COETZER UPSETS SABATINI; GRAF TOPS GARRISON
The Palm Beach Post - Saturday, March 7, 1992
Author: PATRICK McMANAMON
Gabriela Sabatini expected a tough match Friday against Amanda Coetzer.
She didn't expect Coetzer to cramp her style, though.
Coetzer won the biggest match of her career in the quarterfinals of the Virginia Slims of Florida , beating Sabatini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and knocking the defending champion and No. 2 seed out of the tournament.
Though Coetzer played well, Sabatini was slowed by cramps in both legs and her right (racket) arm.
Coetzer advanced to today's 2 p.m. semifinal at the Polo Club Boca Raton, where she will play No. 4 seed Conchita Martinez. Martinez beat Barbara Rittner 6-1, 6-0.
"I think I have a better chance now (that Sabatini has lost)," Martinez said. "But, everybody plays good."
In tonight's 7 o'clock semifinal, top seed Steffi Graf faces No. 3 Mary Joe Fernandez. Graf survived a three-set match, as Zina Garrison rebounded from a 6-0 first-set loss to win the second set 7-5 before Graf took the third 7-5. Fernandez beat Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 6-2.
Coetzer, a 20-year-old South African ranked No. 61, took advantage of Sabatini's cramps, which worsened as the two-hour, 13-minute match continued in midday heat.
By the middle of the third set, Sabatini could hardly move her legs. At one point, a cramp gripped her arm and she tried unsuccessfully to hit the ball left-handed.
"The hand was closed and it wouldn't open," Sabatini said. "It was scary."
Sabatini said the cramps, which had happened only once before to her (in a 1990 loss to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in Canada), were a mystery. She drank her normal amount of fluids before and during the match, and she said she was ready to play the tournament.
"It's a little disappointing," Sabatini said. "Why did that happen?"
Trailing 4-2 in the third set, Sabatini asked for a trainer, but all the trainer told her to do was stretch and drink water. Sabatini thought about quitting, but she wanted to keep trying.
"It was surprising, and disappointing," Sabatini said. "I was ready. I prepared very well to play the tournament. I just wonder why that happened."
Coetzer said she would think about the win, not Sabatini's injury.
"I know I played a good match," Coetzer said. "It won't take anything away from it."
Graf took just 39 minutes to win the first set and take a 5-2, 40-15 lead in the second.
"Realistically," Garrison said, "I was thinking of going to the net and saying, `Sorry I didn't give you any competition today.' "
Inexplicably, Graf let the second set slip away. A match that could have ended in less than 50 minutes took two hours and five minutes and plenty of hard work.
Garrison came back to win the second set 7-5, then took a 4-3 lead in the third set.
"At first there was not much going wrong in my game," said Graf, a Polo Club resident. "What she was going for didn't work at all. Then I got a little on the defense, and she was going for her shots. She didn't miss. She played great shots, but I wasn't aggressive enough.
"That's what I turned around at the end of the match."
In addition, a ball boy upset Garrison in the third set. Leading 4-3 and serving at deuce, she missed a first serve and turned for another ball.
He stared into space.
Garrison stomped on the ground, and he continued to stare.
Garrison finally yelled, got the ball and missed her second serve.
After she put a forehand into the net, the match was tied and Garrison angrily looked at the ball boy.
"He just wasn't there," Garrison said, adding the incident affected her rhythm. "It was a huge point and his focus was somewhere else."
Garrison said, though, that she lost because she didn't play the key points aggressively enough.
"I felt I should have won it," Garrison said.
Graf was just happy to win.
"Even though it was close," she said, "and I should have beaten her easy, I'm happy and I am looking forward to (today)."
Fernandez said she knew what had happened to Graf, and when she led the second set 5-2 she thought of it.
"I said, `All right, you've got to win and not fool around here,' " Fernandez said.