Seles, women's joint world No. 1 with Steffi Graf, lost her first match
at Roland Garros in seven years,
bowing out in the quarterfinals to 10th seed Jana Novotna, 7-6, 6-3. It
was the Yugoslav-born player's
worst-ever result in Paris.
Sampras, in contrast, reached the semifinals for the first time in the
one grand slam tournament he has
never won, beating compatriot Jim Courier in a tense match, 6-7, 4-6,
6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
The intense battle, which lasted three hours and 31 minutes, was the
third five-setter Sampras had played
since the start of the tournament.
``It was very emotional,'' said Sampras as he was leaving the court
before bursting into tears as he was
asked about his coach Tim Gullikson, who died recently of brain cancer.
``In the fifth set, my mind was kind of a blank. I was very tired,''
added the American, who did not even try
to return Courier's serves in the end to concentrate on his own service.
``The crowd helped me along. Fortunately I have a couple of days before
my next match.''
The Wimbledon champion suffered from cramps at the end of the fifth set
and limped behind the baseline as
Courier, winner here in 1991 and 1992, tried to hammer him out of the
tournament by striking aces -- 28 in
Sampras could not have had a worse start. He conceded the first set in a
tie-break, which he lost 7-4, and
dropped his serve early in the second. It was not until the third set
that the match really started for him.
``I was a little bit too anxious at first but he let me back into the
match. My serve helped too,'' said
Sampras, who meets Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the semifinals.
The Russian, seeded sixth, qualified for his second French Open semifinal
in a row at the expense of
Dutchman Richard Krajicek, a semifinalist in 1993.
Kafelnikov, who had not dropped a set in the earlier rounds, was far too
fast and clever from the baseline
for serve-and-volley specialist Krajicek in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 victory.
Kafelnikov hopes to become the
first Russian to reach a grand slam final since Alex Metreveli in
Wimbledon in 1973.
Seles's return to Paris for the first time since she was stabbed by a
Steffi Graf fan in Hamburg in 1993, was
also emotional. But it did not last the distance.
Her defeat by Novotna was only the second of her career at Roland Garros.
The other was in 1989 when
she was beaten by Graf in the semifinals of her first French Open.
``I just played very scared. It was just one of those days,'' Seles said.
``Maybe rustiness was part of it out
there but Jana was playing better.''
Seles bravely saved three set points in the first set tie-break before
losing it, 9-7. Novotna, a semifinalist
here in 1990, took a 3-0 lead in the second set and held that advantage
until the end.
But Novotna is often jittery when it comes to finishing off an opponent
and this was once again the case
Tuesday as Seles had three break points when the Czech was serving for
But Novotna recovered to win in one hour and 28 minutes.
``Mentally I was well prepared and I knew I was playing well,'' said
Novotna, who won the Spanish Open
final 10 days ago.
Novotna now meets Spain's Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, who struggled to make
the semifinals for the sixth
year in a row.
The 24-year-old Catalan, winner here in 1989 and 1994, had to fight for
the three hours in another spine
tingling contest to dismiss unseeded Slovak Karina Habsudova, 6-2, 6-7,
``It was a fight to the finish. But when it mattered I managed to score
and finish her off,'' said Sanchez, a
losing finalist here last year against Steffi Graf.
The German top seed had a much easier quarterfinal Tuesday, crushing
fifth seed Iva Majoli of Croatia,
6-3, 6-1. In the semifinal, Graf will meet Spain's Conchita Martinez, who
beat American Lindsay
Davenport, 6-1, 6-3.
Predrag L. Stojkov