GRAF SURVIVES 1ST-SET SLUMP MARTINEZ TIRES AFTER FAST START IN SLIMS FINAL
The Miami Herald - Monday, March 9, 1992
Author: AMY NIEDZIELKA
You didn't need to look at the scoreboard to figure out who was winning this match, the final of the Virginia Slims of Florida at The Polo Club Boca Raton.
Conchita Martinez was a fist-pumping, quick-stepping sliver of confidence in taking a one-set lead over Steffi Graf Sunday.
Just under an hour later, however, Martinez had dissolved into a head-shaking, shoulder-tossing, racquet-dropping image of defeat, giving in to fatigue and Graf for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 loss.
In winning her 62nd career title and the $110,000 first prize, Graf used composure and swooping groundstrokes to wring all the early energy out of Martinez.
Martinez, who in five previous meetings with Graf had never won a set, took Graf and the sellout crowd of 6,181 by surprise with her 39-minute first-set victory. Graf was netting forehands, trying drop shots that Martinez was running down, and hitting balls off the frame of her racquet.
"She took a lot more advantage in the beginning," said Graf, ranked second in the world. "She was going for shots a lot more than I did. I just let her run around and didn't really do anything. I was all the time on the defensive."
Martinez was playing aggressively, getting balls deep to Graf's backhand and ripping forehand winners.
"I played a really good first set," Martinez said. "At least with Steffi you can play to her backhand. She slices and it's not too difficult."
Things got more difficult in the second set. By then, Martinez, who had also played four doubles matches last week, was exhausted and Graf was back on her game.
"I wasn't playing up to my best, but I wasn't thinking about losing, definitely not at that stage," Graf said. "It was far too early and I knew she was getting tired."
Graf broke Martinez at love to start the second set and held serve for a 2-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, an attempt to do the wave by a portion of the crowd seated at the north end of the stadium fizzled. Martinez held serve to pull to 2-1, the second and final wave attempt went a bit farther before fizzling again, and Martinez failed to convert a break point that would have tied it at 2-all.
"In the second set, I'm really tired and she started playing better and better," Martinez said. "I couldn't do anything."
It was about that time that you got the idea that Martinez wasn't winning this match anymore. After a forehand into the net to go down, 40-15, in the fourth game, she threw her head up and hands down and let out a cry that sounded like "Ahhaaww." After a backhand into the net that gave Graf the advantage, Martinez's eyes shot skyward and her racquet fell to the ground.
"I think when you're tired, you are frustrated," Graf said. "You get tired and you make mistakes. You're not concentrating as well."
Graf was all concentration and confidence in the last set, winning 14 straight points after falling behind, 15-0, in the first game. Both players seemed to be playing for a quick ending; the last set was over in 19 minutes.
"(Graf) is tough," Martinez said. "But if I wasn't so tired I would have played much better."
Martinez, No. 8 in the world, who lost to No. 1 Monica Seles in the final at Indian Wells early last week, said she was drained from playing too many matches. After Sunday's final, she had about an hour of rest before she and Linda Harvey-Wild lost, 6-2, 6-2, to Larisa Savchenko-Nieland and Natalia Zvereva in the doubles final.
For Graf, a Polo Club resident, it was just another day of work on the stadium court, where she practices daily. And despite a rain-delayed semifinal Saturday night that didn't end until 11:15, Graf said she got a good night's sleep and was well-rested for Sunday's match.
"It is very important because I pulled out some close matches (during the tournament) and that's what I needed to do," Graf said. "I needed to have the feeling that when the match is getting closer, I'm still there."
An attendance record for an outdoor women's Slims event was set with 72,547 attending the tournament. The previous record was 59,793, set during last year's Florida Slims.
Last edited by Ms. Anthropic; Nov 30th, 2012 at 06:11 PM.