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post #2684 of (permalink) Old Jun 19th, 2013, 12:33 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Of course, many of the pundits thought Steffi would falter on grass, "her worst surface" and Navratilova's best one. In fact, even after the final there are still a few pundits who marvel that Steffi could play like that "on her worst surface." Needless to say (but I will anyway), some of these pundits are not perceptive or are very rigid, even fossilized, in their thinking.

Meanwhile, Steffi knows what round she's going to reach, and let's just say her practices have been purposeful: "Last year, I was surprised to make the final," said Graf, who skipped the main warm-up tournament in Eastbourne to practice privately in London. "This year, I know I can do it. That makes a big difference."

Her reaction to the constant Grand Slam questioning, apart from being somewhat annoyed, is very rational and sensible, probably too rational and sensible for a sport like tennis: "It would be a very special achievement," Graf said. "It's something very few players have done. But I'm more concerned with winning Wimbledon than winning the Grand Slam."

Sunday, June 19, 1988

Grand Slam.

The words rang through the interview room at Roland Garros moments after Steffi Graf won the French Open.

Do you think you can win the Grand Slam?

Graf had won the Australian Open and the French Open. She was halfway there.

''Are you going to ask Mats the same question?'' Graf responded.

You bet.

The media pounced on Mats Wilander as soon as he won the French Open the next day. The Australian Open champion, now the French Open champion, Wilander was halfway there too.

Can you win the Grand Slam?

Graf and Wilander will hear the chorus again this week at Wimbledon, the third leg of the Grand Slam. The better they do, the louder it will get.

Grand Slam, Grand Slam, Grand Slam.

Fifty years ago, when Don Budge accomplished tennis' first Grand Slam, nobody cared.

In 1937, Budge won the Sullivan Award, pronouncing him the United States' best amateur athlete, after his victories at Wimbledon and Forest Hills. Budge added the Australian and French Opens the following year, and the Sullivan Award went to someone else.

''Things of this sort tend to be accepted only with time and publicity,'' Budge wrote years later.

Budge chased his dream without the pressure that covers Graf and Wilander.

The only pressure Budge felt was self-imposed. After his strong year in 1937, he privately decided to go after the Grand Slam.

The Grand Slam required more preparation in those days. A player couldn't call Qantas and get a seat in first class to Australia.

The ticket to Melbourne 50 years ago was on a three-week sea cruise.

Australia was a long way to go for nothing, and Budge won the first Grand Slam tournament easily.

Budge next took the French Open with some help from the Nazis, who arrested and imprisoned Baron Gottfried von Cramm, Budge's main rival.

Two-for-two, but no questions in the interview room. Budge won Wimbledon without losing a set, and went to Forest Hills for the final act.

Budge was stalled by a hurricane that postponed the U.S. Open final for a week. But when the rains finally stopped, Budge conquered his doubles partner, Gene Mako. The unseeded Mako took a set, but Budge prevailed and the original Grand Slam was his.

Maureen Connolly achieved the next Grand Slam in 1953 when she was 18. Rod Laver did it in 1962 as an amateur and in 1969 as a pro. Margaret Court completed the last real Grand Slam (with apologies to Martina Navratilova) in 1970.

Now Graf and Wilander are on the hot seat. Bjorn Borg was the last player to get this close, in 1980. Borg kept winning the French and Wimbledon but always tripped at the U.S. Open.

Can you win the Grand Slam, Steffi? How about you, Mats?

The ambush is set up for Graf and Wilander on the lawns of Wimbledon. Navratilova waits behind one bush for the young West German; Boris Becker, Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and every man with a hard serve and a good day block the Swede's path.

Grand Slam... Grand... Gra...

Two weeks from now, it should be just an echo.

-- Happy Father's Day to John Lloyd, who will be a new Dad in December.

Lloyd, the player-coach of the Los Angeles Strings, will be at Deer Creek next month for the TeamTennis match with the South Florida Breakers.
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