Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
It was notable how quickly the "Graf goes for the Grand Slam" theme took hold. Even before she won the tournament.
Tennis: Graf wins like a female Tyson
The Sunday Times
Sunday, January 24, 1988
STEFFI GRAF is now the undisputed women's heavyweight hitter of the world. The German teenager, delivering forehands like fiendish right hooks, vanquished Chris Evert in the final of the Australian Open 6-1 7-6, and her timing was immaculate. The occasion in Melbourne will surely go down in history as the first Grand Slam final to run indoors from the rain.
After just three games the roof was required to ward off a Melbourne shower. It was a first, even for Evert, who has faced more varied conditions than most in her 34 Grand Slam finals.
And she was clearly disturbed by the climatic change, not to mention the pace of Graf's forehand, and lost nine games in a row. Obviously watching Tyson pulverise Holmes on live TV during the 90-minute rain break had been a mistake. 'At 1-6 1-5 down. I felt a little bit like Holmes,' said Evert.
Graf, typically, had chosen Tyson for her role model, but when she was just two points away from a stunningly one-sided victory, the American roused herself from demoralised lethargy, and clawed herself back into the match.
Steely-eyed and determined, Evert began to scythe gashes in Graf's confidence with pinpoint ground strokes as she won the next five games in a row. The German girl's serve began to jitter, and Evert to assume that going-to-the-bank look, as Ted Tinling felicitously described the world's No 3 when she means business.
But a few flashing forehands later the revival proved merely a postponement. Graf won the tie-break with reasonable ease, seven points to three, untroubled by passionate pleas from the crowd to, 'Crush her, Chrissy!' As she won the second Grand Slam title of her career, it became obvious that the world's best women's player is made of uncrushable material.
'But she's human,' observed Evert afterwards, which may serve as some consolation to Navratilova and the pack now condemned to chase in Graf's springy steps.
What they may be less happy to hear is the revitalising effect this tournament has had on 33-year-old Evert. 'Steffi's number one, I'm number two... No, just joking,' she said with the sort of smile a Dobermann gives just before going for the throat.
'I haven't sunk my teeth into this year yet,' she said. 'But I would certainly like to follow up with some good tournaments after this one.'
We can now thankfully assume that the sugar-sweet era of shedding tears for one's beaten opponent is well and truly over. When Graf wiped her eyes before clutching the silverware it was for pure, undiluted joy.
'Do you realise you are the only girl in the world who can win the Grand Slam this year?' Graf was asked after the match. 'Oh, that's way too far ahead,' she replied, not meaning a word of it.
The remarkable thing about Graf is an absolute dedication to tennis that brooks no intrusion. Not even from precocious 13-year-old ball-boys, who gasp admiringly: 'You've got nice legs.' But Evert doubts that Graf's reign will be sufficiently supreme to culminate in the Grand Slam this year. 'She is favoured but I would be surprised if she won all four because all of us are still playing very well and are ready to challenge her.'
One thing is certain, no Briton will win the Grand Slam this year. But at least Jeremy Bates could bask in the temporary glory of being the first Englishman to reach the finals of a Grand Slam men's doubles since Roger Taylor won the United States Open with Cliff Drysdale in 1972.
The glow died rather sharply as the American pair, Rick Leach and Jim Pugh, dispatched Bates and his partner, Peter Lundgren, 6-3 6-2 6-3 in less than two hours. Lungren, the long-haired Swede who beat Pat Cash at the US Open last year, looked jaded.
All in all, Melbourne is delighted with its revamped, magnificiently housed tourament. Even Lendl, the man who hits the ball almost as hard as Steffi Graf, now accords it 'major' status. Australia may have its problems with earthquakes, UFOs, and the banning of full-strength beer at cricket matches, but Cash reaching the men's singles final against Mats Wilander has been the ideal fiery baptism for the brand new stadium.
The trends have been set for the year. Lendl will go home, snap at his German shepherds and wonder how on earth he can beat Cash at Wimbledon. Yannick Noah has vowed to renounce booze, cigarettes and parties, while his delightfully talented fellow-countryman, Henri Leconte, will be ruing his nights out at Melbourne restaurants where unwitting souls can die a 'Death by Chocolate,' according to the menu. Unlike retractable roofs, some things never change.