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Seles makes victorious return

Published Oct. 1, 2005

Monica Seles began another comeback Friday with a victory in the Lipton Championships in her first match this year as she beat Naoko Sawamatsu of Japan 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

The match was Seles' first since she broke her right index finger while catching a ball in December. Her return was delayed because her father, Karolj, has been undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer.

The match was Seles' first in the Lipton since 1992, and the first in her home state since she became a U.S. citizen in 1994.

Seles won the Lipton in 1990 and 1991. She was sidelined for two years after being stabbed in the back by a fan during a match in Germany in 1993.

Seles lost her share of the No. 1 ranking in November and has slipped to fifth.

Martina Hingis, on the verge of becoming the world's top-ranked player, rallied in her opening match. Hingis improved to 21-0 this year by overtaking Patricia Hy-Boulais 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Even a loss wouldn't have prevented Hingis from replacing Steffi Graf as the WTA's top-ranked player on March 31. At age 16, Hingis will become the youngest No. 1.

Rain forced the postponement of 11 matches and delayed play.

Seles struggled with rusty timing against Sawamatsu but also showed flashes of the form that has won nine Grand Slams. She spanked baseline winners from both sides and twice topped 100 mph with her serve, a weakness last year because of a chronic shoulder ailment.

Seles raced to a 4-0 lead in the final set, twice breaking Sawamatsu's serve at 15.

When the victory was complete, she gave the crowd a wave and a smile and signed autographs on her way off the court.

Hingis, always quick to vent frustration, dropped her racket twice, threw it once and smacked a ball into the sixth row of the stands before she rallied against Hy-Boulais.

The 31-year-old Canadian, ranked 59th, was playing well and serving at 3-3, 40-0 in the second set when Hingis won the next eight points to reverse the momentum.

That run included the shot of the match, a running backhand cross-court passing shot from behind the baseline. The winner gave Hingis a 4-3 lead in the set.

Last year Hingis lost her opening match to Nana Miyagi.

ST. PETERSBURG OPEN: Top-seeded Michael Stich breezed into the semifinals in Russia with a straight-sets victory over Kenneth Carlsen.

Stich, steadily improving his play after starting the week complaining of nagging injuries, won 6-2, 6-4 over the eighth-seeded Dane, who was nursing a sore back.

Stich faces fifth seed Thomas Johansson, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Olivier Delaitre, in the $325,000 tournament at the St. Petersburg sports complex.

Today's other semifinal pit unseeded Jan Kroslak against No. 7 Renzo Furlan. Kroslak defeated Magnus Norman 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, and Furlan advanced with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Arnaud Clement.