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Going Into Seles Match, Hingis Unscathed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The damage hasn’t come from Venus Williams or anyone else so far at the French Open.

What has been the biggest problem for Martina Hingis at Roland Garros?

Herself.

That wild and crazy 17-year-old from Switzerland watched her quarterfinal doubles opponent, Patricia Tarabini of Argentina, try a trick shot--hitting between her legs--and Hingis wanted to try it too.

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So, on the second-to-last point, Hingis attempted it and promptly whacked herself on the left leg, bruising her shin. Borrowing the teenage vernacular, it was one of those my bad moments.

Hingis needed brief attention from the trainer, but the self-inflicted wound isn’t expected to be a great concern in today’s semifinal match against sixth-seeded Monica Seles. “I’m always getting little scratches and bites from my dog Zorro,” Hingis told a Swiss journalist.

Last year, French Open sabotage came from her horse. Hingis tumbled off her horse in the weeks leading up to Paris, which curtailed her preparation, culminating in a straight-set loss to Iva Majoli in the final.

Seles nearly defeated Hingis in the 1997 semifinals, pushing her to three sets. The top-seeded Hingis has defeated Seles all five times they have played, but Seles played a limited schedule during the lengthy illness of her father and coach, Karolj. Karolj Seles died in May, just before the French Open.

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Here, Seles has been wearing her father’s wedding ring on a necklace. She has not dedicated the tournament to him, saying: “No, because my dad believed whenever I stepped on the court, it was just for me. I think of him every day. But for me it’s a tennis match, it’s a tennis tournament. I love to play. I’m doing something that I love to do.”

Of the four semifinalists, Hingis has had the easiest path, the only one not to drop a set, losing 21 games in five matches.

The other semifinal features second-seeded Lindsay Davenport of Newport Beach against fourth-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain. Sanchez Vicario, a two-time French Open winner, was twice within two points of losing to Serena Williams in their fourth-round match.

Davenport is in the French Open semifinals for the first time. She has reached the semifinals of the last two Grand Slam events--losing to Conchita Martinez at the Australian Open in January and to Hingis at the 1997 U.S. Open.

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Her record is 2-6 against Sanchez Vicario, and though Davenport has not defeated Sanchez Vicario on clay, that statistic is somewhat deceptive. One match was in 1993, and the other was a year later in Federation Cup competition, long before Davenport’s ascension in the rankings.

In Paris, Davenport has had more difficulty trying to define her place in women’s tennis than she has encountered on the court.

“I’m going to be 22 in five or six days,” she said. “I don’t think I have a tag. I’m just an ordinary girl playing tennis, doing well, being successful, pretty quiet and modest, I guess.

“That’s a boring story.”

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Not if she reaches the French Open final. A victory over Sanchez Vicario might well end Davenport’s self-described days of semi-anonymity.

Today’s Featured Matches

WOMEN

* Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (4) vs. Lindsay Davenport (2)

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* Martina Hingis (1) vs. Monica Seles (6)


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