Seles Eases Past Smashnova to Make Semifinal

MADRID (Reuters) – Top seed Monica Seles eased into the last four of the Spanish Open with a confident 6-3, 6-2 victory over Israel’s Anna Smashnova Thursday.
The world number six, who is using the Madrid tournament to prepare for next week’s French Open, will face unseeded Paola Suarez of Argentina in the semifinals.

Chanda Rubin of the United States — who ended Spanish interest in the tournament by defeating Magui Serna 6-3, 6-3 in an earlier match — will meet Colombia’s Fabiola Zuluaga in the other semi.

Three-times French Open champion Seles started well against Smashnova, whom she had beaten in one previous meeting on her way to winning at Amelia Island two years ago.

Using her two-handed drives to pin the Israeli on the baseline, she then unleashed a series of accurate passing shots to take a 3-0 lead in the first set.

Smashnova, who won tournaments in New Zealand and Australia in January, fought back to trail 4-3, but Seles broke again in the eighth game before serving out to love for the first set.

Both players had problems serving in the second set with Seles the only one to hold serve in the first five games to lead 4-1.

The American only ever looked in difficulty when Smashnova managed to coax her off the baseline with the occasional drop shot, and with the rest of the games going with serve she secured her passage into the last four with little difficulty.

Her semifinal opponent Suarez, who lost in the final of the 1999 tournament, enjoyed a straight sets victory over qualifier Clarisa Fernandez in the all-Argentine quarter-final clash.

The 25-year-old, who knocked out fourth seed Patty Schnyder in the first round, took the first set 6-4 and edged the second 7-5.

Rubin, who knocked out last year’s winner and number two seed Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the second round, disappointed the home crowd once again as she went on to brush aside Canary Islander Serna.


The 26-year-old American got off to a perfect start when she broke Serna’s serve in the opening game and then used her powerful forehand to good effect to break again in the seventh to lead 5-2.

Serna pulled back a break to trail 5-3 but her serve let her down in the ninth game and a double fault gifted the set to her opponent.

Rubin then made good use of some well-timed backhand passes to break twice in the second set and lead 5-3 before serving out for the match.

Zuluaga, the lowest ranked of the quarter-finalists, came from a set down to earn a place in the last four when she overcame Emilie Loit of France 4-6, 6-0, 7-5.

The 23-year-old — who won her home tournament in Bogota in February — recovered from her poor start to race through the second set to love and then came from a break down to snatch victory from a disappointed Loit in the evenly-balanced final set.