LOS ANGELES, Nov 7: Monica Seles saved seven match points before claiming a 3-6 7-6 6-3 comeback win over fellow American Lindsay Davenport Wednesday and a place in the quarterfinals of the $3 million WTA Championships.
Seles’s victory was her first over Davenport for five years, ending a string of nine consecutive defeats.
The entertaining first-round clash between two of the tour’s best known and most popular players attracted more spectators than the few hundred sprinkled through the cavernous Staples Center for the first afternoon session earlier in the day.
But the match still unfolded in front of more empty seats than occupied ones as the WTA’s season-ending extravaganza got off to a muted start.
Davenport, who did not begin her season until July after recovering from knee surgery, looked the fresher of the two veterans.
She grabbed control by breaking Seles to go in front 4-3, winning seven games in a row to take the opening set and a 3-0 lead in the second.
But Seles, who has played in only one event since the U.S. Open, refused to fold.
Playing with an aggression absent in the opening set, Seles began to go for her shots, hitting back to level the second set and take it to a tie-break.
Her comeback appeared to be fizzling out as she trailed 4-0 but, despite holding numerous match points, Davenport could not finish off her feisty opponent, Seles taking the tie-break 8-6 to force a third set.
In the deciding set the momentum clearly swung in favour of Seles, who broke at 5-3 and then held serve to close out the match.
Earlier, Kim Clijsters swept past American Chanda Rubin 6-1 6-2 at the $3 million WTA Championships Wednesday to set up a quarterfinal clash with fellow Belgian Justine Henin.
Riding the momentum of two tournament wins in her last three events, fifth seed Clijsters needed just 57 minutes to dispose of Rubin, the only player to have beaten world number one Serena Williams in her last 37 matches.
The championships opened earlier in the day with fourth seed Henin disposing of Russian Elena Dementieva 6-3 6-3.
The quarter-final clash will mark the seventh time, including the fourth this season, that the Belgian rivals have met as professionals, Clijsters holding a 4-2 edge.
Henin won their last meeting, on clay at the semi-finals in Rome.
Results (First round):
Venus Williams (USA) bt Patty Schnyder (Swi) 6-2, 7-6 (9/7); Justine Henin (Bel) bt Elena Dementieva (Rus) 6-3, 6-3; Kim Clijsters (Bel) bt Chanda Rubin (USA) 6-1, 6-2; Monica Seles (USA) bt Lindsay Davenport (USA) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.—Reuters