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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Graf Leads Women Into the Semifinals

MELBOURNE -- Gabriela Sabatini rose from her sick bed on Tuesday to join Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and surprise contender Kimiko Date in the semifinals of the Australian Open.


The Argentine fourth seed, whose participation had been in doubt after she woke up feeling ill, had just enough strength in reserve to beat Wimbledon finalist Jana Novotna 6-3, 6-4 and reach her third successive semifinal at Flinders Park.


Sabatini now meets Sanchez Vicario, while world No. 1 Graf takes on Date, the first Japanese woman to reach the last four for 21 years following an impressive 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory against third seed Conchita Martinez.


Sabatini and Date will both remember the day with pleasure, even though the temperature soared to a sweltering 39 degrees celsius for a second day in succession.


Sabatini needed to spend only 85 minutes in the hothouse environment of Centre Court, but said later she would almost certainly have had to withdraw if her match had been scheduled during the day.


"I woke up feeling very sick and dizzy. I've never felt like that before," she said.


Date had given notice of a potential upset earlier this month when she thrashed Martinez 6-3, 6-0 on her way to the New South Wales Open title in Sydney. The 23-year-old from Kyoto's consistent ground strokes put Martinez under remorseless pressure for most of the one hour 56 minute match.


Date is naturally left-handed but was told to employ a right-handed grip at an early age by her family. "Twenty years ago it was regarded as nice for a girl to be right-handed and my grandfather put pressure on me to change," said Date, who switched hands briefly against Martinez to set up match point.


Graf's win over American Lindsay Davenport took her to her 27th Grand Slam semifinal in 38 appearances and only strengthened the impression that her 15th major title is imminent.


Her 17-year-old opponent hit the ball as hard as anyone the top seed has faced this year, but her lack of mobility increasingly told in the second set.


"I think she knows physically she can get in better shape and that's probably why she's not moving as good as she can," said Graf.


Sanchez Vicario was still insisting she could give Graf a run for her money despite a scratchy 7-6, 6-4 win over Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, playing her final Grand Slam tournament before retirement. "I have more confidence than last year, I'm serving better and I definitely think I have a chance this year to get further."