Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf comeback ousts McNeil from Hardcourt
Saturday, MARCH 5, 1988
SAN ANTONIO - Steffi Graf and Katerina Maleeva, the first and fourth seeds in the Lynda Carter-Maybelline U.S. National Hardcourt Championships, meet in the final today in a nationally televised match (Ch. 11 at 11 a.m.) at the McFarlin Tennis Center.
Both finalists were forced to three sets in the semifinals. Graf needed an hour and 54 minutes to defeat Houston's Lori McNeil, the third seed, 6-7 (2-7), 6-1, 6-1. Maleeva needed one minute more to upset second-seeded Helena Sukova 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4.
Graf is the No. 1-ranked player in the world and Maleeva, the youngest of two sisters who both play on the tour, is No. 13.
The finalists live about 1,500 miles apart in Europe and came halfway around the world to play the tournament sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association.
It will be the third meeting between them. Graf has won the previous two without the loss of a set.
McNeil played an impressive opening set against Graf, despite having trouble with her serve. She double-faulted five times in the first set and missed a host of first serves.
And it took her a tiebreaker to close it outafter she missed two set points in the 12th game. She was broken in the 10th game while serving for the set and fought off two break points in the 12th before losing the game that led to the tiebreaker.
But she played exceptionally in the tiebreaker, taking 3-1 and 6-2 leads before closing it out on Graf's forehand net error.
McNeil was successful attacking Graf's backhand in the first set, often using that weapon to overcome her service problems. But she seemed to abandon that approach in the last two sets.
"I was playing terrible," Graf said. "Horrible. I didn't warm up well during the morning, and I had a negative feeling going into the match. We both tired in the first set, because nothing was working for me. I was just trying to keep the ball in play.
"But, even though I played badly, I won. I knew it would be hard against Lori but when I got into it (in the second set) I knew I shouldn't lose.
"She was playing better in the first set, and I was trying not to rush. But I was the one who was missing and making mistakes."
Was she happy with her serve?
"No. Ask me about any part of my game and I'll say no," she said.
But her play improved and McNeil straying from the tactic that was so effective in the first set - the attack of Graf's backhand - made the last two sets quick and easy for Graf.
The first set lasted 55 minutes, the last two a total of 59.
Graf broke McNeil's serve the last two games of the first set, four times in the second and the first time in the third set for seven in a row. McNeil lost eight of her last nine service games.
Umpire Leon Lipp of Dallas gave Graf a code violation warning for sideline coaching from her father - an event Graf branded as "a joke." She said, "I don't need any coaching when I am leading 6-1, 3-0 in the third set."
Lipp explained that Graf's father was giving her hand signals during the changeover.
"She is tough but she is human," a subdued McNeil said. "The next time I'll just have to be more aggressive in the second and third sets. I don't think I let down, but I think I should have been more aggressive.
"I thought I played inconsistent. My percentage of first serves was pretty low. I didn't mix it up like I would have liked. I'm a little disappointed, but I am looking forward to the Lipton (in two weeks in Florida) and hope to do better the next time I meet her."
Maleeva felt last weekend she had a chance to reach the final after she saw the draw.
She went against the norm for play against the 6-foot-2 Sukova: One of Maleeva's chief weapons was the lob.
"When she is very close to the net, it is not difficult to lob over her, if you have a good lob," Maleeva said. "I was serving well today, but the last time we played I didn't serve well, and she attacked my second serve."
In doubles, the No. 1 team of McNeil and Sukova beat the Soviet duo of Larisa Savchenko and Latalia Zvereva 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. McNeil and Sukova play the No. 2-seeded team of Gretchen Magers and Rosalyn Fairbank in the doubles final.
Sanchez upsets Mecir
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Spain's Emilio Sanchez surprised second-seeded Miloslav Mecir, and defending champion Boris Becker rolled past Johan Kriek to advance to the semifinals of the $702,500 Newsweek Champions Cup.
Sanchez, the No. 8 seed, won 11 straight games in downing his Czech opponent, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3. Becker, the West German star who is seeded third, ended the upset run of Kriek with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
In today's semifinals, Sanchez will meet No. 4 seed Pat Cash of Australia, who outlasted No. 11 Amos Mansdorf of Israel, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5. Becker takes on the winner of the final quarterfinal match between No. 7 Andre Agassi and No. 15 Mikael Pernfors of Sweden.