FORMER world number one Monica Seles reached the 85th final of her career as Amelie Mauresmo’s title defence came to a premature end in the $US585,000 ($A980,720.87) Dubai Open overnight.
The Frenchwoman has only just returned after four months on the sidelines with a career-threatening knee injury, and has now been forced to call it a day with a pulled muscle in the right thigh.
The score was 2-2 in the second set, Seles having won the first 6-3.
“The adductor (muscle) was already tight from the previous day, and it got so that I couldn’t give a hundred percent on each shot,” said Mauresmo.
“I am disappointed to have lost my title particularly as I felt I was playing well.
“This is two injuries in two weeks because in Paris a fortnight ago I hurt the other one (in the other thigh).
“But the doctor told me that this can happen when you come back after months away from competition, that you often have muscle problems.”
Mauresmo will return to Paris for what she hopes will be a quick check on the adductor muscle problems before heading off to the United States for the Indian Wells tournament in California.
Seles, who had coped well with a swirling wind which created a sandy, hazy atmosphere and a tugging, nagging uncertainty with any shot requiring much backswing, also had some assistance in establishing her lead.
The crucial moments came when the defending champion served three double faults to go 2-4 down, two of which took a net cord and lurched eccentrically in the breeze into the tramlines.
Later Mauresmo left the court for six minutes to receive treatment to the injury but it did little good.
“It was so close in the first set so it was a shame it finished in that way,” Seles said.
“However the good thing is that I didn’t make too many errors in the wind, and that I am looking forward to my first final here.”
That will be against the top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne, who won a fine match in difficult conditions against Jennifer Capriati 7-5 4-6 6-4, ending the American’s comeback tournament after an eye operation Henin had a little more consistency and slightly better concentration.
She also produced a wonderfully aggressive finish, consolidating her final set break with two successive aces to reach 5-3 and twice serving and volleying while closing out the match.
However Capriati fought well right to the end, earning a break-back point in the last game and leaving the tournament feeling she had re-established herself in the leading handful of players.
“I won’t be discouraged by this loss,” said Capriati. “I’m moving well and I just need to get into slightly better shape.
“That will help me not to feel tired and also help with the concentration.”
The former Australian and French Open champion plans to play next at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne next month.