Novotna Repeats Sorry Finish

SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 1995

This time, there was no championship at stake, no Steffi Graf on the other side of the net, no royal shoulder to cry on.

But Jana Novotna’s collapse Saturday at the French Open was every bit as remarkable as her breakdown against Graf in the 1993 Wimbledon final.

Leading 5-0, 40-love in the third set against Chanda Rubin, Novotna somehow managed to let the third-round match slip away. The fifth-seeded Czech blew nine match points over three games and lost 7-6 (10-8), 4-6, 8-6.

“If you told me I would have won, at 5-0, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said the 19-year-old Rubin, whose father is a district court judge in Lafayette, La.

For anyone watching it was impossible not to think back to 1993, when Novotna crumbled against Graf.

Leading 4-1 in the third set and one point away from 5-1, she double-faulted, proceeded to lose the last five games and then sobbed on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.

But just as in 1993, Novotna insisted that she did not choke.

“There is nothing I can do,” she said. “I tried my best and I still lost. Good for her.”

What about a loss of nerve?

“I had match points and I lost it,” she said. “But don’t forget this happens to everybody. You have to understand that this is tennis. This is happening to everybody and we are only human beings.”

What about thinking back to Wimbledon?

“No,” she said. “Not at all.”

But Rubin remembered.

“I think just about everybody watched that final and it was pretty painful to see,” she said. “I started thinking about that a little bit during the course of the match. It definitely popped up in my mind when she started missing a few easy balls.”

In a late Center Court match, seventh-seeded Michael Stich withstood a valiant comeback by France’s Arnaud Boetsch for a 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

Inspired by the crowd, Boetsch - the last Frenchman in the draw - fought back to force a fifth set but came up short in the draining, 3-hour, 42-minute match.

Third-seeded Boris Becker was in danger of elimination, trailing 6-3, 6-4 to 128th-ranked Romanian qualifier Adrian Voinea, when their match was suspended by darkness.

Becker complained repeatedly about wet conditions and poor visibility. “You have no idea what you’re doing,” he snapped to the match supervisor as he stalked off the court.

Two-time defending champion Sergi Bruguera was leading 6-3, 6-2, 3-3 against Brett Steven when play was called.

Todd Martin, the No. 14 seed, was ousted in straight sets by Andrei Chesnokov, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

In other men’s matches, No. 6 seed Michael Chang downed Tomas Carbonell, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5, and 10th-seeded Magnus Larsson beat Jacco Eltingh of the Netherlands 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

Scott Draper, an Australian qualifier ranked No. 135, defeated Richey Reneberg 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 for his third straight upset of a player in the top 50.

Matches involving Bruguera, Becker and Martin were delayed because of light rain.

In women’s play, defending champion and top-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario beat Beate Reinstadler 6-3, 6-1, while No. 3 Mary Pierce routed Florencia Labat 6-2, 6-2.

No. 7 Lindsay Davenport lost the first set but recovered to overpower 14-year-old Swiss sensation Martina Hingis 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Hingis, playing in her second Grand Slam tournament, lost six of seven service games during one stretch.

Anna Smashnova, an 18-year-old native of Belarus whose family emigrated to Israel in 1990, upset 14th-seeded Amy Frazier 6-1, 6-2.

xxxx French Open Winners: Michael Stich, No. 12 seeded, beat France’s Arnaud Boetsch in five sets. Michael Chang, No. 6, defeated Spain’s Tomas Carbonell. Defending champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won her third-round match, easily beating Austria’s Beate Reinstadler. Last year’s runner-up, Mary Pierce, also advanced to the fourth round, moving past Florencia Labat of Argentina. Losers: Todd Martin was eliminated in straight sets by Russia’s Andrei Chesnokov. Fifth-seeded Jana Novotna was upset by American Chanda Rubin. Amy Frazier, No. 14, was eliminated by Israel’s Anna Smashnova. A look ahead: Top-seeded Andre Agassi plays Moroccan qualifier Younes El Aynaoui in the fourth round while fifthseeded Thomas Muster takes on Andrei Medvedev. Three-time champion Steffi Graf meets German compatriot Anke Huber, No. 11; Sanchez Vicario plays Smashnova and Pierce faces Iva Majoli of Croatia, No. 12.

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