GRAF, MARTINEZ REACH SLIMS FINAL
The Palm Beach Post - Sunday, March 8, 1992
Author: PATRICK McMANAMON
Conchita Martinez said she lacked passion early in her Virginia Slims of Florida semifinal match against Amanda Coetzer.
Had she watched Steffi Graf later Saturday night, Martinez would have learned how to start a match.
Both Martinez and Graf won to advance to today's 2 p.m. final at the Polo Club Boca Raton.
Martinez, the No. 4 seed playing in 105-degree, on-court, afternoon heat, came back to beat unseeded Amanda Coetzer 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
In the evening semifinal, No. 1 Graf waited out a three-hour rain delay at her Polo Club home, then beat No. 3 seed Mary Joe Fernandez 6-0, 7-5.
For Graf, the rain delay, which left half the sellout crowd sitting home when the match started at 10:10 p.m., was no problem. She sat in her living room across the street and watched all but the last 10 minutes of Beverly Hills Cop 2.
She then won the first set in 17 minutes, losing just three points.
"I was so relaxed," Graf said. "I felt really good."
While Graf relaxed on her couch, Fernandez fidgeted.
"There wasn't much to do," Miami's Fernandez said. "My family was here, so I just sat in the players' lounge and chatted and waited."
Fernandez found her game in the second set, taking a 5-4 lead with the serve. But Graf broke Fernandez and won the next two games to advance.
"Every match I've started 6-0 or 6-1 in the first set, and it's like I don't realize I'm playing that well," Graf said. "It's like wait a minute, it's not supposed to be so easy."
"I was a little unfortunate not to win the second set," Fernandez said, "but that's the way it goes."
Graf has won all seven times that she has played Fernandez, without losing a set. Graf said Fernandez's style helps her game.
"I like the way she plays," Graf said. "Her rhythm. She plays very solid. I like the way she plays so she really gets me into my rhythm."
Graf has never lost a set to Martinez,
either. Graf has won all five matches against Martinez, the last a 6-0, 6-3 victory in the Virginia Slims championships last November.
"She's been playing very good lately," Graf said. "She plays high topspin and can play great points, but sometimes she can miss easy points. I have to be aware."
Martinez, from Barcelona, Spain, earned her second consecutive berth in a final-- she lost to Monica Seles last week in Indian Wells, Calif.--
Early in the match, though, Martinez looked sloppy. She made 29 unforced errors in the first set, and trailed 4-0.
"I didn't have enough passion," Martinez said.
Once she gained that passion, Coetzer couldn't compete with Martinez's groundstrokes, as neither player strayed far from the baseline.
"After I won the first set I was thinking of winning the match," said Coetzer, a South African who upset second-seeded Gabriela Sabatini to reach the semifinals. "She started to hit back as many balls as she could."
In truth, neither player played well, preferring to hit moon-ball shots rather than attack. In three sets, Martinez approached the net 14 times, Coetzer seven.
Martinez made 62 unforced errors, an unusually high number for a winner. Coetzer did her part by making 46 unforced errors. The difference-- Martinez had 26 winners compared to Coetzer's 11. Only 20 of 172 points were won at the net.
Martinez took control early in the second set. She trailed 1-0 when chair umpire Lynda Hinshaw gave her a warning for receiving coaching from the stands.
Her coach of five months, Francisco Lopez, was sitting in the first row at the end of the court. Martinez said he only said "come on" in Spanish.
"Because they don't understand Spanish, they gave me a warning," Martinez said. "We only talk before a match, not during."
Whether it was coincidence or not, Martinez won 12-of-14 games after the warning. Martinez said it was because she started so badly, not because the warning inspired her.
"It's impossible to play that bad all the match," she said.
Before Lopez, Martinez trained with Miguel Mir. She said the switch has been positive.
"He's helping me a lot," Martinez said. "With my game, and out of the court. We're great friends. When all that goes good, everything goes good. On the court, everything is easy."
Neither player seemed unhappy with the day, though Martinez obviously was happier.
"I'm not disappointed, even though the third set was 6-0," Coetzer said. "I tried all I could. She played well and I kind of played into her hands."
"(This year) I wanted to play happy, play good and everything is easy," Martinez said. "Now I'm happy, I'm playing good and I have a good response."
* Thirty minutes after her singles match, Martinez played a doubles semifinal. Martinez and Linda Harvey-Wild beat Meredith McGraff and Rennae Stubbs 6-2, 6-4.
The other doubles match between Larisa Savnchenko-Neiland and Natalia Zvereva and Eva Pfaff and Catherine Suire was postponed until 11 this morning because of rain.
* Fernandez was named the winner of the "Infiniti Award: A Commitment to Excellence."
Fernandez was presented with a Tiffany crystal during an on-court ceremony before the semifinal match against Graf.
As part of the award, Infiniti will donate $1,000 to the Women's Sports Foundation, established in 1974 by tennis great Billie Jean King to promote sports for women and girls.
The award is presented at all Infiniti-sponsored women's tennis tournaments.