Linetskaya Makes a Statement

Times Staff Writer

So, just who is this 18-year-old who Sunday posted the biggest upset so far in the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament, beating the No. 2 women's player in the world, Amelie Mauresmo of France?

Fasten your seat belt.

Her name is Evgenia Linetskaya, she is from Moscow, and her 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 win on center court shouldn't have been that big a shocker, because she is ranked No. 44 and was seeded No. 30 here. But the tennis world has long ago passed its saturation point on knowing about Russian women, most of them teenagers, who make millions hitting great forehands and backhands.

So Linetskaya's march up the women's tennis ladder has been lost in the more high-profile marches of the Sharapovas, Kuznetsovas, Dementievas, Myskinas, Zvonerevas, Petrovas and Likhovtsevas. Of the current top 17 players in the world, eight are from Russia, not only with love but with a healthy regard for capitalism.

Sunday, Linetskaya became the new discovery, and a fascinating one, as it turns out. Here's why:

* Her father is a doctor of science, specializing in physics and mathematics. He also has a black belt in karate.

* She learned tennis from her mother, an artist who took her to the playground when she was 6, gave her a racket that was "bigger than me," and had her hit against the school wall. Some of the balls went into the trash bin and the old ladies around the school were asking, "What are you doing with the school building?"

* She writes poetry, has never written about tennis, but might now that she has won this big match. She started writing poems when she was 12, and by the time she was 13 and 14, they were pretty good in Russian. Then she started writing in English, but those aren't so good.

* She loves apple juice and is somewhat frustrated in America, because most restaurants don't have it and she is "getting mad, except at the supermarkets." They only have "orange and cranberry," but she is getting used to the cranberry.

* An only child, she loves nature and takes walks in the forest near her home to relax.

* This was her biggest news conference ever, and she wore a black Ferrari cap. But when asked if that was her sponsor, she said no, and took the cap off.

Indeed, Linetskaya had all the fun after this, her biggest win. Mauresmo had a match point with Linetskaya serving at 4-5 of the third set, but missed a volley and then double-faulted on break point to allow Linetskaya to serve for the match, which she won on the second match point by closing for a winning volley.

"I remember how she missed her match point," Linetskaya said, "and I wanted to hit the winner. I wanted to show I could do that."

As bubbly as Linetskaya was, Mauresmo was equally deflated.

"You can lose some matches," she said, "but as long as I felt that I played some good tennis, and that the opponent won it, then it's OK. I don't feel that was the case today."

Linetskaya's next opponent will be Kim Clijsters of Belgium, the former No. 1-ranked player, who spent much of last season recovering from a wrist injury. Clijsters beat Anna Chakvetadvze of Russia in an evening match in cold, windy conditions, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Among the other women's winners were No. 4 Elena Dementieva, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (5), over Severine Beltrame of France; No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-2, 6-1, over Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela and Conchita Martinez of Spain, 6-0, 7-5, over Jamea Jackson.

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