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post #2968 of (permalink) Old Oct 2nd, 2013, 11:35 AM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

A repost, but while I'm at it...

SPORTS OF THE TIMES; Make Steffi Play Lefty
October 2, 1988
New York Times

The most awesome thing about this Miss Steffi Graf is not that she is 19 years old and has already won the Grand Slam Plus One. That's history. Oh, no. The real scary thing about this Miss Graf is that she roared through the final match of the Summer Games, not just a kid having a fine time at the Olympics but also a superb technician adding a level to her game.

For her Golden Grand Slam, she added a drop shot to her repertory, feathering shots over the net the way Junior McEnroe used to do.

Graf's development of a change of pace was one of the last impressions to sink in at these Games. Among others were:

* The realization that the drug crisis is really not about steroids but rather about masking agents. Your pharmacist is better than my pharmacist.

* South Korea is a complex, modern and quite gracious nation; able to plan and run a Summer Games. The more one thinks about it, the brief brawl by officials in the boxing ring a week ago was an isolated lapse by sports yahoos; hardly a national scandal.

* For many Korean men and women, there was the perhaps unforgettable jolt of seeing western women in positions of authority.

To say nothing of authority on the tennis court. With those occasional beanbag shots, Graf ran her doubles partner, the clueless Gabriela Sabatini, around and then off the court by a 6-3, 6-3 count here Saturday. If anything, Graf was more controlled and conscious than she had been in winning the U.S. Open, Sept. 10. Coming after her romp through the four Grand Slam events this season, Graf had understandably been sounding weary earlier in the week, making the Summer Games sound like just one more stop on the tour - the Emphysema Slims Greater Seoul Junior Chamber of Commerce Classic.

But just as Pam Shriver and Zina Garrison and Miloslav Mecir saw the uniqueness of winning the first tennis gold medals in 64 years, so Graf came to appreciate what she was up to.

''I'm very excited to achieve this,'' she said after the match. ''Not many people in the future will achieve this, winning the Grand Slam and the gold medal. That's amazing.

''I came here really tired and not expecting too much. When I was playing, I was down, just down.''

Graf gets a tepid press most of the time because she is so phlegmatic; much in the way Ivan Lendl is belittled because he doesn't get up there and perform the old buck-and-wing for us.

But Graf is still only 19, a young woman who seems to be listening and watching more than she is talking. Her father is sometimes accused of controlling her too much. He should try bottling his formula for raising a stable and successful child.

She's just getting interesting, this Miss Graf. For her fifth lap of the Golden Grand Slam, she came out with a drop shot never before seen in such abundance. Sabatini is known to play well for a while and then tire.

''After the first couple of games, I could see she couldn't keep it up,'' Graf said later.

Seeing Graf plunk the ball over the net on occasion, one could not help wonder if she were doing it for amusement, the way McEnroe used to invent shots, the way Larry Bird will force himself into some preposterous off-the-ear, falling-out-of-bounds heave from 35 feet, just to keep from getting bored.

Graf doesn't seem the type to play mind games with herself, but one could not resist asking the question: What next?

''Today it was my plan to make her run,'' Graf said. ''I was just sticking to what I was doing. Maybe in the future, I will come to the net more.''

There is plenty of future because there does not seem to be anybody in women's tennis who can chase down that superb forehand.

We may have to wait a generation for the maturation of some of those charming but squawking babies that were brought into the tennis stadium by their mothers yesterday. (What would McEnroe have made of a stadium full of googling one-year-olds?) Motherhood has not been the only option for women in contemporary Korea. In addition to the fabled fisherwomen of the southwest coast, many women work in offices in modern Seoul.

In fact, one of the electronic gadgets in the appliance stores is a rice warmer that keeps a Korean-style snack warm for when the children come home from school and mother is still at work. Most people work five full days and a half Saturday in this boom country.

Advancing to management jobs is not so easy, however. Many Korean men had trouble dealing with - or even looking in the eye - western publicists, western technicians and even western executives of the female persuasion.

One male journalist found great delight in referring all visitors to his bureau chief. ''She boss?'' they would say. Korean women seemed to enjoy the presence of western visitors in offices, streets and subways. Some even started up innocent conversations, just to test their English - or maybe their nerve.

They also couldn't miss the gallant performances of the South Korean female medalists in team handball, field hockey, archery and table tennis. Things may not be the same after these Games. Women may soon be asking for raises and advancement.

But back to Steffi Graf. What can she do for an encore? In what might have been a message to her father, she said she was going to take a rest and then perform in some minor tournaments - ''It depends on how I feel.''

When she goes after a second Grand Slam next year, she needs a challenge. She ought to announce to the world that she is becoming a serve-and-volley player, rush the net whenever possible - as somebody else said about Mount Everest, because it is there.

If that works out, she might want to think about an ambidextrous Grand Slam. This Steffi Graf has plenty of time for improvisation.
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