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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kournikova Collapses Under Late Pierce Rally




NEW YORK -- Two points away from defeat, fifth-seeded Mary Pierce tried to win the next point. Then the next and the next.


Two hours and one minute after their match began Monday, Pierce walked off the Madison Square Garden court with a 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-0 victory over a shell-shocked Anna Kournikova.


The hard-earned victory puts Pierce into the quarterfinals of the season-ending Chase Championships of the WTA Tour, where she will face the winner of Tuesday night's match between top-seeded Martina Hingis and Sandrine Testud of France.


Earlier Monday, seventh-seeded Barbara Schett of Austria made a successful Garden debut by easily dominating veteran Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-1, 6-4.


Kournikova, using the entire court for her well-placed ground strokes and controlling play, won the opening set and led the second 5-2. When she pulled to deuce on Pierce's serve in the eighth game, the 18-year-old Russian was only two points away from a possible quarterfinal match against Hingis.


It was not to be.


"I wasn't moving well at all, making easy mistakes," Pierce said.


That changed.


"I took it point by point, tried to think positive," said the French woman.


She held, beginning a three-game run that knotted the second set 5-5. After the two traded love games, they split the first eight points in the tiebreaker.


Kournikova saved one set point when Pierce was wide with a backhand cross court. But when the pigtailed Russian buried a backhand into the net on the next point, the match was even at one tiebreaker set apiece.


Seeing the match slip out of her grasp like that was devastating to Kournikova. In the third set, she won just five points.


Schett, smashing forehands, backhands and overheads, ripped winners from all over the court in the 12 minutes it took to play the first five games of her match against Sanchez-Vicario. The crowd finally had something to cheer when Sanchez-Vicario held from 30 in the sixth game to get on the scoreboard.


Nineteen minutes after Schett had struck the first serve of the night, she had wrapped up the opening set.


Sanchez-Vicario, who just barely made it into this elite 16-player field, finally found a few openings in the second set, holding her first three serves, two from deuce. After she lost her serve in the seventh game, she broke right back to level the set 4-4.


Two games later, the Spaniard, who will turn 28 next month, had been eliminated from her 12th Garden tournament. It was her earliest exit since 1995, and only her third first-round loss on the blue carpet.


"It went too fast," Sanchez-Vicario said. "All the games, you know, went on her side really fast."


In the quarterfinals, Schett will face the winner of Wednesday night's match between third-seeded Venus Williams and Conchita Martinez.