One point kept Mary Joe Fernandez out of the women's final at the Australian Open. One point let Monica Seles in instead.
Seles saved a match point, then converted her first chance at victory five games later to end a 2 1/2 hour battle of classic tennis today between two hard hitters who do more than just belt groundstrokes.The winner in the 6-3, 0-6, 9-7 beauty was a serve at 40-30 to Fernandez's backhand, which the 19-year-old from Miami clanked against the net post.
"I wanted to make sure I didn't go for a huge shot, just a good shot, on my match point," Seles said. "It was the same when Mary Joe had match point against me. . . . I was pretty lucky there."
The winner that wasn't was a backhand by Fernandez that floated into the net with last year's runner-up holding a 6-5 third-set lead and break point.
"I sure had the opportunity to win. Those are tough ones to lose," Fernandez said. "I was a bit unlucky on match point."
Lucky vs. unlucky. Put the money on luck every time.
The victory put Seles, the second-seeded 17-year-old, into her second Grand Slam final. Seles will face Jana Novotna in Saturday's championship match.
Novotna, dissuaded from her powerful serve-and-volley game when she found the retractable roof of center court open, steadied herself quickly enough - and watched Arantxa Sanchez Vicario make enough errors - for a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
"We were both tentative in the beginning. That was the key. I could get rid of it before she did," Novotna said.
The men's finalists are decided Friday, with top-seeded Stefan Edberg playing old nemesis Ivan Lendl, the two-time defending champion, and third-seeded Boris Becker against Patrick McEnroe, the 114th-ranked player and until now best known as John McEnroe's kid brother.
Following Novotna's quarterfinal elimination of defending champion Steffi Graf, the Melbourne bookies were listing Seles as the odds-on favorite to add the Australian Open championship to last year's French Open title.
Novotna has won her only match against Seles, 7-6, 6-4, in the semifinals of the 1989 European Indoors in Zurich, Switzerland.