Seles, Dementieva advance to Chase Championships semifinals

NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Seles is one step away from playing for her fourth Chase Championships title, and her feet are cooperating.

Ranked fourth in the world and seeded third in this season-ending tournament, Seles has been hampered for more than a year with a stress fracture of her right foot, an injury that caused her to pull out of last year’s Championships at Madison Square Garden.

But this year is different. The tournament moves next year to Germany, where Seles has refused to play since she was stabbed in the back while playing in Hamburg in 1993. Her assailant, Guenter Parche, was never jailed.

“That’s one of the reasons I decided to play with this little preparation,” Seles said after beating Amanda Coetzer 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Friday night.

In Saturday’s semifinals, Seles will play 19-year-old Elena Dementieva, who is making her Championships debut and beat 17-year-old Kim Clijsters 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in her quarterfinal.

In the first semifinal, top-seeded Martina Hingis will take on her doubles partner, Anna Kournikova. They won their quarterfinal matches on Thursday.

Seles is delighted but surprised to be in the penultimate round, especially given her lack of practice.

I've been off for a couple of months now,'' she said.I’m just trying to do the best that I can and play to the best of my ability and see what happens.”

Dementieva, who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open and the gold medal game at the Sydney Olympics, began the Championships by upsetting defending champion Lindsay Davenport. This week has built her confidence — to a degree.

I feel like after I beat Davenport and now Kim, I feel like nobody can beat me,'' she said.But I think Monica will change the situation tomorrow.”

The foot problems that have hampered Seles have disappeared, much to her surprise.

I'm just very happy,'' she said of the lack of pain.Hopefully it will just keep going like the last couple of days.”

Without the pain, Seles showed quickness to go along with her two-fisted power off both sides.

She and Coetzer traded long-range laser shots that pounded the court just inside the lines. Seles, playing from just inside the baseline, was a little sharper, hit a little harder and controlled most of the rallies.

As Seles served for the first set, the 5-foot-2 Coetzer ripped a service return that was so clean that Seles applauded. Then she closed out the set with an unreturnable serve.

Seles began the second set by breaking Coetzer at 30. No more were needed as Seles was able to hold her own service games, although she was twice taken to deuce — in the sixth and eighth games.

The best thing about Monica's game is her competitiveness,'' Coetzer said.She seems to be able to raise her level at the right moment just enough.”

The Dementieva-Clijsters match figured to be a peek at the future. If it was, the future is full of unforced errors because the two committed a bundle: 39 by Dementieva, 49 by Clijsters.

After losing the opening set, Clijsters, who hadn’t played since Monday night when she upset fifth-seeded Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, appeared to settle down and had no problems leveling the match at a set apiece.

Then came the longest game of the night, one that saw seven deuces, six game points and four break points before the young Belgian finally prevailed. That gave her a 4-2 lead and an apparent lock on the victory.

Dementieva had other plans. Clijsters didn’t win another game as the Russian rushed through the last four games for a spot in the semis.

“It was my dream to play against Monica, and it’s just a great experience for me,” Dementieva said