Monica Seles blew a four-game lead in the third set but hung on to defeat Martina Navratilova, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), yesterday in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to capture the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles. The 16-year-old won her seventh tournament this year and 42nd of 43 matches.
At 6-6 in the tiebreaker, Navratilova hit a forehand wide, then a forehand service return into the net.
"Even though I lost it was one of the greatest matches I've been a part of and I've played about 1,500 of them," Navratilova, the top seed, told the crowd during the awards presentation.
Seles took that 5-1 lead in the third set only to see Navratilova win four straight games, and receive a standing ovation. Then they each broke serve to force the tiebreaker.
"When I was up at 5-1, I didn't know what was happening," said Seles, the second seed. "There were so many breaks in the third. It was such a great match. When I hit the last serve, I still didn't know.
"At 5-1 I think I just choked. I got nervous. When I was serving, I was so scared. The crowd was yelling, 'Go Monica, go Martina.' I had a couple of match points, but something in the back of my head said it's going to be 5-all. When I broke her, I thought, 'This is it.' And then she broke me again. It was such an emotional match."
When Navratilova heard Seles' comments, she said: "Well, she's an honest person, and that's the sign of a champion. She knew I was going to play better.
"It was not a successful escape but it was a good effort," said Navratilova, who was playing in her first tournament since winning her record ninth Wimbledon title.
"At 5-1 I thought the match was over. I just went point for point going for my shots, making her play. At 5-all I didn't get my first serves in. I missed an easy volley. I felt the court was tilted. It was a very bankable shot. Every time I had a chance, I blew it. She played well."
Seles was up by 5-4 in the tiebreaker when she hit a forehand passing shot that tipped the top of the net and went over, giving her two match points.
"On that net cord shot in the tiebreaker, well, it was very frustrating because I thought I had won that point," Navratilova said. "I had a game point, lost that game, had set point, lost that. I always lost my serve when I didn't get my first serves in."
Seles cut Navratilova's lead in their rivalry to 3-2. It was the first time they played on a hard court. Seles' other victory over Navratilova was in the Italian Open, on clay.
U.S. Hardcourt Championships: Boris Becker broke Peter Lundgren's serve four times in nine tries en route to a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the final. Winning for the second time in Indianapolis in three years, the West German secured his first title since March in his only hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open, which begins a week from today.
"It feels good. I was very close in the last few months to winning a tournament and I failed three times. But now I'm back," said Becker, who had lost in the finals at Hamburg, Queen's Club and Wimbledon since May.
Nonetheless, Lundgren turned in his best performance this year, having won just four singles matches coming in. He defeated three seeded players -- Martin Jaite, Andre Agassi and Richey Reneberg -- to reach his first final in more than a year.
"My ranking was in the 150s before this week, and now it's going to be around 70," he said. "It's a huge jump, and it's very big for me."
Volvo International: In New Haven, Conn., Derrick Rostagno won his first tournament -- after a 5-hour 40-minute rain delay -- 6-3, 6-3 over Todd Woodbridge.
Rostagno trailed by 3-1 when the rain came. He said that before the delay he "was going for my normal shot and I was missing a lot of volleys by just a couple of inches. We came back and I just didn't miss any more. I felt I was giving myself a lot more margin for error."
Woodbridge, in his first final, said that early on Rostagno "was nervous and I was really well focused." But "when we came back out, it had changed. I started off nervous and he started off focused."