NO. 61 TOPS SABATINI IN THREE SETS GRAF GETS A LATE SCARE BUT DEFEATS GARRISON
The Miami Herald - Saturday, March 7, 1992
Author: AMY NIEDZIELKA
Gabriela Sabatini looked down at her shoes. No answer there. She looked at the sky. No answer there. Shoulders drooping, legs and hands hurting, Sabatini finally leaned in for the next serve, soon to lose to the 61st-ranked player in the world in the quarterfinals of the Virginia Slims of Florida at the Polo Club Boca Raton.
Leg cramps, hand cramps and Amanda Coetzer had combined Friday to puzzle, frustrate, exhaust and finally defeat Sabatini, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Steffi Graf was a little confused for a while, too. Things went from easy to three sets as Graf's 6-0, 5-2 lead over Zina Garrison turned into a long, hard match that Graf nearly gave away before prevailing, 6-0, 5-7, 7-5.
Graf will face Miami's Mary Joe Fernandez, who defeated Nathalie Tauziat, 6-4, 6-2, in one semifinal today. Coetzer will take on Conchita Martinez, a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Barbara Rittner, in the other.
Disbelief abounded after both the upset and near-upset of the day. Sabatini couldn't believe she was afflicted with such painful, all-over-the-body cramps for the first time in her career. Graf couldn't figure out how she let a flawless first set turn into a tough two-hour match.
"I've been training very hard. I was ready," said Sabatini, the defending Florida Slims champion who lives on Key Biscayne. "I just wonder why this happened."
Coetzer, a five-foot-two South African, had a little to do with it. Coetzer forced long points with consistent groundstrokes in the first set that left Sabatini breathless.
"I was feeling very tired," Sabatini said. "She was opening the court very well, so I was running a lot."
Coetzer, 20, who had not defeated a top-10 player before, showed no emotion throughout the match, although she had most of a sellout crowd of 6,181 roaring by the third set.
"Get the cameras on the kid!" a man in the bleachers shouted after Coetzer had broken Sabatini to go up, 4-2, in the final set.
Sabatini's topspin-heavy strokes were answered time and again by the short, conservative swing of Coetzer, who was as surprised as anyone that she was beating up on the No. 3 player in the world.
"I never really knew I had her," she said. "At my level, I can't really plan to win a tournament."
The top-seeded Graf, on the other hand, has her eyes on the title, especially now that second-seeded Sabatini is out. Still, she was dismayed by her inability to put Friday's quarterfinal away convincingly.
"It's disappointing to let it slip away," she said. "You play so well to a certain point, and then you let the opponent get into the match -- that's what's disappointing."
Garrison was disappointed for other reasons. She came back for a 4-2 lead in the third set -- to the delight of the crowd -- but failed twice to hold serve when it counted.
"I felt I should have won it," Garrison said. "I still need to be a lot more aggressive when I'm up and go for my shots."
Garrison admitted that she was ready to pack up her racquet and go home after winning no games in the first set.
"I was thinking I was just going to go to the net and say, 'I'm sorry I didn't give you any competition today,' " she said.
Garrison got into the match just in time, however, by going to the net more and trying more shots -- like an impossible forehand drop shot from the service line that pulled the crowd out of its seats.
"She played some crazy shots," Graf said.
In the end, Graf's strong forehand and offensive slices halted Garrison's comeback just before she hit the tape. Down 6-5 and serving, Garrison didn't win a point.
"It felt very quick," Garrison said. "The points were just breezing by."
And that was rare on a day when nothing seemed to come easy.
Even Fernandez, who played after both close matches, got a little uneasy when she took a 5-2 lead in the second set.
"I said, 'All right, pretend this is a game you have to win and don't fool around,' " she said.
A German magazine published a picture of a woman sunbathing in the nude and said it was Graf.
The Munich-based Bunte, a news and lifestyle magazine, published what it said was a photo of Graf lounging by a swimming pool at Graf's private Polo Club home in Boca Raton.
The hazy picture shows two unidentifiable women, one sitting in a lounge chair and another on a lawn cot looking skyward and holding what appears to be a red towel in an attempt to cover up.
Bunte said the seated person in the picture was Graf's mother, Heidi, 47.
The photos were published late Thursday, the same day Graf blasted what she said was a photo taken of her from a helicopter 11 days ago.
Singles quarterfinals: Steffi Graf (1) d. Zina Garrison (7), 6-0, 5-7, 7-5; Amanda Coetzer d. Gabriela Sabatini (2), 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; Mary Joe Fernandez (3) d. Nathalie Tauziat (5), 6-4, 6-2; Conchita Martinez (4), Spain, def. Barbara Rittner (16), Germany, 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles quarterfinals: Meredith McGrath/Rennae Stubbs d. Alexia Dechaume/Kristin Godridge, 6-2, 6-3; Eva Pfaff/Catherine Suire d. Silvia Farina/Linda Ferrando, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (9-7); Larisa Savchenko/Natalia Zvereva (1) d. Jo Durie/Lise Gregory, 6-3, 6-3.
2 p.m.: Conchita Martinez (4) vs. Amanda Coetzer; Linda Harvey-Wild/Conchita Martinez vs. Meredith McGrath/Rennae Stubbs (8).
7 p.m.: Steffi Graf (1) vs. Mary Joe Fernandez (3); Larisa Savchenko/Natalia Zvereva (1) vs. Eva Pfaff/Catherine Suire.