If they had gone to a tiebreaker, Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini might still be playing.
For nearly two hours, neither could deliver the decisive shot. It finally came from Sabatini, who floated a backhand long to give top-ranked Seles a 6-3, 7-5 victory in Saturday's final of the International Players Championships.Before that backhand, Sabatini had blown a 4-0, 40-0 advantage in the second set, allowing Seles to pull even at 4-4.
Leading 5-4, Sabatini failed to capitalize on six set points, instead letting Seles tie the set at 5. Then, serving with a 6-5 lead, Seles squandered four match points.
"I said, `If I come back from 4-love and still lose the second set, I'm going to kill myself,"' Seles said.
Instead, it was Sabatini left with the dark thoughts. The defeat broke her 15-match winning streak.
"At 4-0, 40-love, I should have put it away," the fourth-ranked Argentine said. "I was playing excellent tennis, mixing it up. It happened so fast - suddenly it was 4-all."
Sabatini recovered; in the 10th game, she was within a point of forcing a third set six times. But she made three unforced errors, and Seles hit a service winner and two winners from the baseline.
Seles finally held serve when Sabatini hit a return long, then broke at 15 for a 6-5 lead.
The tense final game went to deuce six times. Seles netted forehands on two match points, and Sabatini hit winners on two others. The sunny, 85-degree weather bothered both players.
"I was gasping for air," Seles said. "If we'd had another few points, I couldn't have taken it."
Seles earned $112,500; Sabatini won $56,250.
The title in the upset-filled men's tournament will be decided Sunday. The finalists are unseeded David Wheaton and No. 13 Jim Courier, former high school classmates and products of the same tennis academy in Bradenton, Fla.