Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Novotna Upsets Pierce, Gains Semis vs. Graf

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Novotna Upsets Pierce, Gains Semis vs. Graf

Article excerpt

The memory of The Choke, one of the most dramatic capitulations in tennis history, is tucked away in the dark recesses of Jana Novotna's mind.

Wimbledon 1993. The championship match. One point from a 5-1 lead in the third set. Wild serves. Crazy shots. Steffi Graf winning. Novotna sobbing in the Duchess of Kent's embrace. The world watching.

Don't ask Novotna about it. She refuses to talk about it and doesn't want to hear about it.

"I only remember what happened after that match," Novotna said Wednesday after advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Open. Her thin smile indicated the opposite.

Whether she chooses to remember or forget, Novotna has a chance to put that episode truly out of her mind and, perhaps, everyone else's when she meets Graf on Friday. It will be their first match in a Grand Slam since that Wimbledon final.

Novotna, seeded seventh, never looked better than she did in beating No. 4 Mary Pierce 6-4, 6-0 in the quarters. Graf, No. 1, was just as impressive in a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Amanda Coetzer. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Gabriela Sabatini will play in the other semifinal.

Abandoning the pure serve-and-volley style she favors, Novotna beat Pierce at her own game from the baseline. Calmly setting up winners as if she had thought each one out beforehand, sprinting from side to side, coming in when she had a chance, the rabbit-like Novotna so overwhelmed Pierce that the match seemed over in the middle of the first set.

When Pierce pounded the ball, Novotna pounded it right back or floated a shot that made Pierce work harder. When Pierce approached the net, Novotna passed her effortlessly. Pierce looked out of position in almost every game.

"Coming into the match, even I thought that everybody would expect Mary to win," Novotna said. "But I knew I have the game to beat her. I can mix it up, slow it down, speed it up, and that's what I did perfectly. And you could see in the second set that, as soon as she started losing, she never really found her way back."

It is somewhat of a surprise that Novotna has found her way back to facing Graf again in a big match, and that Novotna feels confident about it. …

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