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TENNIS ROUNDUP : Navratilova Much Too Aggressive for Sabatini

From Associated Press

Martina Navratilova, rushing the net at every opportunity, thwarted Gabriela Sabatini’s baseline game and won, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, Saturday night to reach the final of the $500,000 Italian Open at Rome.

Monica Seles of Yugoslavia, the No. 2-seeded player, defeated Helen Kelesi of Canada, 6-1, 6-2 in the other semifinal.

Navratilova, top seeded, played an aggressive, attacking game to beat Sabatini and avenge her semifinal loss in the 1987 Italian Open.

Sabatini of Argentina, seeded third, eliminated 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals by keeping her pinned to the baseline with deep topspin groundstrokes.

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But that tactic wasn’t enough against Navratilova, who constantly took the offensive. The 33-year-old left-hander served and volleyed, charged to the net behind her service returns and mixed up the spins and speeds on her groundstrokes.

“I won because of my constant attacking,” Navratilova said. “She hit a lot of great passing shots, but she didn’t hit enough. I knew that her serve was the shortest ball that I was going to get, so I kept coming in on it.”

Sabatini agreed that she failed to keep Navratilova away from the net.

“My serve wasn’t deep enough,” she said. “Everything else worked very well, but with my short serve, I let her come into the net a lot.”

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In the first semifinal, Seles came out firing her two-fisted groundstrokes with power and precision. Kelesi, seeded No. 11, served a double-fault to lose the opening game of the match and never found her rhythm.

Kelesi, who upset third-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the third round, broke Seles in the first game of the second set. But Seles quickly regained command, taking a 5-2 lead.

Kelesi double-faulted again in the next game and Seles broke at 15 to close out the match in just over an hour.

West Germany’s Boris Becker overcame a challenge from Henri Leconte of France for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory in the semifinals of $1-million German Clay Court Open at Hamburg.

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Becker’s opponent in today’s title match will be Juan Aguilera of Spain, who defeated Guy Forget of France, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).

Becker, who has not won a clay court title in his seven-year career, needed 2 hours 17 minutes to beat Leconte.

It was Becker’s third meeting with Leconte on a European clay court and his first victory.

Aguilera clinched his victory on his second match point when Forget netted a backhand volley.

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David Wheaton won his fourth consecutive three-set match and Mark Kaplan took a far easier route into the final of the $230,000 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships at Kiawah Island, S.C.

Wheaton, the former Stanford star, outlasted Alexander Mronz, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, in a battle of the highest and lowest-ranked players in the tournament.

Kaplan, who played at UC Irvine, had a surprisingly easy time in beating eighth-seeded MaliVai Washington, 6-2, 6-3, on the green clay court.

The 48th-ranked Wheaton, who is playing in his first tournament since a stress fracture in his leg two months ago, will play the 168th-ranked Kaplan for the title.

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