By BRUCE SMITH
.c The Associated Press
CHARLESTON, S.C. (April 21) -- Iva Majoli became the lowest-ranked player to win a top-tier tournament when she defeated Patty Schnyder 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 Sunday for the championship of the Family Circle Cup, her first singles title since the 1997 French Open.
The match was also the first top tier women's final featuring two unseeded players, with Majoli ranked 58th in the world and Schnyder 30th.
Majoli also became the first unseeded player to win the Family Circle Cup, earning $182,000 in the $1.2 million tournament at the Tennis Center at Daniel Island. Majoli had missed almost a year on the tour after undergoing shoulder surgery in 1999.
"It's been a great week. I mean, it feels so good to win again after like a couple of years,'' Majoli said.
Upsets were the rule during the Family Circle, which saw only two seeded players reach the semifinals.
Schnyder defeated three top 10 players, eliminating No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo in the second round, No. 7 Serena Williams in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Jennifer Capriati in Saturday's semifinals.
"I couldn't expect it from me to play a match like a day before or two days ago,'' Schnyder said. "I thought I could win the whole thing, but I lived so many great moments during the week and it's been the best week of my life.''
"I think there was a lot more pressure on her after beating all the top seeds to win,'' said Majoli, who beat Schnyder for the first time in five matches. "It's a very big difference to play under all that pressure.''
Sunday's match on the green clay of stadium court, where a thermometer read 114 degrees, featured nine service breaks in the first set. In the tiebreaker, Majoli built a 5-1 lead, but Schnyder closed within 6-5 before sending a ball long, giving Majoli the set.
Schnyder broke Majoli in the next game to take the early lead in the second set. But Majoli broke back in the second game and, leading 5-4 in the set, surrendered only one point in breaking Schnyder in the final game to seal the victory.
Saturday's loss cost Capriati her No. 1 ranking. Venus Williams, who did not play at the Family Cup, regains the top ranking after just over a month.
The lowest-ranked player ever to reach the final of a top-tier tournament was Capriati, who was unranked when she lost to Martina Navratilova at the Family Circle in 1990.
The tour was restructured in 1980 to feature a series of top-level events with bigger names and bigger purses. There are currently nine Tier I events on the Sanex WTA Tour.
Before Sunday, the lowest-ranked player to win a top-tier tournament was Lisa Bonder, who was No. 54 when she won the Tokyo Queen's Classic back in 1983.
04/21/02 17:24 EDT
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.
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