After a dozen of unforced errors, several racket flicks and countless mumblings to herself, Lindsay Davenport could only stare down at her feet as the Toray Pan Pacific Open semifinals came to an end on Saturday.
Third-seeded Davenport looked nothing but a winner, but she barely edged her doubles partner and best friend on the WTA Tour Lisa Raymond with an error-filled 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium to advance to Sunday’s finals against top-seeded American Monica Seles, who also needed three sets against compatriot Chanda Rubin in the other semi.
After Davenport served up an ace on match point — one of 13 for the match — and walked to the net for a handshake, Raymond said, “That was too good in the end.”
To indicate the ugliness of the game, though, all Davenport could supply for a reply was, “I’m sorry.”
“Lately, a lot of errors have crept into my game,” Davenport said. “That’s something I need to cut out most of all right now.”
Davenport, fully recovered from last year’s knee surgery, will be aiming for her third title of the event, while Seles, in her fourth appearance, is still looking for her first after losing to Martina Hingis in the finals last year.
Raymond mixed up her shots to confuse Davenport on the quick carpet surface. Davenport, a winner of 37 singles titles and currently the world’s No. 10 player, credited Raymond’s tactics for her mistakes.
Only some, though.
“A lot has to do with how well she was playing. She was mixing up her shots,” she said. “But I’ve had a lot of frustration with my game over the past few months.”
Raymond, most known for her 36 doubles titles, said she played her best match against Davenport in their 12th meeting. Only once had the two gone to three sets.
“But at the same time, she came up with big serves and big shots when she needed them,” she added.
And it wasn’t easy trying to avoid eye contact against your best pal during the match.
“It’s tough. It’s tough for both of us,” said Raymond, ranked No. 30. “You’re playing one of your best friends out there. It’s difficult because we both want to win and we’re both very competitive.
“I honestly don’t know how the (Williams) sisters do it,” added Raymond, referring to Serena and Venus Williams who are doubles partners and have met in the finals of the past four Grand Slam finals. “I can’t imagine how they do it.”
In the day’s first match, Seles started and finished off in top-notch form, flirting with a possible upset in the middle, in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over fourth-seeded Rubin.
“I was really frustrated when I lost the first set and kind of went down on myself,” said Seles, who was up 4-1 but went on to drop five consecutive games. “In the third set, I just played some good tennis at key times.”
Rubin was aiming for her first victory against Seles in their fifth meeting — and she had the match in her hand. Rubin went up a set and break in the second set at 4-3.
“Just the emotions of being up so much in the first set, I was really struggling inside after that,” Seles said.
But Seles, who struggled with Rubin’s slicing service and crushing groundstrokes that diminished her speed on the court, came right back for a break. In that eighth game of the second set, Rubin aimed for winners, which instead turned into unforced errors, and gave Seles unnecessary breathing room.
“I played the way I wanted to play up until that point,” Rubin said, referring to the eighth game. “I had control of the match, very clearly.”
Seles revived after that game and began to attack Rubin with her tight-angled, two-handed shots that had Rubin running all over. In the final set, Rubin said Seles played like she “had a second life.”
For the game, Seles notched 32 winners and eight aces — compared to 15 and four for Rubin — in a match that lasted 1 hour, 40 minutes.
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