Originally created 04/12/98

Pierce, Martinez advance to Amelia Island final



AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- One thing is missing from Mary Pierce's impressive three-year run through the Bausch & Lomb Championships -- a first-place finish.

Runnerup in the $450,000 clay-court event the past two springs, Pierce will get another shot at the elusive title after upsetting defending champion Lindsay Davenport 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinals.

After losing to Irina Spirlea in 1996 and dropping last year's final to Davenport, who's ranked second in the world, the sixth-ranked Pierce vowed to return to Amelia Island and finally win the crown.

She'll face ninth-ranked Conchita Martinez, a 6-4, 6-0 winner over fourth-ranked Amanda Coetzer, with Sunday's winner earning $79,000.

Asked what she needs to do differently to leave with the title this time, the 1995 Australian Open champion said, "Nothing."

"Win, hopefully," she said. "The last two years, I've just had tough opponents."

Pierce won the first three games of the second set to take control against Davenport, who admitted to becoming too passive when her opponent began to dictate the pace.

And when the top seed tried to fight back, Pierce had all the answers -- breaking the defending champion for a 4-3 lead in the second set before saving four break points in the ninth game to even the match.

"Obviously it's disappointing," Davenport said. "I was playing well coming into today. Mary and I play similar style games, and she played it better today."

Pierce beat Davenport for the first time in three career meetings on clay and ended a four-match losing streak to her overall, dating to the 1994 Federation Cup. Her only victory in five previous matches came in the 1993 Australian Open.

"She's really a tough opponent for me. She has the kind of game that I dislike playing against," Pierce, the fourth seed, said.

"I don't feel in total control (against her). I don't feel dominated either. But when I don't feel like I'm in control of the points I used to tend to panic a little bit, and not know what to do. ... I think the key to going up against somebody like Lindsay is to just go out there with a game plan and stick to it."

Davenport was not as aggressive as she was in attacking Anna Kournikova in Friday's quarterfinals. Another factor was Pierce's ability to play her best on the most important points.

"I thought she might make a few errors. I think she made a lot less than the previous matches against me," Davenport said.

"I didn't convert many of the break points I had, especially in the second set and a couple in the third. A couple of times she hits some great shots, and maybe I needed to take a few more risks and just go for it."

Despite the disparity between their rankings, the result of the Martinez-Coetzer semifinal was not a big surprise.

Martinez, the sixth seed, is 12-1 lifetime against Coetzer, who was the No. 2 seed. Eleven of those victories have come in straight sets.

"It seems like I have the same match against her every time," said Coetzer, last week's winner at Hilton Head, S.C. "The history, I think, has been printed in my mind and I run out of answers to what I can I do out there."