GRAF WARMS TO TASK, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0
The Palm Beach Post - Monday, March 9, 1992
Author: PATRICK McMANAMON
"Vamos!" screamed Conchita Martinez as her backhand volley settled softly on the court.
Martinez had just won the first set of the finals of the Virginia Slims of Florida Sunday, and she let out a cry (which means "Let's go") and pumped her fist.
Problem was, it was Steffi Graf who got her going.
And Graf got Martinez running, and running. Back and forth, side to side, front to back, Graf ran Martinez into the ground en route to a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory at the Polo Club Boca Raton. The victory for ranked Graf, ranked second, was her 62nd title, and her third in the Slims of Florida.
"This was very important," Graf, the No. 1 seed, said after receiving $110,000 for winning. "Not overly important. But it's a good start for me, in that it's only the second tournament I've played this year."
Martinez, ranked eighth, lost for the second consecutive week in the finals. She lost 6-3, 6-1 to Monica Seles in Indian Wells, Calif.
"Being in the finals is not enough good," said Martinez, the No. 4 seed from Barcelona, Spain.
Martinez gave Graf little challenge after Graf took a 4-1 lead in the second set. Graf won eight of the next nine games as Martinez became flat-footed and slow.
"In the second set I got really tired," Martinez said. "She started playing better and better and I couldn't do a thing."
For the second consecutive day, Martinez played a doubles match right after her singles match. The two matches the day before, combined with the long week the previous week, seemed to catch up to her.
"She's tough but if I wasn't so tired I think I'd have played much better," Martinez said.
Graf noticed Martinez tiring-- "I was too," Graf said-- and she took advantage.
"I kept her running and running," Graf said.
In the first set, Graf and Martinez were matching groundstrokes.
"I didn't try anything to change her rhythm," Graf said.
In the second set, Graf changed her approach and tried drop shots and some volleys.
"I decided to go for other shots," Graf said. "I just said, `OK, I'll keep the ball in play and let her run.' "
It seemed significant. Last year, when Graf lost the No. 1 ranking, she was criticized for not changing. This year, she's hired a new coach-- Heinz Gunthardt-- and seems to be trying some new shots, though her forehand remains her foundation.
"He has been very positive," Graf said. "He has a lot of belief and he's helped me a lot. He's put more ideas into my game, and given me a few tactical things."
Graf even said as she becomes more comfortable, she will venture off the baseline and toward the net.
"I made a mistake (today)," she said. "I should have had so many easy volleys but I didn't try it."
Graf called the win important because it really is the start of her year. She missed almost two months because of German measles and went from November (the Virginia Slims Championships) until mid-February without playing a tournament.
She practiced for the past 10 days at the Polo Club with a new Dunlop racket, but discarded it the day before the tournament.
"I came in not so sure about my game," she said.
She leaves ready for the Lipton International Players Championships, and much more sure about herself, and her game.
"It definitely is very important," Graf said. "Because I pulled out some close matches and that's what I need to do. It's nice to know that when a match is close, I'm still there."
* The Slims of Florida set an attendance record for an outdoor women's tournament by drawing 72,547 to the seven-day event. The old record of 59,783 was set last year. Tournament officials wanted to move to a new site in 1993 -- it will be in Coral Springs in Broward County-- so that its attendance can exceed 100,000.
* Martinez fared no better in the doubles final than she did in singles. She and Linda Harvey-Wild lost to Larisa Savchenko-Neiland and Natalia Zvereva in the finals 6-2, 6-2.