When Monica Seles first showed up at the French Open in 1989, she was only 15 years old and, like every other professional woman's player, living in Steffi Graf's shadow. Just 19 years old herself, Graf already had won seven Grand Slam titles, including the previous five straight.
By the time the two met in the semifinals that year, Seles had become a sensation. She took Graf to three sets, although she froze up somewhere between changeovers, losing a break in the third set before finally losing the match. A decade later, she has the chance to make amends.
Graf vs. Seles headlines the women's semifinal matches at Roland Garros on Thursday, with Martina Hingis playing Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the other bracket. Graf and Seles have played each other 14 times, with a title on the line in 10 of those matches. Graf leads the matchup, nine victories to five.
"Steffi and I have played some fantastic matches -- I think a couple of those matches are the highlights of my career," Seles said. "I think both of us are really strong mentally, we both want to win and we both play at a very high level."
Seles (seeded No. 3) has arrived at this point in the tournament without dropping a set, most recently defeating Conchita Martinez, 6-2, 6-1, in the quarterfinals. Graf will only be the second seed she has faced here, however, and the first -- French darling Julie Halard Decugis -- was seeded 16th.
The road has been a bit tougher for Graf (6), who played an uneven match against No. 2 seed Lindsay Davenport on Tuesday but prevailed, 6-1, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3. Her appearance Thursday will mark her first Grand Slam appearance since she won the U.S. Open in 1996.
Lindsay Davenport and Mary Pierce won their doubles match against Jana Novotna and Natasha Zvereva by default after Novotna crashed into Zvereva in mid-court and twisted her right ankle. Novotna, who had been trying to save an overhead smash from Pierce, was taken off the court in a wheelchair. It was not immediately known whether she will be able to defend her title at Wimbledon next month. . . .
A metro strike left the stands at Roland Garros half-empty, dampening the usually festive mood surrounding the matches of Brazilians Gustavo Kuerten and Fernando Meligeni. Kuerten said the atmosphere was good preparation for next month, when Brazil plays France in the second round of the Davis Cup.