Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
And for the second year in a row, Steffi is ineligible for the WTA's bonus pool. I'm sure it added to the friction behind the scenes. The WTA/Virginia Slims people were no doubt confused, frustrated, and/or insulted that there was no amount of money they could dangle in front of Steffi to get her to jump through their hoops.
Sabatini halts rise of Shriver
Monday, NOVEMBER 21, 1988
CHARLES CARDER, Staff
NEW YORK - Gabriela Sabatini, who has lived in the shadow of her doubles partner and two veterans of women's tennis, is secure in a spot of her own today after defeating Pam Shriver 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the Virginia Slims Championship at Madison Square Garden.
Sabatini, the 18-year-old from Argentina, was the master of the court before 16,711 fans on Sunday as she destroyed the fairyland jump to the spotlight by Shriver of Lutherville, Md.
The victory was worth $125,000 to Sabatini, and Shriver picked up a check for $60,000 from the $1 million purse of this season-ending event.
But more important for both of the contestants, it was their ticket out of the shadows. Sabatini gained some measure of fame by defeating Steffi Graf, her doubles partner, twice during the year. However, she was more often the bridesmaid when it came to championships, losing to Graf in the U.S. Open and to Martina Navratilova in one of the tournaments in which she defeated Graf.
Shriver is best known as Navratilova's doubles partner and the U.S. Open finalist in 1978. She has won a scattering of singles tournaments over the years but mostly her fame has come through her play in doubles.
And Shriver had the most difficult time in reaching the final of the sixth annual Virginia Slims Championship. She upset No. 3-seeded Chris Evert and No. 1-seeded Graf, in addition to winning the doubles with Navratilova on Saturday. Sabatini had an easier path to the final, winning over Katerina Maleeva, Natalia Zvereva and Helena Sukova with the loss of only 11 games.
Sabatini has been subject to physical-condition questions since she appeared to tire in a couple of tournaments last summer, but she was certainly fit for the contest Sunday.
"Before the match I said I was going to try to win in three sets, because it would be easier," Sabatini said. "But physically I was ready to play five sets.
"I have to say this is my best tournament because mentally I played very strong. I had a feeling I was going to win because of my confidence and I would have played Graf with the same confidence.
"Next year I can be better. I have a few months to practice well and my goal is to be No. 2. My tennis is improving more and more because I am working very hard. My eventual goal is to be No. 1, but I am not in any hurry."
She obviously is stronger, and Shriver noted that "every time I see her I think her shoulders have grown 3 inches."
But it was the powerful forehand cross-court shot that she used to baffle Shriver and her unusual amount of serve-and-volley tennis that was a force in the win.
"At match point I was determined I was going to get to that cross-court," Shriver said. "I started running the minute she hit it, but I guess I just didn't run very hard. It is such an early shot and she holds in on her racket so long. And I've got to learn to handle the spin volley because she is going to be around for a while."
The two-hour and 20-minute match did not have the thrilling moments of the Shriver wins over Evert and Graf or the victory by Sukova over Navratilova. Shriver thought she might have been a little "subdued" during the match.
"I've got to be encouraged about the tournament and about the end of the year," Shriver said. "I hadn't beaten the No. 1 player in the world since the 1982 Open when I beat Martina. But it is no free road. It gives me the incentive to work during the off-season."
Having spent her career chasing Navratilova and Evert and recent years following Graf, Shriver admitted that she was ready to chase Sabatini.
"Hey, I'll chase whoever is in front of me," she said.
"I played OK but my serve was not as effective as it had been earlier in the week and I didn't have the same control that I had on Saturday (against Graf). I didn't expect to wear her down. People don't wear down against me because my points are so quick.
"The biggest game was when I broke her for 5-5 in the first set. But then she broke back and held serve to close out the set."
They had twice exchanged service breaks prior to the decisive break in the 11th game of the first set. In the second set, after an early exchange, Shriver was broken in the fifth and seventh games.
Shriver lost her serve in the third and seventh games of the third set.
The result might have been quicker had Sabatini been able to control her serve in the first set. While Shriver was hitting on 71 percent of her first serves, Sabatini connected on only 39 percent.
Shriver won 35 points on her first serve, Sabatini only 11. Had it not been for her 32-15 advantage in placements, Shriver would have blown her out in that first set.
Once Sabatini began serving better in the second set it was only a matter of time before she tucked away her first major tennis win.
NOTES - When you make more than $1 million a year, you apparently can afford to pass up a "mere" $400,000. That's what it cost Steffi Graf to limit her playing schedule during the 1988 women's tennis season. Graf did not play the required 11 tournaments, exclusive of Grand Slams. Therefore, her part of the bonus pool was divided between other players, with Martina Navratilova receiving $100,000 ... Navratilova received a total of $450,000 from the bonus pools, it was announced Sunday by the Women's International Tennis Association ... Gabriela Sabatini finished second with $265,000 and Chris Evert was third with $140,000. Pam Shriver finished fourth at $85,000 and Houstonian Lori McNeil was fifth at $70,000. Manuela Maleeva and Helena Sukova tied for sixth and received $45,000 each, and Zina Garrison was eighth, worth $40,000 ... There were eight divisions of the bonus pool and McNeil received $50,000 for playing in the division known as the exempt players pool. This is the pool that encourages players to compete in the smaller tournaments among the 61 events that make up the Virginia Slims World Series.