Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf Beats Sanchez For Phila. Tennis Title
Steffi Graf Didn't Just Want To Win. She Wanted To Win Fast.
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario Didn't Let Her.
November 16, 1992
By Diane Pucin
Though she complained that her play "wasn't very good," Steffi Graf, the top seed, beat Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the No. 3 seed, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, yesterday in the finals of the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia.
The match took 1 hour, 40 minutes, and that was much too long in Graf's mind.
"I just played too slow and let things happen," Graf said. "I just waited and waited and didn't step into the ball."
If this summation seems overly harsh from someone who had just won $70,000, her fourth straight tournament and her 19th straight match, well, Graf is a perfectionist. Even in Saturday's semifinal, when Graf needed only 42 minutes and nearly whitewashed poor Jennifer Capriati, 6-0, 6-1, Graf was grumbling about her serve.
Yesterday at the Civic Center, that serve was Graf's savior. In the third set, Sanchez was seldom given a chance to hustle to every ball because Graf was winning points quickly off a 95 m.p.h. first serve.
But the rest of her game wasn't as bad as Graf believed. She wasn't perfect, as she nearly had been Saturday. But Graf was still using the court in well-conceived patterns.
It's just that Sanchez can be as pesky as a 2-year-old, getting into every corner, causing trouble when you least expect it. There was no shot Sanchez wouldn't run down, no point Sanchez would give up on. Just some points that lasted too long.
"I been like this since I was a kid," Sanchez said. "I always have very good physical conditioning, and I always been very good runner."
Sanchez's game has also evolved in the last year into one of the most aggressive and varied on the tour. The 20-year-old from Barcelona, Spain, who was thrilled to see Catalan flags hanging from the balcony and who thanked a vocal Spanish cheering section in Spanish, is more likely to rush the net, try a volley, throw in a drop shot or an offensive lob than any player but Martina Navratilova.
From just being a threat on clay courts, Sanchez has moved into the top echelon of women's players and is a threat on all surfaces.
In fact, Sanchez seemed happier yesterday with the announcement that she would move past Navratilova and into the No. 4 spot on the computer rankings, her highest ever, than with her $35,000 paycheck for the week.
"What I wanted to do this year is finish No. 4, and I made it," Sanchez said. "I have a very good year, and I am very happy."
The winner wasn't so happy. Graf, 23, who has won eight tournaments this year including Wimbledon, wished she'd been more like Sanchez in the second set. Graf said she wished she had gone more to the net.
"I had her on the run," Graf said, "and on many occasions I could have gone to the net and put the points away. But I didn't move around."
The crucial game in the second set was the third. Sanchez had broken Graf's serve in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. The third game was breathtaking. It took 22 points, and Graf had five break-point chances. But the scrambling Sanchez saved them all and finally held serve and took a 3-0 lead on a service winner.
The third set was just the opposite. It was Graf who jumped into the 3-0 lead, and she didn't need any 22-point games to do it.
"Steffi served much, much better" in the third set, Sanchez said. "When she serves great, she doesn't have to think so much in the rallies."
But Graf is always thinking. About how to get better, about what is wrong, about how to be perfect.
Graf did think up the perfect "thank-you" speech for the crowd. She had attended last week's Eagles' game and the Flyers' 8-5 victory over the Islanders. "I made the Eagles win. Then I made the Flyers win. Finally I won. So I am very happy."
So happy she frowned while walking off the court. So happy she'll probably practice five hours today. So happy she may be perfect next time.
NOTES. Next year, the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia tournament will have more than double the $350,000 in prize money that was offered this year. The tournament will be worth $750,000 and be one of only seven top-level tournaments in the world.
The No. 2-seeded doubles team, Gigi Fernandez and Natalia Zvereva, beat the unseeded team of Conchita Martinez and Mary Pierce, 6-1, 6-3, to win the doubles championship and $20,000.
Yesterday's attendance of 4,607 pushed the week's total to 45,139, better than last year's 45,019. . . . Graf and Sanchez headed to New York to play in the season-ending $3 million Virginia Slims Championship at Madison Square Garden. Graf, who hasn't played Monica Seles since the Wimbledon final, is eager for another shot at Seles, the world's top-ranked player. "We haven't played for a while, and that's something I'm not very happy about," Graf said. "Hopefully, I'll get another chance soon."
That would have to be in the Slims final Sunday, because Seles is seeded No. 1 and Graf No. 2.
Seedings in parentheses.
Finals: Steffi Graf (1), Germany, def. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3), Spain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
Finals: Gigi Fernandez-Natalia Zvereva (2) def. Conchita Martinez-Mary Pierce, 6-1, 6-3.