Victorious Graf Leaves Own Mark At The Polo Club
March 9, 1992
BOCA RATON -- They named a rose after Gabriela Sabatini. Now they should name the stadium court after Steffi Graf.
Graf won her third Virginia Slims of Florida title, beating Conchita Martinez 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 on Sunday in the last tournament match ever played at The Polo Club.
The most successful women's outdoor tournament in the world (a record 72,547 for the week) moves to bigger quarters in Coral Springs next year, but it was fitting that Graf close the door at The Polo Club.
This is where Graf lives, and no one has enjoyed a better home-court advantage. Graf played five Slims here and made the final each time. Only Sabatini beat her.
"I'm going to miss this place," said Graf, who beat Sabatini in 1987 and Chris Evert in 1988. "I live across the street and I know everyone here, from the ushers to the police guys. It's sad to leave."
Graf said she will cherish her first title over Evert, a magnificent three-set duel in the hot sun, but No. 3 was pretty special, too.
Graf needed this one. She had not won a title since Brighton last October. The new year began with a viral illness and the German measles.
"This was a very important win," said Graf, 22, who has 62 career titles, third-best in women's tennis behind Martina Navratilova and Evert.
"This is only my second tournament of the year. I've been practicing hard, but I didn't know where I stood. I pulled out some close matches, and I have the feeling that when it gets close, I am still there."
"Beating Zina Garrison (6-0, 5-7, 7-5) in the quarterfinals was the most important match," said Heinz Gunthardt, Graf's new coach. "Steffi showed she could win when it's tight. After she was sick and she came back, Steffi was still insecure about how well she could play."
Graf erased all doubts in the final two sets against Martinez. Graf had started three matches with 6-0 sets this week, but she was uncharacteristicly tentative in the first set against Martinez.
The 19-year-old Spaniard kept the ball in play without pace, and let Graf dictate the points. Graf went for too many winners from poor positions and committed 17 errors.
Graf became more patient in the second set, worked the points more and did not give Martinez anything.
"Steffi had become a little stereotyped," Gunthardt said. "I don't want to change anything in her game, but I want her to have more confidence in mixing it up when the match gets tight."
Graf committed only nine errors the rest of the match, while Martinez, getting tired and taking more chances, made 13 errors in the second set and 14 more in the final set.
"I played really good in the first set, but then I was really tired and I couldn't play the same," Martinez said.
Martinez lost energy with good reason. She played a total of 12 hours and four minutes, reaching the finals in both singles and doubles -- Martinez and Linda Harvey-Wild lost to Larissa Savchenko-Neiland and Natalia Zvereva 6-2, 6-2 in doubles -- this week.
Graf, playing singles only, was on the court for six hours, 29 minutes.
"The last two weeks have been very busy," said Martinez, who reached the final in Indian Wells, Calif., losing to Monica Seles last Sunday.
Martinez is 0-6 against Graf, but she took her first set Sunday.
Graf's victory makes Lipton, which begins Friday in Key Biscayne, interesting. For the first time this year, Seles and Graf will be playing in the same tournament (Graf missed the Australian Open with her illnesses).
"It's a long way to go to think of playing Monica in the final, but I'll look forward to it if it happens," Graf said. "We only played twice last year. It's strange it doesn't happen more often."
When Graf finished her interviews and was ready to drive home, she couldn't find the keys to her black Corvette.
No big deal, since she lives across the street. She'll have to be more careful in Coral Springs. Yes, she's going to miss this place.