in July. She has not, though, won a title this year.
In afternoon matches, No. 4 Justine Henin defeated Elena Dementieva, and No. 5 Kim Clijsters breezed past Chanda Rubin.
No. 2 Venus Williams was to play Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in Wednesday night’s final match. Top seed Serena Williams begins play Thursday night against Anna Smashnova.
After the afternoon matches drew fewer than 200 spectators, there was a crowd of some 5,000 at the evening session at Staples Center, which seats around 20,000.
Seles wrapped up the match by winning the last three games of the third set.
Henin, a 20-year-old player from Belgium who has been steadily improving, kept Dementieva off-balance and beat her 6-3, 6-3 with a blend of well-placed ground strokes and successful forays to the net.
Henin, who has reached six finals this year and won twice, won 11 points in 13 chances at the net, and her accuracy down the lines kept Dementieva scurrying side to side.
The 21-year-old Russian made 40 unforced errors, 13 more than Henin.
Henin broke Dementieva’s service in the sixth game of the opening set to go up 4-2, then held on her next two service games to take the set.
Henin took control in the second by breaking Dementieva’s serve in the seventh game.
Dementieva lost the final point of each of the last two games of the match on a pair of poorly executed drop shots. The first went into the net in the eighth game, and the next was a high bouncer in midcourt that Henin easily reached and slashed a crosscourt forehand to end the match.
Clijsters, her groundstrokes crisp and on target, needed only 57 minutes to beat Rubin 6-1, 6-2.
Rubin’s second serve was particularly shaky – she double-faulted nine times – and she managed to hit just five groundstroke winners, while her 19-year-old foe from Belgium hit seven backhands and six forehands for winners.
The single-elimination tournament pits the top 16 singles players and top eight doubles teams based on points accumulated during the year. The results will determine the final WTA Tour rankings for the year.
The winner of the Monday night’s singles final will collect $765,000 of $3 million in prize money.