OAKLAND, Calif., Nov. 4 -- Second seed Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria rallied for a three-set victory over fourth-seeded American Mary Joe Fernandez Saturday night in the semifinals of the $430,000 Bank of the West Tennis Classic. Maleeva won, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 and will meet unseeded Ai Sugiyama of Japan in Sunday's final.
Earlier in the day, Sugiyama advanced to her first WTA Tour final of the year when third seed Lindsay Davenport of the United States was forced to default their semifinal match because of a back injury. Davenport's injury comes just four days after top seed Monica Seles was forced to withdraw from the tournament with tendinitis in her knees. Seles withdrew before her opening match. Maleeva, who has won two tournaments and lost in the finals of three others this year, posted a relatively easy 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over 15-year-old American phenom Venus Williams Friday. Maleeva won the first 15 points and was neither broken nor double-faulted in the match. Maleeva needed just 50 minutes to dispatch of Williams, who posted her best career win to date Wednesday when she rallied from a set down to defeat fifth seeded fellow American Amy Frazier in a second-round match. Fernandez, who has also won two tournaments this year, ousted fellow American Linda Harvey-Wild, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, in the quarterfinals. In other quarterfinal matches Friday, Sugiyama advanced with a three- set victory over Zina Garrison of the United States, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, and Davenport eliminated veteran Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. Davenport had admitted that her recent poor play had her considering dropping off the women's tour to attend college. Her recent poor run had dropped her to 10th in the world.