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post #2535 of (permalink) Old Mar 13th, 2013, 11:28 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Sabatini, Graf in Florida Slims final
St. Petersburg Times
March 13, 1988

BOCA RATON - The 6,300 tennis fans who filled the Polo Club bleachers for the Virginia Slims of Florida semifinals Saturday got their money's worth, but the majority of them either groaned or only clapped politely at the end of each exciting match.

Their home-grown favorites had fallen to foreign teen-agers.

Chris Evert, the club's touring pro, suffered a rare case of home-court disadvantage and for the first time in her career lost to Gabriela Sabatini 6-1, 7-5.

In the second match, No. 3 seed Pam Shriver and the upset-minded crowd unnerved No. 1 Steffi Graf, but the German wonderkid finally prevailed in the 2-hour, 50-minute duel 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5). It was Graf's 30th straight win.

Sabatini and Graf meet at 2 p.m. today in the final, to be shown live on ESPN. The winner takes home $60,000. The loser collects $24,000.

Though the Polo Club crowd was as pro-Evert as they come, the brown hardcourt she practices on all year favored Sabatini's game.

Sabatini's topspin groundstrokes bounced higher than Evert would have liked, and kept her uncomfortably pinned behind the baseline most of the match.

''This court was perfectly suited for Gabriela,'' said Evert, who has lost only eight of 173 matches played in Florida. ''Her shots bounce so high anyway, but on a slow court like this, they were way up there and I can't hit many winners that way. She held her nerve very well, and deserved to win. The law of averages caught up with me. She was bound to win sometime.''

Sabatini flew through the first set in 23 minutes, giving up only nine points.

''It was the first time that I wasn't nervous when I stepped on the court against her,'' Sabatini said. ''I felt I could win, and I concentrated from the very beginning.''

Evert got into the match by winning the opening game of the second set on her fourth break point, and held service at 15 to take a 2-0 lead.

Later, down 5-4, Evert prompted a standing ovation by holding serve at love and staying in the match. But Sabatini held to make it 6-5, and a few Evert errors in the final game gave Sabatini the victory.

''If Gabriela plays the way she did in the first set against me, she could beat Graf,'' Evert said. ''Her game gives Graf trouble. Last year when they played, she had Graf on the ropes, but Graf was mentally tougher.''

Graf needed that toughness Saturday to get by Shriver.

Shriver took a 4-2 first set lead, but Graf swept the next four games to win the set.

In the second set, she reduced a 5-2 deficit to 5-4, but Shriver broke Graf in a game that went to double-deuce to force a third set.

All the while, Shriver took her time between points and joked with the crowd. That irritated the much more serious Graf.

''She was really making me sick,'' said Graf. ''That's not the way I like it.''

After a series of long games, Shriver took a 5-4 lead. Graf served the 10th game, and was down 30-40, but Shriver hit what should have been an easy shot into the net, keeping Graf alive at deuce. Graf won, and the next two games went to the servers.

''I feel zero disappointment,'' Shriver said. ''I can't feel like a loser. I showed that she's beatable. She's not perfect. I'm so sick of people playing into her hands. I hope lots of other players watched this match. It can be done.''
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