Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
One of the greatest earnest-but-ironic quotes in tennis.
Graf uses strokes of genius to blank Zvereva
Sunday, JUNE 5, 1988
Larry Siddons, AP sports writer
PARIS - Quick and deadly, Steffi Graf tightened her grip on the top of women's tennis Saturday.
Lashing out her always powerful forehand, Steffi Graf retained the women's championship at the French Open tennis championships Saturday in a blowout of historic dimension and
unusual quickness. It was as easy as everyone else told her it would be, and much easier than she told herself.
Ten days shy of her 19th birthday, Graf kept the title she won in a tense three-setter a year ago with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union.
Third-seeded McNeil and Lozano beat the top-seeded team of Martina Navratilova and Emilio Sanchez 7-6, 7-5 in the semifinals.
The Graf-Zvereva match lasted 32 minutes, just over half as long as the one-hour rain storm that interrupted play halfway through the first set. Officially, shorter Grand Slam finals have been played, but single points have taken almost as long. The time on court might have been the quickest ever.
Only once before, in 1911, had a women's Grand Slam final ended without the loser taking a single game, recorded by Dorthea Lambert Chambers over Dora Penelope Boothby at Wimbledon 77 years ago. Never had it happened in Paris, where the worst previous drubbing was the 6-1, 6-0 defeat administered by the legendary Suzanne Lenglen to American Mary K. Browne in 1926.
Lenglen, whose name is on the main gate at the Roland Garros complex, defeated Molla Mallory in 1922 for the French women's championship 6-2, 6-0 in 26 minutes, the shortest Grand Slam final ever.
Graf and Zvereva may have been on court a shorter time, however; 66 years ago players did not sit down to rest on changeovers. If five changeovers, totaling a minimum of 7 1/2 minutes, are deducted from the total time, Graf's victory took just 24 minutes, 30 seconds. Last year at the French Open, Ivan Lendl and Joakim Nystrom took 28 minutes to play one game.
"I'm very sorry it was so fast,'' Graf told the center court crowd, who cheered Zvereva on, trying to help her avoid the worst final defeat in the tournament's history.
"I saw her in the locker room and I said, `I'm sorry about it and I hope you get better,' '' Graf said.
If she deprived the fans of a classic match, a replay of her victory over Martina Navratilova last year, she gave them one that will take its own place in tennis history.
After her victory in the Australian Open last January, the second consecutive French Open triumph kept Graf on course to be the first woman since Margaret Smith Court in 1970 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year.
Zvereva, 17, came out after the rain break wearing a new shirt but facing the same old problem. Graf was on the other side of the net, and the top-seeded West German's forehand was as blistering as it had been throughout the tournament.
When the final point - fittingly on a forehand cross-court winner - fell in, Graf jumped for joy, then sprinted to the box seats overlooking center court and jumped up to try to reach her father, Peter Graf.
He grabbed her outstretched arms and pulled her up for a swift victory kiss and lowered her to the court again.
Though Zvereva looked tense at the beginning of the match, she didn't blame nerves for the loss. She seemed to have no answer to Graf's powerful forehand, as time and again she watched helplessly as precisely placed ground strokes zipped by her.
"I was in my best form today. I was hitting great shots," said Graf. "I think she was nervous today. It's not easy to be 17 in a Grand Slam final."
Graf was 17 years and 11 months when she won the French Open last year, but she looks much older and stronger than Zvereva, who turned 17 just six weeks ago.
Zvereva won just five points from Graf in the 17-minute first set, which was interrupted for an hour by rain.
In the second set, Graf dropped eight points, but she said she didn't suffer from the lack of concentration that plagued her in her earlier matches.
The quickness and completeness of the defeat left Zvereva numb. Last year's junior women's champion in Paris and in only the third regular tournament final of her career declined the traditional chance to address the crowd and turned down requests for television interviews.
"I knew what to say, but I couldn't say anything,'' she said.
The architect of one of the biggest upsets of a tournament filled with surprises, a fourth-round victory over Navratilova, Zvereva finished her news conference in tears.
"I didn't play so good. She was too strong," Zvereva said. "It's not a nightmare. It's just a bad game, it's just bad play on my side."
Graf said she never expected it to be so easy. "Last year was my first win for a Grand Slam championship. I was tired and exhausted and it took me longer to realize it," Graf said. "But this one wasn't routine. It's a Grand Slam final. OK, it's 6-0, 6-0, and it's a different dimension from last year, but it still means a lot to me. I felt surprised on the court.
"On clay courts, you always lose a couple of games,'' said Graf, who lost only 20 games in the tournament. She did not drop a set for her second consecutive Grand Slam tournament.
With her own game in such good form and Zvereva 14 spots below her in the women's rankings, friends told Graf she had nothing to worry about. She tried her best not to believe them, and that may have been the final factor in the Soviet teen-ager's undoing.
"Everybody was telling me, `It's so easy.' They were saying, `You can't lose,''' Graf said. "So I told myself, `You better watch out.' She beat Martina and she's a good player. So I had to be tough.''
Numbers tell the dominance of Graf on a blustery day in Paris.
Playing in her fifth consecutive Grand Slam final, the West German lost just 13 points, only four on her serve. She allowed Zvereva to reach game point just once, at 40-30 in the second game, and she promptly broke with a forehand winner down the line and two Zvereva errors. Zvereva never again won more than two points in a game.
That forehand has become Graf's trademark, and it was as dominant as ever Saturday. The final point was her 21st winner off the forehand, not counting a pair of forehand putaways off short lobs into the open court.
And all this on a day when Graf's serve was not particularly potent. She hit on only 54 percent of her first serves, had three aces and double-faulted twice. It was a small flaw in an otherwise overwhelming performance against an opponent who looked intimidated by the occasion.
"I always try to play my best. I'm in good shape at the moment, and that's very important on clay courts,'' Graf said. "I try to put pressure on my opponent. Those are the two things I try to do. No one else seems to be able to do it.''
Only fourth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini was able to extend Graf to a tiebreaker, with the West German winning it 7-3 to clinch a semifinal victory. She won at least one set at love in four of her five earlier victories and dropped as many as four games in a set only while experimenting with some shots in an opening-round 6-0, 6-4 defeat of France's Natalie Guerree.
In other championships decided Saturday, Lori McNeil of Houston and Jorge Lozano of Mexico defeated Brenda Schultz and Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-2 for the mixed doubles title, and Andres Gomez of Ecuador and Emilio Sanchez of Spain captured the men's doubles, defeating John Fitzgerald of Australia and Anders Jarryd of Sweden 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.
The women's doubles final is today and features top-seeded Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver of the United States against No. 2 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany and Helena Sukova of Czechoslovakia.
FRENCH OPEN AT A GLANCE
A quick look at what happened yesterday at the $3.9 million French Open tennis championships:
- Attendance - 18,004, a record for the date. Old record 16,840, set last year. Total attendance for 14 days, 304,756.
- Weather - Mild and blustery with a brief period of rain. Highs about 70 degrees.
Graf-Zvereva box score
Saturday's box score of No. 1 Steffi Graf 's 6-0, 6-0 victory over No. 13 Natalia Zvereva for the women's singles championship at the French Open in Paris: ....................Graf........Zvereva
1st serve percent... 54............82.