Monica Seles deserted her usual baseline territory for something closer to a net game and rallied to become the youngest Australian Open women's champion Saturday.
Seles, plagued by errors on her usually deadly groundstrokes in the first set, became more aggressive in the second and third sets and rattled Jana Novotna for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory.The Florida-based Yugoslav allowed just five points in the first five games of the final set as she raced to a 5-1 lead, and closed the victory with her sixth straight game when Novotna sent a backhand volley long.
It was such mistakes that did Novotna in. She committed 51 unforced errors, more than double Seles' total, and although her volley winners outnumbered Seles 15-4, that was four more than might have been expected from a player usually glued to the back.
On a blistering day, with temperatures on the court registering 130 degrees Fahrenheit, Seles turned the tables on Novotna and replaced Margaret Court as the youngest Australian women's winner, at 17 years, 2 months. Court was four months older when she won in 1960.
The victory - the second Grand Slam championship for Seles after last year's French Open victory - also moved her to within 38 points of Steffi Graf at the top of the women's rankings.
Seles could take over the No. 1 spot as early as next week.
After that sloppy first set, Seles took charge. She was on top through most of the second set and the finale was all hers.
She showed the stuff of champions, adapting her game to beat a top-ranked foe in challenging conditions for the big prize.
By the third set, Novotna, who upset Graf in the quarterfinals, was flustered and making error after error. After Seles went from 0-1 to 5-1, allowing two points only in the second game of that run, Novotna moved to 40-0 in the sixth game. It looked as she would get one more chance, but Seles was having none of that.
She came back to the first of three deuces on a long forehand, saved another game point on a backhand passing shot down the line and a fifth on a forehand service return. Novotna then double-faulted, and Seles closed it on the final error and skipped to the net in joy.