LARGO - French Open semifinalist Monica Seles and Australian Open finalist Mary Joe Fernandez will join the field of the $225,000 Eckerd Open here in April, tournament officials said Tuesday. Officials also confirmed that 1989 French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez and defending Eckerd Open champion Conchita Martinez will be back, stocking the tournament's 32-player field with four top-10 ranked players. Last year, the tournament had three top-10 players.
"We're off to one of our best starts," said tournament co-director Barry Siegel. "There's no way to predict who's going to win this tournament. It's going to be as evenly matched as any tournament we've had here."
Siegel also said he's hopeful the entry of 13-year-old rookie pro Jennifer Capriati of Saddlebrook will be finalized. "I can say it's a good possibility, but I can't confirm it," he said.
Seles, ranked sixth, and Fernandez, ranked seventh, represent two of the tour's most talked-about young pros. Seles, a 16-year-old Yugoslavian who lives and trains at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, is coming off a remarkable rookie season in which she climbed from 86th in the rankings to sixth. She became the youngest player (15 years, five months) in a Virginia Slims final at the event in Houston and then won the event by upsetting Chris Evert in the title match.
Known for her Woody Woodpecker laugh and her hard-hitting two-handed forehand and backhand, Seles went on to post wins over Zina Garrison, Manuela Maleeva (twice) and Sanchez.
Fernandez, 18, of Miami, is beginning her first full year on the pro tour after playing part time since 1986. And she's off to a great start after making the Australian Open final in January. She narrowly lost to top-ranked Steffi Graf.
She had her best Grand Slam showing last year when she made it to the French Open semifinals, beating third-ranked Gabriela Sabatini along the way. She also has beaten Garrison and Seles.
Agents for Martinez and Sanchez said last week their clients would play in the Largo tournament, April 16-22, at Bardmoor Country Club.
The tournament expects to announce additional entries during the next few weeks, Siegel said.
For ticket information, call 391-9964 in Largo.
Defending champion loses at Belgian Indoor
BRUSSELS - Defending champion Henri Leconte was upended by Goran Prpic of Yugoslavia 6-3, 5-6, 6-1 in the opening round of the Belgian Indoor Championships on Tuesday.
Also advancing to the second round were Aki Rahunen of Finland, Guy Forget of France, Paolo Cane of Italy and Thomas Hogstedt of Sweden.
Rahunen beat Andrei Cherkasov of the Soviet Union 4-6, 7-6, 6-2;
Forget beat countryman Arnoud Boetsch 6-3, 6-4; Cane beat Omar Camporese of Italy 6-3, 6-3, and Hogstedt beat Marc Rosset of Switzerland 6-4, 6-2.
Rahunen, ranked 164th in the world, will play the winner of Tuesday's match between Miloslav Mecir and Emilio Sanchez. Forget will meet top-seeded Boris Becker in the next round, if the West German can overcome Karel Novacek of Czechoslovakia today.
Courier wins; two seeds fall in SkyDome event
TORONTO - Ninth-seeded Jim Courier of Dade City routed Australian Darren Cahill 6-0, 6-3 in the opening round of the SkyDome indoor tennis championships.
Two other seeds were upset. No. 15 Pete Sampras lost the first set to Kelly Evernden of New Zealand before retiring because of an injury, and No. 12 Jim Grabb lost to Marian Vajda of Czechoslovakia 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
Canadian Grant Connell, a doubles specialist ranked 120th in singles, upset Dan Goldie 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. Connell won his last 10 service points to clinch the victory over Goldie, ranked 66th.
Navratilova tops list of Federation nominees
NEW YORK - Martina Navratilova, Zina Garrison and Pam Shriver, teammates on the 1989 United States Federation Cup team, were nominated for the 1990 squad by the U.S. Tennis Association.
Also nominated for the July 22-29 event in Atlanta were Jennifer Capriati, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez. Four of the players will be selected for the final team that will defend the title.
Navratilova was a member of Cup championship teams in 1982, 1986 and 1989 and never has lost a Federation match, with a 15-0 record in singles and 11-0 in doubles. Shriver also was a member of the 1986 and 1989 champions and is 5-0 in Federation singles and 11-1 in doubles.
Garrison is 3-2 in singles and 5-0 in doubles in five previous Federation competitions.
Sanchez upset in first round at Virginia Slims
CHICAGO - Linda Harvey-Wild, a pro for only a week, upset French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) Tuesday in a first-round match at the Virginia Slims of Chicago.
Harvey-Wild, 18, took a 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker before losing the next four points. But Sanchez, the world's fifth-ranked player, then double-faulted on match point.
"Sure, it was my biggest victory ever, and I don't think it's sunk in yet," said Harvey-Wild, ranked 154th in the world.
Earlier, seventh-seeded Laura Gildemeister of Peru beat Gretchen Magers 6-1, 6-7 (4-7, 6-4); Tami Whitlinger beat Hu Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in a battle of qualifiers; Susan Sloane defeated Linda Ferrando of Italy 6-4, 6-1; and Nathalie Tauziat of France downed Isabel Cueto of West Germany 6-4, 6-1.