Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Doubles partners will vie for title
Houston Chronicle - Sunday, November 22, 1987
Author: CHARLES CARDER
NEW YORK CITY - Doubles partners Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini - a couple of teen-aged tennis terrors - will meet today in the final of the Virginia Slims Championship at Madison Square Garden.
With the departure of the dominate tennis figures of the past decade - Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Pam Shriver - due to early round upsets, the youngsters are left to compete for the championship. They removed the last "veterans" in the semifinals on Saturday.
Graf, 18, needed only 67 minutes to eliminate the oldest of the semifinalists, 28-year-old Sylvia Hanika 6-1, 6-4. Sabatini, 17, required two hours and two minutes and three sets to dispose of 20-year-old Manuela Maleeva 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
The length of the semifinals may become a factor in the final, which is scheduled for best of five sets. Neither contestant has ever played more than three sets.
Graf was a finalist here a year ago but lost to Navratilova in three sets. Sabatini has never been scheduled for more than three.
"Maybe she (Graf) is in good shape because she won easily," Sabatini admitted after her long match. "I am a little tired now but I have a lot of time and I think I can be ready.
"I am very happy because I never thought I would be in the finals."
Graf, of West Germany, is the No. 1 seeded player and Sabatini, from Argentina, was seeded fifth. Graf gained the final by defeating Zina Garrison, Helena Sukova and Hanika, while Sabatini advanced with wins over Bettina Bunge, Navratilova and Maleeva.
Not only did Graf have the easier time in the semifinals, but she also has history on her side. She has never lost one of the 10 previous meetings with Sabatini. However, seven of the previous meetings have gone three sets.
Navratilova and Shriver repeated as doubles champions, defeating Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and Helena Sukova 6-1, 6-1. It was the third time in the last four years that Navratilova-Shriver have won the championship.
The Saturday matches attracted a single-session record of 17,312 despite subfreezing temperature and a chill factor of 12 degrees below zero.
Graf rolled in the first set, but the second set was a mixture of service breaks. Hanika was broken in the third, fifth and seventh games but Graf could not close it out because she lost her serve in the sixth and eighth games.
"It is very easy to lose concentration after the first set was so easy," Graf said. She admitted that she had been prepared to face Evert in the semifinals, but Hanika ruined that plan with her upset on Tuesday.
Graf said that she had been looking forward to meeting Navratilova in the final before she was upset by Sabatini in the semifinals.
"I was asleep Friday night, so I didn't find out about it until this morning," Graf said. "Maybe Martina was trying too hard, she was very eager to win the tournament. And I was looking forward to playing her."
Hanika said she had been very nervous during the first set but added that "I'm very satisfied with the way I've played in this tournament."
Hanika said she might extend her coaching agreement with former Rice University player Mike Estep. Estep, former coach of Navratilova, has worked for two weeks with Hanika.
"We'll talk about it in the next couple of days," Hanika said. "We'll see about the future."
Graf and Sabatini are very quiet individuals and sometimes are amazed how their innocence draws reactions from other people. Graf revealed that in the past they haven't talked when they were playing doubles.
"We're getting along better," she said. "Now we speak on the court."
After a round of laughter, she inquired, "Why is everyone laughing?"
Sabatini was so happy with her success that she smiled throughout her postmatch interview.
"Yes, I'm confident," she said. "I think this is the best moment for me in tennis. This match and last night (against Navratilova) have given me a lot of confidence. I never thought that I was going to lose.
"There is nothing that I will do differently, expect trying to concentrate from the beginning. I think that I am playing better than the last time we played (at Los Angeles in August).
"I think I've learned mentally and I know better how to play the points."
Maleeva was disturbed that she had made so many mistakes against Sabatini.
"I'm not pleased with the way I've played in this tournament, not after this match," Maleeva said. "Yes, I was pleased with the way I had played in the other matches.
"I shouldn't let these things bother me. But that is one of the mistakes I made."
Maleeva lost her serve in the first, seventh and ninth games of the first set while breaking Sabatini in the eighth game. But Sabatini lost her serve in the second set, in the third and fifth game, while breaking Maleeva in the eighth.
Neither player was able hold serve in the fourth through eighth games of the deciding set but, leading 5-3, Sabatini held to close out the match.
Hanika, who had just lost to Graf, was asked what a player has to do to halt Graf's 74-2 match winning record for this year.
"Well, come to the net against her, to play well, serve and volley and just go for it," Hanika said.
Sabatini, only 17 years old, will be going for it today against the No. 1 player in the world.