Seles makes Semis at Italian Open

ROME (AP) — Despite her mind “flying away” during key points, Monica Seles fought off hard-hitting Jelena Dokic 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Italian Open.

Dokic is 17 years old and the youngest player at the clay-court tournament. She is reminiscent of a younger Seles — not just for being Yugoslavian-born but for her grit and searing groundstrokes.

I really like her attitude and how much she wants to be a top 10 player,'' Seles said.She really expects a lot of herself, that’s a good attribute to have.”

A fierce, fist-pumping Dokic beat Venus Williams in straight sets Thursday.

Seles showed that same kind of hunger 10 years ago at Foro Italico. She was 16 at the time and won her first and only Italian Open. The next month she won the French Open, the first of eight Grand Slams in a 30-month stretch.

With this year’s French two weeks away, Seles hopes to sharpen her serve and her mental approach. On Friday, the serve was the sharper of the two — Seles had five aces and made 69 percent of her first serves.

As for her state of mind, Seles said in the second set she found her “mind flying away.”

I really can't do that,'' she said. Asked where her mind goes when she loses her concentration, Seles said,Oh, I guess to the problems in my life.”

Seles, seeded fifth, will face Corina Morariu or Giulia Casoni in the next round.

In the first quarterfinal, Amelie Mauresmo beat No. 6 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to reach the semifinals.

Mauresmo, a 20-year-old Frenchwoman, had trouble finishing off the Sanchez Vicario, who saved four match points before losing.

She fought very hard and very well as she always does,'' said Mauresmo.Then I got a little tense.”

For the No. 12 seed Mauresmo, it was the second straight upset on the red clay, following her third-round win over No. 4 Mary Pierce. She will face the winner of the match between France’s Nathalie Tauziat, seeded second, and Colombia’s Fabiola Zuluaga.

In the second quarterfinal, Dokic lost the first set in 15 minutes before rallying to even the match. Seles then settled down in the decisive set while Dokic unraveled.

Dokic ended up double-faulting six times and committing 38 unforced errors in the match.

Dokic scored a great upset last year at Wimbledon by beating Martina Hingis in the first round. But she has not followed through on the promise of that match.

However, she has picked up her game of late, including a quarterfinal appearance at Hilton Head and a Fed Cup win over Russia’s Anna Kournikova this month.