Seles, Hingis win semifinals at Chase Championships

NEW YORK (Ticker) — This relationship is pretty one-sided.

Martina Hingis continued to dominate friend and doubles partner Anna Kournikova and today advanced to her third straight Chase Championships final at Madison Square Garden.

The top-seeded Hingis posted her 11th victory in 12 meetings with Kournikova, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 in the semifinals of the $2 million season-ending event. She has lost a total of five sets to the seventh-seeded Russian.

Next up for Hingis is another favorable matchup in third seed and former champion Monica Seles of the United States, who beat unseeded Russian Elena Dementieva, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) in today’s second semifinal.

Hingis brings an 11-2 lifetime record against Seles into her fourth career final at this event. She won in 1998 but lost to Steffi Graf in 1996 and Lindsay Davenport last season.

“As always Martina is very consistent,” Seles said. “She doesn’t make any unforced errors. Her game has probably not suited my game the best. She has beaten me quite easily.”

Although she did not win a Grand Slam this year, the 20-year-old from Switzerland will appear in her 14th singles final Sunday, when she vies for her tour-high ninth title of the year and 35th career.

Kournikova, whose title drought reached 81 tournaments, failed to reach her fourth career final. However, the 19-year-old Russian will finish the season at a career-high ranking of No. 7.

“In general, I’m happy with the way that I’ve played,” said Kournikova, who hit 27 winners but committed 34 unforced errors. “I think I’ve improved over the last two months. I felt really confident. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was just out there having a good time and trying to outplay each point.”

It looked like things would be different today for Kournikova after she broke Hingis’ serve twice in the first set. She served for the set at 5-4 but fell behind 15-40. Kournikova saved one break point with a forehand winner down the line but hit a backhand long on the next point to level the match.

“I think that with Martina, every time that I was up, she completely raised the level and just started making no mistakes and playing really aggressively, and coming to the net on everything, and that’s kind of tough,” Kournikova said. “You feel like you’re ahead, but you still feel like she’s coming right back at you.”

However, the Russian employed sound tactics — attacking her opponent’s backhand, taking advantage of weak serves and running back anything she could. The match went to a tiebreaker, which Hingis controlled with two service winners and four winners.

“In the tiebreaker, I think I played very well, very smart, as I didn’t do in the first set all the time,” said Hingis, who won 63 percent of her first and second serves. “I don’t think I played as well, maybe as some of the other matches, but I kept winning and I still had the little edge over her when I really picked up my game.”

“I think in the tiebreaker, I made a few mistakes but she played really solidly,” the Russian said. “It’s not like I missed all of the shots. She played really solid so the tiebreaker is where I felt the tied turn.”

Kournikova appeared to deflate in the second set and dropped her opening service game. Swinging wildly for winners or unforced errors, she managed to even the set at 2-2. But that was as close as Kournikova got as Hingis ran off four straight games to beat her teen rival for the third time in the last four weeks.

“In the last three matches, it has always been about the first set, whoever wins that,” Hingis said. “In the second I was cruising through. It could have been 6-love; instead it was 6-2. In the second set, I felt I stepped it up whenever I needed.”

The 26-year-old American, who missed last year’s event with a foot injury and came into this season’s edition with tendinitis in both feet, possibly is competing in her last season-ending tournament as it moves next year to Germany, the country where she was stabbed during a match in 1993.

“I’ve always had an amazing relationship here, I think even early in my career when a lot of other plays really were not so supportive of me,” said Seles, who received a standing ovation from the crowd in the almost-full arena. “This week has been — unbelievable, amazing would be the only words I could use to describe it. I think the fans are sad that it is going.”

A winner of three titles this year, Seles also captured the bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics. The former world No. 1 became the youngest player to win the season-ending championship in 1990, when she took the title at 16 years, 11 months. She successfully defended her title the next two years and owns 47 career singles crowns.

Playing in her first semifinal here since 1992, Seles started the match with a flourish and built a 5-0 lead. Dementieva, playing in her first season-ending event, avoided a shutout by holding serve in the sixth game. But Seles closed out the set in 25 minutes, winning her serve at love.

“It was really tough to play against Monica,” Dementieva said. “Especially in the first set, I was always late for the ball.”

Continuing to power past her opponent, Seles took a 2-0 lead before Dementieva began to work herself into the match. The Russian teen broke serve in the fourth game and the two women eventually moved into a tiebreaker.

Seles took advantage of a pair of backhand errors from Dementieva and hit two service winners over 90 miles per hour to take a 5-2 lead.

Dementieva netted a backhand but saved a match point with a service winner. Seles followed with a double fault before Dementieva hit another backhand into the net, raising the nine-time Grand Slam champion’s season tiebreaker record to 11-1.

This already has been a breakthrough season for the 19-year-old, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open and won the silver medal at the Sydney Olympics.

“I think it has been a great year for me,” said Dementieva, who ousted second seed and defending champion Lindsay Davenport in the first round and will finish the season ranked at No. 13. “It wasn’t a surprise for me because I worked hard. I think it just is the result of my work.”

After squaring off in singles, Hingis and Kournikova successfully defended their doubles crown and won their ninth title as a team, 6-2, 6-3 over Nicole Arendt od the United States and Manon Bollegraf of the Netherlands in tonight’s final. The second seeds, who split a first-prize check of $200,000, finished the year having won four of their last five events.

Arendt and Bollegraf, who retired tonight after winning 33 career doubles titles, will share $100,000.