Monica Seles joined a growing list of fallen Grand Slam champions today when unheralded Italian Linda Ferrando upset the third-seeded Yugoslav in a third-set tiebreaker at the U.S. Open tennis championships.
Seles, who became the youngest-ever French Open champion by beating Steffi Graf in last spring’s Roland Garros final, was ousted 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 by Ferrando, the world’s 82nd-ranked player who earned the victory by constantly attacking the net.
The 16-year-old Seles followed this year’s French men’s winner, Andres Gomez of Ecuador, and Wimbledon champion and world No. 1 Stefan Edberg of Sweden in making a surprise exit from the two-week, $6.3-million championships.
Ferrando, who played a brilliant tactical game against the hard-hitting Seles, was lost for words after taking the tiebreaker by 7-3 to reach the round of 16.
“I can’t believe it,” the 24-year-old Italian said. “I always came to the net and she couldn’t do anything.”
Ferrando charged the net at every opportunity, putting constant pressure on Seles, whose normally reliable passing shots failed to evade the deft volleyer.
The Italian approached the net 88 times against 10 trips to the net taken by Seles during the two hour and 14 minute match.
“I knew my only chance to win was serve and volley all the time,” Ferrando said after the exciting duel. “If I stayed back, I couldn’t win.”
Ferrando, who beat Argentine Mercedes Paz in the opening round and followed that with a win over American Camille Benjamin, gamely held her own from the baseline during the tension-filled third set to pull off the first major surprise in the women’s draw.
Seles said she was caught off guard by Ferrando in the opening stadium court match on a sunny day at the National Tennis Center.
“I never played her before. I’d never seen her play,” Seles said. “I didn’t know what to expect from her.”
“On important points I got scared. I wasn’t my usual self,” said Seles, who this year won seven tournaments and has a 45-5 match record.