SABATINI WOULD SETTLE FOR FOURTH TITLE WILL BREAK 3-CHAMPIONSHIP TIE WITH EVERT; GRAF TOP SEED
Sun-Sentinel - Sunday, March 1, 1992
Author: JIM SARNI
BOCA RATON -- The woman in the black leather jacket gets down from the seat of her Honda 600 motorcyle and removes her helmet. She shakes out the most famous raven hair in tennis.
Gabriela Sabatini, the flower child of the Virginia Slims of Florida, is a rebel at heart.
"My friends have motorcycles, my brother has one, so why not me?" Sabatini said with a wink.
At 21, Sabatini has discovered that there is more to life than a topspin backhand. She bought her new toy last week in Key Biscayne.
"I'm looking for a balance between tennis and other things," Sabatini said. "I am feeling more mature."
"Gaby has reached an age where she sees more things," said Carlos Kirmayr, her coach. "She's growing up, and different interests get her mind out of the pressure of tennis. She's learned how to take a break and rest without feeling guilty that she is not doing something for her tennis."
The break is about over. Sabatini is getting ready to rev it up on the court.
March in South Florida: It's one of Gaby's favorite times. She loves the place, and she loves the tournaments. For four years, Sabatini has ridden off with either the Virginia Slims (1988, 1990, 1991) or Lipton (1989) titles.
This week at The Polo Club, Sabatini will try to become the first woman to win the tournament four times, breaking a tie with Chris Evert, who won the first three.
Steffi Graf is the top seed, but that's because the seeds are based on the rankings. Look at the numbers: Sabatini has beaten Graf the last six times they've played in Florida, including last year at Slims and Lipton.
Graf lives at The Polo Club, but she wishes Boca Raton would secede from the state. (Come to think of it, Boca Raton seems to believe it's a separate world.)
Sabatini has owned the Virginia Slims of Florida for two years, although the event has also belonged to Jennifer Capriati, who made her extraordinary pro debut in 1990 and returned for a successful encore last year. Capriati is staying home in Saddlebrook this time, and the tournament is finally the Slims of Sabatini. The tournament even named a rose after her.
"That was very nice," Sabatini said. "I love roses."
Sabatini said she did not feel slighted by the Capriati-mania.
"You don't feel as much pressure when the attention is on the other players," Sabatini said. "The recognition doesn't matter. I have plenty of fans."
Noisy ones. Sabatini may have the most vocal rooting section in tennis. From Boca to Rome, Sabatini fans are legendary. They sing, they wave banners and flags; they'll probably throw roses onto the court at The Polo Club.
"My fans make a lot of noise," she said. "I like it that way."
The Sabatini-ites liked the way their heroine started the season last year. She won five titles in her first seven tournaments, took over the lead in the Kraft point standings and challenged for the No. 1 ranking.
But after a 34-2 start, Sabatini slipped. She did not win another tournament after the Italian Open. She was beaten badly by Monica Seles in the French Open semifinals, failed to put Graf away in her first Wimbledon final and was dethroned by Capriati at the U.S. Open.
"I started thinking about being No. 1 last year and that wasn't good," said Sabatini, who finished No. 3. "I should have just tried to play good tennis, match after match. This year I want to concentrate on the Grand Slams. It was a great feeling when I won the U.S. Open, but I have not won a Grand Slam since. I want to get that feeling back again."
Heading down the highway, looking for adventure.
Last edited by Ms. Anthropic; Nov 30th, 2012 at 06:06 PM.