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Seles falls, this time to Novotna

It's a very long way from Wimbledon, England, to Stone Mountain State Park.

For Monica Seles, however, Wimbledon and the Stone Mountain Olympic tennis venue have one painful commonality: She made premature exits from each in the past month.

Seles, who was ousted from Wimbledon last month in the second round by a 59th-ranked unknown, was upset again Monday in the quarterfinals of the Olympics by Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic.

Seles, still suffering from a shoulder injury that was slowing her serves Monday, blew 5-3 leads in both the first and final sets. She eventually fell to Novotna 7-5, 3-6, 8-6.

"I just had too many chances that I didn't take advantage of," Seles said. "She played better at crunch times than I did."

Novotna's resiliency was truly impressive, not only because she came back from deficits in two sets but because she did it in the face of a crowd chanting "USA, USA" in backing the Yugoslav-born American Seles.

Novotna also was battling the perception that she is a choker, a label she picked up after her 1993 Wimbledon final loss to Steffi Graf.

"You have to realize that I was playing against everybody today," Novotna said. "And, with all the comments some of you have made about me that I'm not strong enough or mentally tough enough.

" To play in the stadium in her home country, you know on an occasion like this when you're going for a medal, I think it's gutsy."

It was Novotna's second major victory this year over Seles. In the spring, Novotna snapped Seles' personal streak of three straight French Open titles, beating her in the quarterfinals.

"Monica's best surface is probably the hard court, that's why I appreciate (Monday's victory) so much more," Novotna said.

Americans Gigi Fernandez and Lindsay Davenport will meet today in one of the semifinal matches. Novotna will face Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the other semifinal.