Originally created 04/18/99

Rubin, Seles earn wins for U.S.



RALEIGH, N.C. -- Chanda Rubin, filling in for injured Lindsay Davenport, struggled for a victory and Monica Seles breezed to another Saturday, giving the United States a 2-0 lead over Croatia in the first round of the Federation Cup.

It took Rubin three hours to beat Iva Majoli 7-6 (7-5) 4-6, 10-8, while Seles needed just 63 minutes to defeat Silvija Talaja 6-3, 6-1.

The United States ended up playing host to the event after it was relocated from Zagreb, Croatia, because of NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia.

Strong winds hampered both Rubin and Majoli. The wind kept the flags around the court flapping for the entire match and was so strong it blew over plastic chairs in the upper decks of the sold-out Raleigh Racquet Club.

"It was really strong, but it was the same for both of us, so we both had to struggle with the wind," said Majoli, who lost for the first time on the first day of a Fed Cup series. "I don't know when was the last time I played in such a strong wind."

After dropping the first set, Majoli started strong in the second, going ahead 4-2.

Rubin came back to even the set at 4-4, breaking Majoli three times. But Majoli won the next two games quickly to take the set.

Rubin went up 5-3 in the third but Majoli seemed to regain momentum when she hit her first ace to win the ninth game. Majoli went on to tie the set 5-5 and it went to 8-8.

Majoli served in the 17th game but Rubin battled her to deuce. Majoli then sent a shot wide and another shot long to give Rubin the game.

Serving for the match, Rubin went ahead 40-15. Majoli drew to 40-30 after Rubin hit a shot wide. But Majoli hit a ball into the net after a rally on match point to give Rubin the victory.

"It was a tough match," Rubin said. "I didn't feel like I was playing really good tennis at the beginning, and both sets were really tight. And going into the third I wanted to get some kind of a rhythm."

Seles, the world's No. 3 player, took control early in the second match, frustrating the 21-year-old Talaja with backhand and forehand winners.

The players switch opponents today. A doubles match between Lisa Raymond and Seles and Majoli and Talaja will conclude the best-of-5 series.

In other World Group I matches Saturday, Slovakia took a 2-0 lead over Switzerland at Zurich; Russia and France were tied 1-1 in Moscow; and Italy and Spain split their two matches in Reggio Calabria.

Slovakia swept Switzerland, which was playing without stars Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder.

Karina Habsudova defeated Emmanuelle Giagliardi 7-6 (8-6), 6-0, and Henrieta Nagyova struggled to a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Caecilia Charbonnier.

Australian Open finalist Amelie Mauresmo gave France the lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Elena Likhovtseva, but Tatiana Panova defeated Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 6-2 for the 1-1 tie.

Silvia Farina fought back from a set down to defeat Spain's Virginia Ruano-Pascual 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 and lift Italy into a 1-1 tie with the defending Federation Cup champions. In the day's first match, Magu Serna cruised to a 6-2, 6-4 win over Rita Grande.

In World Group II matches, one level below Group I, Belgium held a 2-0 lead over the Netherlands; Australia was ahead 2-0 over Austria; and Belarus and the Czech Republic were tied 1-1.

The match between Japan and Germany has been postponed until April 24-25.