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TENNIS / WOMEN AT MANHATTAN BEACH : Martinez Shuts the Door on Upstart Raymond

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The word on the hard court a year ago was good if you were Lisa Raymond.

In a game of young up-and-comers, Raymond was at the top of the list. She was the two-time defending NCAA singles champion at Florida before turning professional last year. She had a serve over 95 m.p.h., could send you deep, then rush the net to finish you.

She was 21 and you didn’t want to be in her way.

Now, the words aren’t quite so kind.

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If you had not heard of Lisa Raymond, well that’s not too surprising--she’s ranked 53rd.

Somewhere in that first year, Raymond was re-defined as the resident tournament sleeper.

She went to the fourth round of Wimbledon, and routinely takes the top players on the tour to three sets.

She just hasn’t finished them.

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That’s what happened Tuesday in a second-round Virginia Slims of Los Angeles match against top-seeded and third-ranked Conchita Martinez.

Martinez was perfect in the first set, dropped the second and then won the third easily for a 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Raymond.

“Right now, I have one foot in the door and I know I can do it, it’s just the mental part,” Raymond said of both her day and her still young professional career.

That would explain those unsightly losses to players she should beat.

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“In college, you could play at only 70%,” Raymond said. “Here, you have to be 100% every time--you really can’t even compare the two, it’s so different.”

Tuesday’s defeat couldn’t be called unexpected.

Martinez just won Wimbledon a few weeks ago, and her confidence has soared with her game.

“Anytime you win a Grand Slam (event), it’s natural that it gives you confidence,” Martinez said. “But I’ve gained confidence because I know that I can play on grass and hard surfaces.”

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And oh, did she play hard ball.

“The 6-0 (in the first set) surprised me,” Martinez said. “I knew it was going to be tough because I know she is a good player, but I think that first set was just about perfect.”

Martinez admitted that she knew it couldn’t last, and when she lost the first game of the second set, that opened up the door for Raymond’s foot.

“I was able to be more aggressive,” Raymond said. “But I wasn’t confident in my serve and because she was passing real well, and I got gun-shy in the third.”

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That’s hardly the same Raymond who came out of college and teamed with Lindsay Davenport to reach the doubles final of the 1994 French Open. Davenport and Raymond looked to be the ones to replace Jennifer Capriati.

But while Davenport had risen to No. 7 before this tournament at the Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach, Raymond struggled.

“She’s had a few more difficulties adjusting to the tour than me,” Davenport said. “We’re best friends on the tour. My problems might have been a little different because I didn’t go to college. We’ve disagreed about how much college helps before, but maybe that was just because I didn’t want to play in college.”

Raymond said it was simple: She’d read too many stories about how good she was and she started to believe them.

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Tennis Notes

Lindsay Davenport announced that she has withdrawn from the tournament because of a pulled calf muscle in her left leg sustained last week. Davenport was seeded third. . . . In other matches, sixth-seeded Anke Huber defeated Stephanie Rottier, 6-2, 6-1, and seventh-seeded Julie Halard beat Anne Mall, 6-4, 7-5. . . . Fifth-seeded Zina Garrison-Jackson avoided an upset by unseeded Debbie Graham of Fountain Valley. Garrison-Jackson won, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Graham, who attended Stanford, slipped to No. 121 in the WTA rankings after breaking her foot last April. . . . Fourth-seeded Jana Novotna defeated unseeded Karin Kschwendt, 6-3, 6-2.


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