MAHWAH, N.J. (Aug 26, 1995 - 21:01 EDT) - Czech star Jana Novotna, fearful of aggravating a sprained toe injury, quit midway in a well-played semifinal match with Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria in the $115,000 Pathmark Women's Classic tennis tournament on Saturday.
Maleeva, seeded third, sparkled with her service return in an abbreviated 74-minute duel that ended 4-6 4-3 with Novotna limping off the court for further treatment to the second toe of her right foot.
The 20-year-old Maleeva, seeking to duplicate the title earned here by her sister, Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, in 1987, will next meet the winner of the late Saturday night semifinal between sixth seeded Chanda Rubin of the United States and unseeded Ai Sugiyama of Japan. Sugiyama had upset top-seeded Conchita Martinez of Spain in the second round.
"I'm disappointed because I thought I could win the tournament," said the second-seeded Novotna. "I was worried that I could make it worse by continuing. It was painful and I couldn't run."
Novotna noted that the injury first flared during a doubles match at Wimbledon this summer. The 26-year-old Novotna felt that she didn't want to endanger her chances at the upcoming U.S. Open.
"I may have to ask for a one-day postponement if I am scheduled for a match on Monday," said Novotna, who is seeded fifth at the U.S. Open. "Grand Slams are the most important thing and I want to be ready to play there."
Maleeva played quite well, constantly taking the offense against Novotna.
"I was surprised at how good she was considering that she has not played since the French Open," Novotna said. "Her returns will make her dangerous at the U.S. Open."
Maleeva rapped a blistering forehand service return winner to score a service break and pull even at 4-4 in the opening set. But Novotna broke back in the ninth game on an angled backhand service return and then held in the 10th.
In the second set, Maleeva moved to a 3-1 lead when Novotna double faulted in the fourth game. The Bulgarian player held to 4-1 on an ace and a backhand pass after two deuces. It was at this stage that Novotna signaled for a trainer and had her toe taped for support.
Novotna held in the sixth game and broke in the seventh to get back on serve before calling it a day.
"It was a day when most of my shots were working, especially my returns," said Maleeva, who has moved to number seven in the world rankings.
She sprained an ankle in losing a second-round match at the French Open and stayed off the circuit to prepare for the U.S. Open.