No. 6 Monica Seles fought off the doldrums and a spirited challenge by compatriot Chanda Rubin Friday afternoon and set up another highly anticipated fourth-round meeting with her one-time teenage rival, Jennifer Capriati. No. 15 Capriati, who has had a less than stellar summer coming into the Open, continued her Flushing revival with a 6-2, 6-3 rout of Adriana Gersi.
Seles 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 nailbiter over Rubin was played in tropical temperatures on Ashe stadium. In the end, it was Seles’ ability to hammer winners in the
contest closing moments that keyed her victory, while Rubin’s tentative forays were her undoing.
“I was just trying to stay in the match and really fight,” Seles said. “There’s not much else I could do today. I didn’t want to get into long points. It did not feel my legs at all today. It was really strange. I wanted to serve well because my return game wasn’t should it be against a player like Chanda.”
Rubin — a perennial top-25 player who has yet to reach the quarters here — could have taken advantage of Seles’ huffing and puffing, but failed to get
her nails into her opponent when it counted most.
“It was there,” said Rubin. “If I could have kept the pressure up instead of throwing in a loose game at a tight time in the match, where I needed to keep
my foot on the gas, that cost me.”
The 26-year-old Seles knows she has to improve her conditioning to be able to trip up the elite, but says that clean-and-jerking in the gym is not her
“Some people love to work out; it’s the first thing they do in the morning.” said Seles. “For me, the choice is to work out playing tennis. But working out is the one thing I have to do and I know I have to do for the rest of my life. I have to make peace with it.”
Both Seles and Capriati are looking forward to their fourth round tango, which will be the third time they played here. Last year, Seles took her in
straight sets. In 1991, the two wide-eyed teens played one of the hardest hitting semifinals ever witnessed here.
“Certain players, it’s really strange, you always play them,” Seles said.
Capriati added, “I’m not going in there thinking it’s going to be an epic match. I’m just going to go in there and play my best and not try to think about the past.”
Capriati said that she’s a much more confident player today than the one who left Flushing Meadows in tears last year. Moreover, she’s much happier,
safely ensconced in what she calls a productive relationship with men’s player Xavier Malisse.
“We care about each other very much,” Capriati said. “If you’re happy, it’s going to help in every aspect. If you feel happy, secure, it makes everything
so much better.”