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Unseeded Mauresmo Advances to Semis

January 26, 1999

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ She is quick, she can overpower her opponents, she has fixed her backhand problems and she’s not afraid of the top players.

Former world junior champion Amelie Mauresmo of France, the latest in a series of impressive teen-agers in women’s tennis, has made her mark on a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the Australian Open semifinals.

The 19-year-old Mauresmo beat 11th-seeded Dominique Van Roost of Belgium 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) in today’s opening center court match.

If she wins here, she would be the first unseeded woman to capture a Grand Slam event since Australian Chris O’Neil captured the Australian Open in 1978.

In the 119 Grand Slam tournaments played so far in the Open Era, O’Neil is the only non-seeded winner. Only 11 crowns have been won by players seeded lower than third.

Mauresmo starting playing tennis at age 5, after being inspired by watching on television when France’s Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983.

She captured the junior girls titles at the French Open and Wimbledon in 1996, and began shooting up the regular tour rankings last year, climbing from 109th to 29th. Along the way, she had victories over Lindsay Davenport, the current No. 1-ranked player, and No. 3 Jana Novotna. But her best Grand Slam results were reaching the third rounds at the Australian and U.S. opens.

``I think all the conditions are coming together for me to play well here. I’m far from France, it’s also a good thing,″ Mauresmo said, explaining she felt the pressure of public expectations at home.

She also recently split with the French tennis establishment, saying they were not helping her build an aggressive game, and has been working since last month with new coach Christophe Fournerie.

Van Roost, who hits some big shots herself, said that ``in the second set I think I played perfect, and she was just overpowering.″

``When you see her running all around the court and just playing everything back, it’s hard,″ said the 25-year-old Belgian player.

Van Roost said Mauresmo has fixed weaknesses in her backhand.

``Every time I was putting pressure on her, she was slicing, and it is not an easy slice,″ she added.

The number of young French women moving up has been a help, Mauresmo said.

``We are pushing each other. We all want to be the best in our category,″ she said.

In the fourth round, Mauresmo beat one of them _ 19-year-old Emilie Loit. That and her second-round victory over eighth-seeded Patty Schnyder were confidence-builders, she said, as is her physical strength, the result of daily gym workouts.

Against Schnyder, ``I think I won this match because physically I was better than her at the end.″

Would she be intimidated by higher-ranked opponents?

``Not any more. ... I beat a few of them,″ Mauresmo said.

Thomas Enqvist became the first man to reach the semifinals by beating Marc Rosset 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Although unseeded, the 24-year-old Swede has established himself as a favorite by beating the U.S. Open champion and runner-up _ Australians Patrick Rafter and Mark Philippoussis _ in earlier rounds here.

He has won 13 matches so far this year.

Enqvist’s next opponent will be either No. 7 Karol Kucera of Slovakia or 91st-ranked Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador, who meet later today. The only two other surviving men’s seeds _ No. 10 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 15 Todd Martin _ play each other in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

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