Anyone have a describtion/memories of the 1995 Wimbledon final? That's one recent classic I've never seen and, considering it's quality, rarely gets mentioned.
Here's David Higdon's article on the eleventh game of the third set of the 1995 final...
The Glorious Game
- by David Higdon
, July 96
Point by point, Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario watch, analyze and relive their pivotal game from last year's final
Since 1980, when Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe played their 22-minute fourth-set tie-break (won by McEnroe 18-16), tennis fans have had a transcendent moment to savor over and over on TV during Wimbledon rain delays. Now the women have a glorious game to match: last year's 20-minute game at 5-all in the third set of the Wimbledon final between Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. The 32 points featured nearly everything: clutch shots, close calls, screams of "Vamos!", fist pumps, netcords, even Borg-like mis-hits.
On separate occasions, Graf and Sanchez Vicario sat down with TENNIS to review and analyze the videotape of the game. It was the first time either player had watched it, and, while intrigued, they both seemed reluctant at first to relive the emotion, perhaps because, for different reasons, this Wimbledon meant more to the finalists than past tournaments.
Graf had skipped the grass-court warm-up events prior to the 1995 Wimbledon to rest her ailing back. Two days before the tournament, she sprained her wrist, requiring her to return to Germany for treatment. In pain, she struggled early in the tournament, then rolled into the final feeling better but lacking her usual high level of fitness. Meanwhile, Sanchez Vicario was determined to make people forget her past words, when she openly complained that grass was meant for cows, not tennis players. After beating Zina Garrison in the third round and serve-and-volley specialist Brenda Schultz-McCarthy in the quarterfinals, her expectations soared. "I knew then that I had a chance to win Wimbledon," she says.
Sanchez Vicario won the first set 6-4, while Graf captured the second 6-1. In the ninth game of the third set, a point ended with Sanchez Vicario, who had run down several apparent winners, sprawled face-down on the grass after slipping in an attempt to change directions. As she stepped up to the baseline to serve at 5-5, the crowd still buzzed with excitement. Already, it seemed clear to them, they were witnessing something special.
After a short rally, Sanchez Vicario shanked an easy forehand wide and deep. Most of her mistakes up to this point had been of the aggressive, high-risk quality, a rarity for the usually steady, counterpunching Spaniard. "Every time I saw an open court, I went for the shot," Sanchez Vicario explains. "I knew I had to take risks, and I knew I was going to miss much more than normal, but that's the way I have to play if I want to beat Steffi."
Point 2: 0-15
Graf, pouncing on a second serve hit to her formidable forehand, tried to sneak a return down the line. Sanchez Vicario, anticipating Graf's usual inside-out crosscourt return, was caught leaning the other way, but Graf's shot hooked wide.
Point 3: 15-All
An unforced forehand error by Graf landed in the net. "Ooh," says Graf, "that was a nervous forehand. I was hitting it late." Fatigue was becoming a bigger factor. "I knew at this point that it was going to be difficult for me, because I physically felt real tired," she says. "On these last two forehands I hit the ball late because I was tired. I didn't have that much energy."
Point 4: 30-15
A nice crosscourt rally ended when Sanchez Vicario's forehand went long. She grimaced, then took a hard look at the baseline, suggesting that she thought it was a bad call. "No," she says, "the linespeople were calling the shots late. When you're on the run, you don't hear them very well."
When playing Sanchez Vicario, Graf tries to hit to her opponent's forehand for two reasons. "Obviously, it's her weaker side," Graf explains. Second, hitting there plays to Graf's strength. "When I hit to her forehand, she usually plays it back crosscourt to my forehand, so I have more chances to hit my best shot." Graf's ability to analyze and exploit her opponent's tendencies in order to draw more shots to her forehand side has been the much-underappreciated cornerstone of her success.
Point 5: 30-All
A rally ends when Sanchez Vicario hit an improbable, high-risk crosscourt forehand drop shot from her position just inside the baseline. After the winner, Sanchez Vicario let out a long breath, chuckled and mumbled Spanish praise to the heavens. "Gutsy shot," Graf says. "The guts of a burglar," says commentator Dick Enberg on the NBC broadcast.
The shot was nearly identical to one Sanchez Vicario pulled out of her bag of tricks during a Wimbledon match against Raffaela Reggi six years earlier. When she hit the drop shot in 1989, however, she was facing match point against her. Reggi, in a state of near shock, faltered from that point on, letting the match slip away. "It's a shot that I know that I have," says Sanchez Vicario, explaining her use of it at such a pivotal point in this match. "I felt very comfortable. I was having a lot of confidence."
Point 6: 40-30
Game point No. 1 for Sanchez Vicario Sanchez Vicario floated a ball down the middle of the court, enabling Graf to run around her backhand and hit an inside-out forehand, her favorite stroke. The shot didn't have its usual zing, but it still clipped the line, and Graf pumped her fist. "Every time in this game," says Sanchez Vicario, "when one of us was behind, we hit a winner. It's not like either of us lost this match. We both played our shots on the lines."
Caught a bit off-balance, Graf snapped the wrist just enough to provide the topspin necessary to keep the ball in play. "I covered the court poorly there," she adds.
Point 7: Deuce No. 1
After Sanchez Vicario hit a short, but low, shot to the middle of the court, Graf advanced to the net with a backhand approach shot to Sanchez Vicario's forehand. Because she needed to dig the low ball off the grass, Graf had to hit the shot with topspin rather than her preferred underspin. Her shot sat up and Sanchez Vicario easily blasted a forehand down the line for a winner while Graf stood rooted to the center of the court. "I didn't move to any side," Graf says. "I just stayed there hoping she would miss it. I played it too safe." It was the only time in this game that Sanchez Vicario deviated from hitting her forehand passing shot crosscourt--a pattern that eventually would cost her.
Point 8: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 2 for Sanchez Vicario
As she prepared to serve, Sanchez Vicario took an inordinate amount of time. Already, she says when reviewing the match, she sensed the growing significance of the game. A deep, penetrating serve clipped the line. Graf shanked a forehand off the frame, but the ball stayed in the court. After a few shots, Sanchez Vicario hit an awkward crosscourt backhand that floated wide. "I changed my mind there," Sanchez Vicario says. "I was going to hit down the line, then I waited and hit back again crosscourt. So I hit it a little too close. That's why I say I have to take risks. My idea was to go for it there, but I played it too close to the line."
Point 9: Deuce No. 2
"Great serve!" Graf exclaims after watching Sanchez Vicario's wide serve spin past her for the Spaniard's sixth ace of the match. Chris Evert, analyzing the match for NBC, says: "Boy, she's won so many points with that serve. But there's been such a pattern with that serve I'm surprised Steffi still doesn't read it."
Point 10: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 3 for Sanchez Vicario
Sanchez Vicario, feeling confident with her serve, opted to serve-and-volley, a rarity for her. The serve went deep to Graf's backhand, but Graf punched it crisply crosscourt and, once again, her shot clipped the line. "I thought I would go in there and surprise her, but she hit a very good low crosscourt shot and it was very hard to reach," says Sanchez Vicario, who had been successful coming to the net after hitting to Graf's backhand earlier in the match. Graf was amazed, however, at how easily her opponent handled Graf's underspin backhand shots on this day. "It didn't really affect her," she says. "She was really well prepared. She didn't have a lot of unforced errors."
"Sometimes she hits it late," Sanchez Vicario says, "and you have more of a chance. Here, she hits the line."
Point 11: Deuce No. 3
Sanchez Vicario hit a relatively easy backhand into the net.
Point 12: Advantage, Graf
Game point No. 1 for Graf
Sanchez Vicario's deep serve elicited two seldom-seen events: a missed forehand return from Graf and a trip by her to the sideline for a towel. "I was sweating and tired," says Graf, who is known for playing quickly. "I needed time."
Point 13: Deuce No. 4
After Graf toweled off and Sanchez Vicario missed her first serve, Graf decided it was the perfect chance to attack. She drilled a forehand return to Sanchez Vicario's backhand and followed it to the net. Sanchez Vicario lunged and ripped a passing shot crosscourt and out of Graf's reach. "I should have known better," Graf says. "She usually passes crosscourt."
Point 14: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 4 for Sanchez Vicario
Graf crushed a return down the line to Sanchez Vicario's forehand, just as she had during the second point. This time, however, the ball stayed in and Sanchez Vicario had to use all her speed just to get a racquet on it. She sent the ball high into the air. Rather than let it bounce, Graf hit it on the fly for a winner. "She doesn't miss many overheads, but that was not as easy as it looked," Sanchez Vicario says. "Plus, it was game point."
Point 15: Deuce No. 5
Sanchez Vicario spun her serve wide again, but Graf was able not only to return it but also to send it whistling crosscourt. Sanchez Vicario, having sensed an opportunity, hit a slice forehand approach shot, but it floated to the center of the court, allowing Graf to run around it to hit her inside-out forehand. She waited until the last second before sliding the passing shot past Sanchez Vicario's backhand side.
"She wasn't really prepared to approach very well," says Graf. Adds Sanchez Vicario: "I should have waited a little longer so I could hit the ball more to the side rather than down the middle. It was a little too short, so she took advantage."
Point 16: Advantage, Graf
Game point No. 2 for Graf
After hitting a forehand deep to Graf's backhand, Sanchez Vicario sneaked up to the net, only to be greeted by a soft, dying backhand from Graf. Using perfect hacker form, Sanchez Vicario dropped her racquet head and popped a drop volley over the net. Commentator Evert exclaims: "She's coming up with shots that she's never hit in her career!"
After the shot, Sanchez Vicario kissed the frame of her racquet, which appeared to deserve more credit than the strings for delivering her winning shot. "No, no," she says, disputing such a theory. "I hit it." Sanchez Vicario also says she timed her approach perfectly. "If I had waited a little longer, she would have gotten the ball to my feet. If I had gone in earlier, I could have missed it into the net. No, I waited until the right moment."
Even if Sanchez Vicario hadn't hit the drop volley perfectly, there was a good chance Graf would not have been able to run it down, because she was perched behind the baseline. "On grass," Sanchez Vicario explains, "short balls don't bounce. People forget that grass isn't always fast."
Point 17: Deuce No. 6
A sloppy mistake: Sanchez Vicario hit an easy forehand ground stroke into the net.
Point 18: Advantage, Graf
Game point No. 3 for Graf
With 17 points and six deuces behind her, did Graf suspect that this game was taking on legendary qualities? "No," she claims, "because you're always looking at the next point. The only thing is that you should try to come in, or try to force the other person to do something, and a few times I didn't do that. Like here: Come in!" Graf admonishes herself on this break opportunity for failing to approach following a couple of soft ground strokes from Sanchez Vicario. Eventually, after she clipped the sideline with one shot, Sanchez Vicario sent an impressive crosscourt forehand that hit just inside the service box sideline. Graf, forced to move forward unexpectedly, hit her forehand long.
"You have to move Steffi," Sanchez Vicario says. "If she's standing, she can hit the ball well. When she's running, she makes more errors."
"I should have come in," Graf says. "I don't know what I was thinking then, probably just to get the ball in play and maybe see if she was going to miss it."
Point 19: Deuce No. 7
"Come in!" Graf shouts again when reviewing the match. "Oh, no--too late again!"
Graf failed to follow in one powerful forehand hit to Sanchez Vicario's backhand, which Sanchez Vicario sliced back with one hand, then made her assault on the net behind a less impressive inside-out forehand hit to her opponent's forehand. The result? A patented Sanchez Vicario forehand crosscourt passing shot just out of Graf's reach.
Says Evert: "Arantxa Sanchez Vicario loves a target."
Point 20: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 5 for Sanchez Vicario
Sanchez Vicario's worst nightmare: Her serve caught the service line, but Graf's return clipped the top of the net and popped over. Sanchez Vicario scrambled to the net, then wisely hit a conservative underspin approach shot deep to Graf's backhand. It produced the result Sanchez Vicario wanted: A weak lob to her forehand side for a potential put-away overhead for the game. But Sanchez Vicario failed to take a full overhead swing and hit the shot back like a high forehand, bringing it right to where Graf was rooted to the ground. "Ayyhhhh! No!!!" Sanchez Vicario shouts when watching the shot.
Graf pushed back another backhand and Sanchez Vicario hit a weak backhand drop volley. Graf quickly shuffled toward the net and calmly hit a topspin backhand down the line to win the point.
"I changed my mind," Sanchez Vicario says. "I was going to hit the [high forehand] crosscourt, but I saw her move a little bit so I thought..." Her voices trails off. "I made a mistake," she admits.
Still, Sanchez Vicario claims the shot wasn't as easy as it looked. "If it were a little bit higher, I would have hit an overhead. But it came right between an overhead and a volley. I thought she was going to run crosscourt because normally she likes to run to her forehand side, so that's why I played it down the line. When I hit the ball, I knew she was there, so it was hard to continue because I had the open side again. I mean, she also was a little bit lucky to be in that spot. She was only covering the backhand side. But you should never hit in the same area two times."
Did Graf feel lucky? "Yes," she says, pointing to the screen, which shows her bursting into a grin after the point concludes. "You can see it here on my face. It was a really good approach by Arantxa to come in on a shot deep to my backhand. I had nowhere to go except down the line."
Point 21: Deuce No. 8
Sanchez Vicario bounced right back. She hit a hard, deep backhand crosscourt that Graf barely got a racquet on. Sanchez Vicario demonstrated no signs of disappointment, nor did she look the least bit tired. Graf, on the other hand, appeared exhausted. "You don't have a lot of short points against Arantxa," she explains.
The prospect of losing this game and having to hold her serve at 5-6 began to weigh on Graf's mind. "I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of energy left for the coming games. I wasn't really serving particularly well in the third set, not like in the second set, so I didn't feel too safe holding my serve in the next game."
Point 22: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 6 for Sanchez Vicario
Graf attacked on a short shot hit to her backhand, slicing the ball back crosscourt, generally a risky strategy. Though Graf had left her forehand side vulnerable, Sanchez Vicario couldn't capitalize: Her backhand passing shot down the line just missed wide. She let out a yelp upon heating the linesperson's "out" call.
Watching the point on videotape, frustration finally creeps into Sanchez Vicario's voice. "You see my ball? She hit two times before that right on the lines. And I went for the same shot and mine was just inches out. She was more lucky."
"Whew, that was close," Graf says. "But it was definitely wide." She did not make a move, however, to try to cut the ball off and volley it back. Was she confident it was going wide? "No," she says, "I didn't have the energy to go for it."
Point 23: Deuce No. 9
As she does prior to each point, Sanchez Vicario blew on her right hand, peered across the net at her opponent and tugged at the shoulders of her perspiration-drenched top. She peeked up at the players' box, which contained her manager, mother, coach, brother, sister and boyfriend. Sweat curled the hair under her drenched headband. She waited for the long applause to subside. "This audience of over 13,000 at Centre Court has to applaud because they're not breathing!" says Enberg. "They have to have some excuse to let out emotion. They're just literally holding their breath on every point."
Sanchez Vicario finally got an easy point. Graf shanked a backhand return long.
Point 24: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 7 for Sanchez Vicario
Sanchez Vicario hit a serve down the middle that produced a puff of white chalk and loud cheers from the crowd. Unfortunately for her, it was called out. Sanchez Vicario peered in the direction of the shot and up at the umpire, but the serve clearly was wide, the chalk coming from the service line in the deuce court.
A Graf forehand skidded off the baseline, and Sanchez Vicario couldn't get it back. "There wasn't much grass near the line, so the bounces were pretty different," Sanchez Vicario says. "That shot was real deep and bounced real low, so I was late. And I went for it down the line. I needed to get low."
In the booth, Evert says she senses Sanchez Vicario is playing a bit too tentative on her game points.
Point 25: Deuce No. 10
A 13-point rally from sideline to sideline, baseline to baseline, ended when Graf, following a down-the-line backhand approach shot to the net, failed to get enough racquet on Sanchez Vicario's crosscourt forehand passing shot. Sanchez Vicario's favorite shot almost always drops low over the net, landing within the service box. That's her target on passing shots, rather than the baseline, where some players mistakenly aim. "It was tight at her feet," Sanchez Vicario says. "If you hit your passing shots deep, she has more of a chance of cutting it off."
While Graf blames another "late" approach for costing her the point, she doesn't fault her strategy: "Slice it low to her forehand." Sanchez Vicario's backhand passing shot generally is more potent.
Point 26: Advantage, Sanchez Vicario
Game point No. 8 for Sanchez Vicario
Another 13-stroke rally which included three shots (two from Graf, one from Sanchez Vicario) that hit the baseline. On the last one, Sanchez Vicario couldn't return it, and she directed a pointed stare at the umpire.
"She always tries," says Graf. "They were good umpires." It wasn't the last shot that bothered Sanchez Vicario, though. "I thought the earlier shot was long, the one I hit late."
While Sanchez Vicario may have played tentatively on her game points, Graf counteracted her by doing the opposite. "I went for more of my shots when I was game point down," she says.
Point 27: Deuce No. 11
Graf again went to her sideline chair to towel off and gulp some water. She got a more satisfying break on this point: Sanchez Vicario misdirected a forehand wide. "An easy mistake from her," says Graf.
"There weren't really many easy mistakes."
Point 28: Advantage, Graf
Game point No. 4 for Graf
A brilliantly played point by Sanchez Vicario. Graf hit a forehand return deep into the corner to begin a scrambling, retreating point for Sanchez Vicario. Her own worst critic, Graf continues to chastise herself for not attacking more. "Come in! On this one," she implores herself on the TV screen. "I'm still not coming in! On this one--it was the wrong one to come in on. And there's the crosscourt."
Indeed, Sanchez Vicario again hit a winning crosscourt forehand out of Graf's reach. It was Sanchez Vicario's third successful crosscourt forehand passing shot in the game, even though crosscourt passes are considered riskier than passing down the line. The crosscourt shot gives the player at the net more time to react and volley the ball into the open court.
Point 29: Deuce No. 12
Graf stayed aggressive, this time approaching to Sanchez Vicario's backhand. Again, Sanchez Vicario didn't hit the down-the-line passing shot as much as try to direct it to a spot. The spot it hit, though, was inches out. When the chair umpire announced the score in Graf's favor, Sanchez Vicario again looked at her in disbelief.
"I thought it was good, because they didn't call it until it was late," she says. There was no argument, however. Explains Graf: "At this point, you hope a lot."
Point 30: Advantage, Graf
Game point No. 5 for Graf
A seemingly casual Sanchez Vicario hit a drop shot, then advanced only a few steps into No Man's Land, where she volleyed away Graf's reply to the open court. It was as if both players felt invincible when facing game point.
Point 31: Deuce No. 13
The point that broke Sanchez Vicario's back. In the middle of a long rally, Graf got caught out of position on the baseline and actually returned a backhand with two hands. The shot floated back to the center of Sanchez Vicario's court, and she hit a drop shot. Graf hustled forward and directed a slice backhand deep into the forehand corner. And Sanchez Vicario ripped another crosscourt forehand passing shot. Only this time, Graf was ready. She cut it off and hit a forehand volley winner.
"I waited too long," Sanchez Vicario explains. "I was going to go crosscourt, but when I went to hit the ball, I wanted to go down the line, but it was too late. That's why I hit the ball up." Graf says her approach shot had something to do with that. "It was difficult for her to get it down the line because my shot was deep," she says.
"[Sanchez Vicario] hit that shot one time too many," says Evert on the NBC broadcast. "Steffi was waiting for it."
Point 32: Advantage, Graf
Game point No. 6 for Graf
A deep shot to Sanchez Vicario's backhand ("C'mon," Graf screams while watching the rally, "take it already!") finally, almost anticlimactically elicited a shot into the net to end the game.
As one would expect, Graf wasted no time putting her opponent away in the next game. She needed less than three minutes to hold serve at love to capture her sixth Wimbledon title and her 17th Grand Slam title overall. During the awards ceremony, Sanchez Vicario jokingly snatched the winner's plate out of Graf's hands.
While watching the videotape of the post-match proceedings, Sanchez Vicario's eyes start to water, and she says that goosebumps are forming all over her body. "I'm getting a little emotional," she admits, fighting back her tears. As she leaves, she puts her cloak of confidence back on. "Next time we watch," she says over her shoulder, "I will be winning."