Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
GRAF'S CRUCIAL POINTS DOWN EVERT, 6-4, 6-4
The Miami Herald
Sunday, March 27, 1988
Invariably, Chris Evert would climb the mountain and hang there by her fingers. Then Steffi Graf would stomp on them.
So close to climbing back over the edge, but . . .
"When I had chances, I couldn't pull them out of the bag," said Evert after Graf defeated her Saturday, 6-4, 6-4, to successfully defend her women's singles title in the $2.1 million Lipton International Players Championships on Key Biscayne before 11,253 fans, some of whom waved West German flags for their native Steffi.
"It was a good, quality match, just a matter of a couple of points. Steffi is playing the pressure points a little better than me right now."
Graf, who won $112,500, came off the court feeling as if a giant anvil had been lifted from her shoulders.
A year ago in the Lipton, she whipped Martina Navratilova and Evert back-to-back in straight sets to begin her eventual rise to the No. 1 ranking. This time she was eager to win because Gabriela Sabatini beat her two weeks ago and she heard the talk that maybe she was vulnerable and losing confidence.
"After playing four weeks in a row, this match was really important for me," said Graf, "especially after losing to Gaby. I knew it would be tough.
"I needed this win for myself and to get my confidence for the next tournament. Yes, it was more satisfying than last year."
Then again, she didn't have to deal this time with Navratilova, who skipped the tournament because she wanted a break and didn't want to play on hard courts with her tender knees. Graf claims she missed her.
"It's such a big tournament, it seems everybody should be here," said Graf.
Not only was Graf at Lipton, she was in sharper form than at Boca Raton. Just as Evert expected.
"Against Gaby, she was pretty wild, but she wasn't the same today," Evert said. "You're always tougher after a loss. She's a champion, more determined, still on top of her game. She's right back on course."
Added Graf, "I was eager to play, and patient. But if you had seen me practice this morning, you would wonder if I was No. 400 or 500."
Graf left all her bad shots on the practice court. The victory was her sixth in a row over Evert, squaring their head- to-head record at 6-6. But here's how close it was Saturday on a warm, breezy afternoon:
* First set, Evert down a service break and another break point at 1-3, climbs back in with an ace (yes, ace) and a rousing crosscourt forehand volley.
Then she breaks Graf for 4-4, but Graf storms back, losing only one point in the next two games to take the set.
* Second set, Evert down a service break at 2-3, nails a forehand crosscourt to break Graf. Then Evert has two break points that would give her a 5-4 lead, but she nets a backhand service return on one and Graf charges to the net for an overhead on the other.
In the next game, after three deuces, Evert is down a break point and tries her first drop shot of the match. It hits the top of the tape and bounces back. End of game, end of Evert as Graf serves out the match.
"It was always going back and forth," said Graf. "It would be deuce, advantage me, advantage her. It was very important at 4-all and the two games before that."
Leading 3-1 in the second set, Graf became upset at the end of a lengthy rally when Evert hit a backhand down the line that Graf thought was wide. When a linesman yelled "fault" on Evert's next serve, Graf sarcastically said, "Thank you."
"That call really disturbed me and I was getting mad," Graf said after the match. "For two games I didn't concentrate" and Evert forged ahead, 4-3.
Though Graf hit only one ace, she served superbly. She won three service games in the first set at love, and that's against a player who prides herself on one of the best service returns in the game.
"She's physically stronger and faster than I am, and I have to work very hard to win one point," said Evert. "I have to be on top of my game every point.
"It was close, but when it came down to the crunch, she was a little better. It's hard to know what more I have to do."
Evert admitted she was disappointed in losing, "but not devastated like I was last year when she blew me off the court (6-1, 6-2).
"I had a very good tournament. I'm playing better than I was at this time last year."
Graf has played four weeks in a row -- winning at San Antonio just before Boca Raton -- and is looking forward to two weeks off before playing at Amelia Island, Fla.
"Even though I had a good match, I think I can play better," she said. Evert doesn't think Graf will dominate the circuit as she did last year in winning 75 of 77 matches.
"You know Martina is going to do well indoors," said Evert. "She picks her schedule because she knows she can win there.
"I don't think anyone will dominate. There will be a few upsets. Pam Shriver and Gaby and I will do some damage. It's getting more equal each year."