Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
It's No Slam, But Graf Beats Navratilova In Grand Style
September 10, 1989 | By JIM SARNI, Sentinel Staff Writer
FLUSHING MEADOW, N.Y. -- Steffi Graf won the Grand Slam here last year, and hardly cracked a smile. Graf was a picture of relief, not joy. The Grand Slam was over.
Graf won the U.S. Open again Saturday, but this time, she celebrated by eagerly running to the box seats with victory hugs for her father and coach.
Last year, Graf did what everyone knew she would do.
Saturday, Graf did what she knew she could do.
Graf beat Martina Navratilova 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, after Navratilova served at 4-3 in the second set.
Navratilova was two games from her first major title in two years, her first victory over Graf in two years.
That was as close as she came. Graf won 10 of the final 12 games to take her seventh title in a Grand Slam event in the last two years, and beat Navratilova -- the player she loves to beat the most -- for the third time in a row.
"It means so much more to win it again," said Graf.
The Grand Slam did not come with this title. That second swipe at history was missed at the French Open. But just barely. Graf was one game away from beating Arantxa Sanchez, before menstrual cramps struck.
Navratilova was two games away from beating Graf and claiming her 18th major title. Navratilova once won six majors in a row, but now she is zero for the last eight.
Navratilova put up two fingers to the crowd at 4-3 in the second set. She had to hold serve twice more, and the way she had been serving, that seemed certain.
But at 4-3, Navratilova doublefaulted twice and missed another ball. At 4- all, Navratilova failed to convert a break point. At 5-6, Graf broke at 15.
"I just didn't tighten the screws enough," said Navratilova. "I had chances to win, really good chances. I wasn't able to hold my serve when I really needed to. In the third set, Graf was a runaway train.
"I didn't play as well as I thought I would. I know how to beat Steffi, I just wasn't able to do that again. I came close."
Some people questioned Navratilova's nerves, whether fright takes over at the moment of might.
"I wasn't that close to be nervous," Navratilova said. "I think if I had been serving for the match, then you could say that. But I wasn't even thinking about being nervous. I was pretty relaxed for the most part. If anything, I was not concentrating."
Graf's nerves are like steel, as she proved again Saturday. Graf did not flinch when Navratilova made 71 percent of her first serves in the first set and 72 percent in the second set.
"I tried to hang in there and suddenly, I was returning better and I kept the ball in play," Graf said. "I fought hard."
Graf rallied to beat Gabriela Sabatini in three sets in Friday's semifinals, fighting off heat cramps at the end. Graf barely survived.
In another third set Saturday, Graf did not worry about anything.
"I knew it wouldn't be that easy," Graf said. "On the other hand, I was feeling very confident to win the second set. I said to myself 'Give everything.' If I get cramps at the end, it doesn't matter. Just try hard for it."
Graf did not win the Grand Slam again this year. She did not go 56-0 in the four biggest tournaments of the year.
Graf was 55-1, but that may be just as satisfying, because Graf beat Navratilova at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
"I don't think she really gave it to me, not like at Wimbledon, when she missed some easy points," said Graf. "I was fighting for this."
Graf has won three in a row against Navratilova and no one has done that since Tracy Austin won four in a row against Navratilova in 1978.
Navratilova is the player of the decade, but Graf may end up the player of the century. Navratilova won 15 tournaments in 10 years; Graf has won seven in two years.
"I don't think about losing the French Open," Graf said. "There was nothing I could do about it. I was sick at the end of the tournament, and I lost too much energy."
There was something Graf could do Saturday. Graf could outlast Navratilova.
"It helps having been there so many times recently," Navratilova said. "You get to that stage, so you know exactly what to do, because you've been doing it so many times.
"Whereas for me, it's like reading and writing. I've been there many times, but I haven't been there for awhile. I go back more from memory than instinct. I`m not discouraged. I know I can beat Steffi."
NAVRATILOVA VS. GRAF
Box of Steffi Graf`s 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory in 1 hour, 51 minutes:
First serve pct. 65 67
Aces 5 2
Service winners 4 7
Double faults 4 5
Placement winners 35 31
Unforced errors 17 17
Services held 12 10
Services broken 2 4
Total points 88 84
Approaches to net 25 100
Points won at net 17 60
The best three-year spans for Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert:
Player Year Rec. Pct.
Navratilova 1982 90-3 .968
1983 86-1 .989
1984 78-2 .975
Overall 254-6 .977
Player Year Rec. Pct.
Graf 1987 75-2 .974
1988 73-3 .961
1989 69-2 .972
Overall 217-7 .969
Player Year Rec. Pct.
Evert 1975 94-6 .940
1976 75-5 .938
1977 70-4 .946
Overall 239-15 .941