• SHARE

Martina Hingis can’t recall the first time she faced Silva Farina Elia of Italy. Not because Hingis lost 6-3, 6-1, but because it happened in 1996 and the current No. 4 player in the world was only 15-years-old.

“I lost to Farina?” Hingis, 21, said seemingly shocked. “Well, obviously, I don’t remember that. . . . Was I supposed to win at that tournament?”

Maybe not, but in front of 8,183 fans at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday, fan-favorite Hingis answered expectations with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Farina Elia in the Toray Pan Pacific Open semifinals.

Hingis, the top seed who has advanced to the Toray final six straight years, will look to clinch her third title in four attempts Sunday, against Monica Seles.

Third-seeded Seles advanced to her first Pan Pacific final after ousting Anna Kournikova in the other semifinal match 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

“I always have a great feeling when I play here. I’ve had some success in the past and the fans here always seem to be behind me,” said Hingis, who finished runnerup to Jennifer Capriati in the Australian Open last month.

Hingis outplayed Farina Elia by grinding out aggressive approach shots and keeping the Italian on the baseline. Farina Elia showed some life in the second game, hanging in for six deuces, and late in the second set, when she took a 4-3 lead after winning three straight games.

But Hingis stole the following three games and only needed a mere hour for the match — the first set taking just 25 minutes. “I was rushed,” Farina Elia said. “The way she plays, she is rushing a lot, so I couldn’t think too much.

“Basically, (Hingis’) game is there — physically and mentally. She’s the champion.”

For the second straight day, Seles struggled, but neutralized Kournikova’s power in the third set with accurate shot selection.

Seles, who pulled out a 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (11-9) win against Alexandra Stevenson on Friday, took the final three games — including eight of the last nine points. “I’m just happy to really pull through both of those matches because they were very, very close,” Seles said.

Kournikova’s ranking has slipped to No. 99 after sitting out eight months last year with a stress fracture in her left foot. The Russian starlet said her game was gradually returning to form and she hopes to reach the top 20 soon.

“I can’t say where I belong because I’m ranked 99,” said Kournikova, who reached as high as No. 8 last year. “Time will tell and tournaments will tell. I’m really happy that finally I’m starting to find my form.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW