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U.S. OPEN : A Three-Quarter Slam : Women: Seles rolls over Navratilova for her third major victory of 1991. Missing Wimbledon leaves ‘a little emptiness.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Monica Seles, who pounds tennis balls with utter disregard for the laws of average, speed laws and law and order, completed a wild weekend at the U.S. Open.

One day after beating 15-year-old Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals, Seles knocked the wheels from under the bandwagon of 34-year-old Martina Navratilova and won her first U.S. Open title, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1, in bright sunshine Saturday.

Seles, 17, completed a sweep of all three of the Grand Slam events she played in 1991: the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open.

You might notice that Wimbledon is missing. So does Seles.

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“You know, winning this one, it’s going to be hard to live with (because) you always think, ‘What if I would have played Wimbledon?’ ” she said.

“I might not have done well at Wimbledon. I am not saying that I would have won it, but it is . . . always will be there. A little emptiness. But I got to put that behind me.”

Women’s tennis will have to wait a little longer for another champion to win the Grand Slam by taking all four of the world’s major tennis events in the same year, done by Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988.

So what Seles accomplished is sort of a Grand Slam on a diet. She forfeited her chance at the Grand Slam when she withdrew from Wimbledon three days before it began, citing an unidentified injury, which she later identified as shin splints.

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Clearly, it was not Seles’ finest moment, but if there is such a thing as atoning for one’s sins on the tennis court, she certainly did against Navratilova.

Seles was stuck on fast forward. She had 28 winners, only five unforced errors, won 34 of 43 first serves and did it all in 66 minutes.

The second set was over before you could say shin splints. Navratilova, who won six points in the set, lost it in 21 minutes.

The four-time champion chose a bad time for a slump. After shocking No. 1-ranked Graf in the semifinals Friday, Navratilova managed to put up only scant resistance in the face of Seles’ relentless, two-fisted assault.

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Navratilova played poorly in the tiebreaker to drop the first set, began the second set by losing her serve at love, then lost three break points in the next game to fall behind, 2-0.

“I played the best I could and it wasn’t very good,” Navratilova said. “I had a chance and I blew it. That was about my only chance, really, to get in the match.”

Navratilova won only eight of 26 points on her second serve, had more unforced errors than winners, could not break Seles’ serve and lost her own serve three times in the second set.

Seles took a 4-1 lead with a backhand service return down the line at break point, a ball struck so hard that Navratilova could only applaud with her hand on her racket.

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Seles served and moved to 5-1 with a backhand winner down the line and a few minutes later was looking at match point. When Navratilova slapped a forehand volley into the net, it was over.

About the only thing Seles did wrong was to thank Donald Trump in her speech during the awards ceremony. She was booed loudly.

At least Seles was accustomed to such a chilly reception. Since she pulled out of Wimbledon, her popularity level seemed to sink until it was as low as her visibility.

Even when she held up the silver U.S. Open trophy, Seles was greeted with only mild applause. Call it Wimbledon hangover. Not playing at Wimbledon, no matter what excuse Seles used, is still something she constantly must explain.

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“I don’t think it would be fair for my leg (to play) Wimbledon feeling hurt,” Seles said. “Secondly, I couldn’t (play). I couldn’t run on it. I mean, there was not a choice. If you step on your leg and it hurts, something is wrong there and that (not playing) is the choice I made.”

So which tournament Seles is zeroing in on next year? Good guess.

“I think for me the biggest tournament now will be Wimbledon to win,” Seles said.

Why?

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“It is the only one missing from my collection.”


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