MARTINEZ, GRAF GAIN SLIMS FINAL FERNANDEZ FALLS IN STRAIGHT SETS
The Miami Herald - Sunday, March 8, 1992
Author: AMY NIEDZIELKA
The rain finally went away -- after three hours -- and Mary Joe Fernandez did a little later, losing, 6-0, 7-5, to Steffi Graf in Saturday night's rain-delayed semifinal of the Virginia Slims of Florida at The Polo Club Boca Raton.
In the earlier semifinal, Conchita Martinez ended the upset run of Amanda Coetzer, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, setting up today's 2 p.m. final between Martinez and Graf.
Martinez and Graf have met five times, with Graf winning every match.
The rain-soaked 2,000 or so who stayed for the Fernandez-Graf match must have been wondering during a hasty first set why they bothered.
The top-seeded Graf surrendered only three points in the 17-minute first set to Fernandez, who double-faulted four times and couldn't handle Graf's 90-plus mile-per-hour first serve.
"She hit some balls on the frame and she made some double faults," Graf said. "She wasn't really into it."
Fernandez, seeded third, finally got into it in the second set, breaking Graf in the first game.
"Once you get a game you feel like it's a new match," Fernandez said. "It's a new set. Whether you lose (the first set) 6-0 or 7-6, it's over with and you have to start fresh."
Graf took leads of 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 in the second set, but Fernandez kept fighting back, holding serve despite being down two break points and then breaking Graf at love to go up, 5-4.
The crowd was on Fernandez's side by then, giving her a standing ovation when she and Graf retook the court. Graf ended the comeback right there, however, winning the next three games.
Fernandez said she had a hard time getting into the match after the rain delay. Graf, who simply walked across the street to her home, wasn't bothered by it.
"I felt good," Graf said. "I just stayed home a while and watched some TV."
Well before the rain began to fall, Coetzer did in three sets, but not until proving to Martinez that she had earned her earlier victories over eighth-seeded Judith Weisner and second- seeded Gabriela Sabatini.
Coetzer, ranked No. 61 in the world, relied on patience, easy strokes and quick feet throughout the match. Her first serves rarely exceeded 74 mph and occasionally dropped into the low-60s. Her groundstrokes were laced with purpose, not power.
In fact, with Coetzer it was hard to tell when the warm-up ended and the match began. Seemingly content to keep the ball in play, Coetzer patrolled the baseline, letting almost nothing past as she waited for Martinez to make mistakes.
Martinez made quite a few in the first set, committing 29 unforced errors, four fewer than she made in the last two sets combined. She quickly lost the first four games, including two service games at love.
"It's really difficult," Martinez said. "You have to wait and try to win all the points because she doesn't miss a lot."
After dropping the first game of the second set, however, Martinez got consistent, Coetzer got sloppy and suddenly Martinez, 19, the No. 8 player in the world, had a 3-1 lead.
"I was thinking, 'I have a chance,' " she said. "I said, 'OK, come on, let's do it.' "
She did it, winning nine of the last 11 games.
"When I started playing more aggressive, it was a lot better," Martinez said. "I started very bad. It's impossible to play that bad all the match."
While Martinez was tightening up her game, Coetzer's was unraveling, and fast. In the third set she hit no winners and committed 18 unforced errors.
"I let my mind slip a bit and she started playing more defensively, not making as many mistakes," Coetzer said. "I was thinking of winning the match and she just started to hit back as many balls as she could."
The loss ended Coetzer's wild upset ride. Not even Coetzer's family expected her to make it this far.
After her victory over Sabatini Friday, Coetzer said she called her parents in South Africa with the news. Her dad answered the phone.
"I feel sorry for you. How bad was it?" Coetzer's father asked.
"Well, I won," Amanda said.
There was a silence before the elder Coetzer spoke again.
"He said he has a bad heart and I should speak to my mom first," Coetzer said.
Singles semifinals: Conchita Martinez (4) d. Amanda Coetzer, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0; Steffi Graf (1) d. Mary Joe Fernandez (3), 6-0, 7-5.
Doubles semifinals: Linda Harvey-Wild/Conchita Martinez d. Meredith McGrath/Rennae Stubbs, 6-3, 6-4.
11 a.m.: Larisa Savchenko/Natalia Zvereva (1) vs. Eva Pfaff/Catherine Suire.
2 p.m.: Conchita Martinez (4) vs. Steffi Graf (1); followed by Linda Harvey-Wild/Conchita Martinez vs. Savchenko/Zvereva- Pfaff/Suire winner.