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post #2551 of (permalink) Old Mar 25th, 2013, 11:59 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Friday, March 25, 1988
Compiled From Wire Reports

Top-seeded Steffi Graf won a battle of 18-year-olds, and second-seeded Chris Evert beat a player half her age Thursday to advance to the women's final in the International Players Championships.

Graf, the defending champion, swept past unseeded Stephanie Rehe, 6-3, 6-1, and Evert beat 16-year-old Mary Joe Fernandez of Miami, 6-2, 6-1.

The two will meet in Saturday's final.

Graf fell behind, 2-0, and committed 10 unforced errors in the first three games against Rehe, ranked 34th in the world. The hard-hitting West German won three of the next four games to tie the set 3-3. But the match turned in the fourth game, when Graf took advantage of three double faults to break Rehe's serve, then won nine of the next 10 games to close out the match in 70 minutes.

"I wasn`t rolled over. I came out like gangbusters. Once my serve started going away a little bit, everything started going down," Rehe said. "If my serve had been better, I know the match would've been a lot closer."

Rehe's serving was shaky for the rest of the match. Graf broke her serve again in the eighth game and in the first, fifth and seventh games of the second set.

Graf had been struggling lately with her usually potent forehand, but it improved as the match wore on and was good for 19 winners.

"I was taking more of a risk with it," Graf, 18, said. "That's the way I should use it. I should go into it, and then the opponent can't do anything about it."

Fernandez, who attends nearby Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, was cheered on by a vocal gang of sign-flashing classmates, who were given the afternoon off by school officials. However, after Fernandez held her first serve to tie the match at one game apiece, Evert was in total control and needed just one hour and six minutes to win the 1,230th match of her career.

"I was very, very nervous today," Evert said. "I felt for the whole match if I gave her an opening, she would have taken advantage of it."

"I pretty much got wiped off the court," Fernandez said.

Evert, relying on pinpoint ground strokes, broke Fernandez's serve to clinch the first set and begin a six-game winning streak. Evert won three of those games at love and ran off 11 consecutive points early in the second set.

"If I had lost concentration for two points, it would've been a different story," said Evert, 33. "I felt throughout the match that if I had given her an opening, she would've taken advantage."

Fernandez upset No. 3 Gabriela Sabatini on Sunday to reach the semifinals of a professional tournament for the first time. She said her five previous matches in the two-week, $2.1 million tourney took a toll.

"As the match progressed, I was getting to the ball later and later," said Fernandez, who made 43 unforced errors to 19 for Evert. "I was a little slow."

Evert has a 5-0 advantage in the young rivalry. Two of the four previous matches went three sets.

"In this kind of match, I have everything to lose and nothing to gain," Evert said. "Mary Joe is really a tough player, but if I win it's expected, and if I lose it`s an upset. I was pretty nervous before the match."

Crowd support for the two South Florida products was evenly divided. About 100 of Fernandez's classmates from nearby Coconut Grove chanted "Mary Joe, Mary Joe" before and after the match.

"It reminded me of when I was her age," said Evert, who broke onto the international tennis scene as a 16-year-old high school student at Fort Lauderdale. "When I was playing Billie Jean (King), my classmates came out a couple of times."
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