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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf bars the way to a Navratilova record - Tennis
The Times
London, England
Friday, July 1, 1988
Rex Bellamy

For the second year running, Martina Navratilova will play Steffi Graf in the women's singles final at Wimbledon. Navratilova has won the title eight times and one more triumph would be a record. Graf holds the Australian and French titles and could be on the way to a grand slam of the four major championships.

These two have astonishing records. Navratilova has won 47 consecutive Wimbledon singles. In the process she has conceded only five sets (two of them in her last two matches). Graf has won 20 consecutive singles in straight sets in grand slam tournaments.

The semi-finals could hardly have provided a sharper contrast. Navratilova took two hours and nine minutes to beat Chris Evert 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in an impressive, eventually exhilarating match. There was a controversial finish, too. Graf took only 59 minutes to crush Pam Shriver 6-1, 6-2 in what amounted to little more than a practice match.

On grass, a women's singles at the Navratilova-Evert level tends to be more absorbing, in a tactical sense, than the pulverizing blows exchanged by the men. The women have to chisel and sculpt their points, whereas the men use explosives. Unfortunately for the reputation of women's tennis, there are few matches on grass or anything else played at the Navratilova-Evert level.

In Paris, three years ago, these two played the finest women's singles I have seen. Both are a little past the peaks they reached then. But they remain highly skilled players and great competitors who know each other's games inside out. It is just a question of who produces the goods most consistently on a given day.

The capacity crowd, clothed in summer colours, raised images of a giant rockery arranged around a lawn. The match was played partly in sunshine, partly under an overcast sky. Light rain interrupted the second set for 70 minutes when Evert was serving at 4-3 and 15-30 (she was to win the next four points).

In the first set Navratilova's authority was regal. She is probably the most gifted grass-court player the women's game has ever known: and the gifts were all spread before us. Evert was not playing badly but there was nothing much she could do, except nag away and wait for Navratilova to come down from the clouds.

Two glorious backhands in the first game of the second set put Evert into the running. Navratilova's physical advantages no longer mattered much. The length and pace of Evert's driving, plus the precision of her passing shots and lobs, made it increasingly hazardous for Navratilova to go to the net.

There were times when Evert plugged away at the backhand until Navratilova had forgotten how to play a forehand: and times, too, when Evert did the opposite. Evert's game was rich in small variations that disrupted Navratilova's rhythm. Navratilova began to think about her shots instead of doing what came naturally. Marginal errors eroded her authority.

The third set was a beauty. Navratilova broke to 3-1 but Evert instantly broke back. When Evert was serving at 4-5 down (a game of breathtaking drama) Navratilova had a match point but was frustrated by a blazing forehand down the line.

At 5-6 Evert had three more match points against her. She saved two. Then she played a cross-court forehand that clipped the net cord, eluded Navratilova, and seemed to hit the sideline. Navratilova swung round to glare hopefully at the line judge, who slowly raised an arm to signal that the shot was out. There were boos and a slow handclap as the umpire announced that the match was over.

From Shriver's point of view, the less said about the second match the better. She was utterly outclassed by a spring-heeled teenager who moved twice as fast, had much quicker reactions, hit harder and deeper, and produced a flashing stream of winners.

Shriver looked statuesque, hitting decent shots only when she happened to be in the same neighbourhood as the ball. She has a variety of fitness problems and told us after the match that she had been bluffing her way through. "I've been feeling pretty rotten," she said. "I've been hanging on with threads, glue, Band-Aid, and straps."

Sara Gomer, the British No.3 from Torquay, remained on course to retain the women's Plate yesterday by beating Eva Pfaff, of West Germany, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals.
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Daily News of Los Angeles
Friday, July 1, 1988

Pam Shriver felt queasy about meeting top-seeded Steffi Graf in the Wimbledon semifinals Thursday - and her ongoing fight with mononucleosis was just part of the reason.

"You can only fake it for so long," said Shriver, who was diagnosed as suffering from the illness three weeks ago. "I wasn't right the whole tournament and, fortunately, I played people where I could get away with it.

"Today, there was going to be no hiding or bluffing. I knew I was going to have to come up with something I didn't have and that's where I really felt very, very naked and I just didn't want to be there."

She practically wasn't. Graf tore through the No. 3 seed, 6-1, 6-2, the way she tore through everyone else this year in earning a Wimbledon final rematch Saturday with defending champ Martina Navratilova, who is going for her ninth title and her seventh in a row.

For Graf, who has lost only 17 games through the first six rounds of the tournament, the victory extended her streak of Grand Slam matches in which she hasn't lost a set to 20.

A victory Saturday would leave the U.S. Open as Graf's only barrier to becoming the first woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year since Margaret Court did it in 1970. Graf, 19, already has swept to victories in the Australian and French Opens.

"I was expecting more trouble (from Shriver), a harder match," Graf said. "But she couldn't do very much. She was not moving well. She was not at the right place at the right time."

Of course not. Shriver was on Centre Court at the same time as Graf, making her first appearance there since Graf beat her, 6-0, 6-2, in last year's semifinals.

Graf had five aces to none for Shriver. Graf broke Shriver's service five times. Shriver broke Graf just once. It was 4-0 in the first set before Shriver, who will turn 26 on Monday, won a game.

"I certainly played faster than Pam today," Graf said. "Her game is to play long and deep and come in as fast as possible, but she didn't really have the chance to do it today. She has improved. I expected a tough match."

Shriver said that only with time will she be able to put her loss in perspective.

"Reality will set in," Shriver said. "We're not talking about an unheard of force. We're just talking about someone you'd better have your act together when you play. I've been just hanging on with threads and glue and Band-Aids and straps and people coaxing me."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Friday, July 1, 1988
Al Morganti

The dream final between Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf was assured yesterday, but not before losers Chris Evert and Pam Shriver endured semifinal nightmares on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

Evert's horror occurred in one painful instant at the confusing ending of another of her rousing matches against Navratilova. A questionable call by a line judge, who signaled belatedly that Evert's final shot of the match was out of play, allowed Navratilova to escape with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

Shriver's exit was played out in a more torturous fashion. Shriver, who had been suffering from a case of mononucleosis throughout the tournament, was overwhelmed by Graf, 6-1, 6-2, in 59 minutes. Graf is now one victory away from her third straight Grand Slam tournament title, having won the Australian and French Opens.

The controversial out call was not seen by Evert, who believed she had pulled even at deuce, which would have saved a third match point against her

This was no ordinary shot. After a service return landed deep in her court, Evert moved across the baseline, lunged to her right and flicked a cross-court forehand shot. The ball clipped the top of the net, landing well out of Navratilova's reach.

Evert assumed the shot was good, but her relief was short-lived when she noticed that Navratilova was pumping her fist - a bad omen.

They might have become good friends over the course of their 78 meetings (Navratilova leads the series, 41-37), but Navratilova has a killer's instinct, especially on Wimbledon's grass courts.

"When I saw Martina doing that with her fists," said Evert, "I put two and two together and figured the linesman called it out. I usually don't question calls, but it was so crucial.

"Maybe it was a matter of seeing and hoping. I really did think the ball was good."

Confusing matters even more was the fact that the chair umpire, Richard Lumb, kept both players in suspense by delaying his call. Eventually, he did announce the verdict, and Navratilova was on her way to tomorrow's rematch with Graf in which she will try to win a record ninth Wimbledon singles championship and seventh in succession.

"It was really close," said Navratilova, who has been watching movies such as Full Metal Jacket and Rambo to get herself in the proper frame of mind for the tournament.

"I can not say that it was out, and I can not say it was good. It's a shame that the match had been so close and it had to end this way."

Although the match ended at full boil, it began slowly when Navratilova easily won the first set. However, after a 68-minute rain delay in the second set, Evert climbed back into contention,winning the second set after breaking Navratilova's serve in the first and seventh games.

If anybody should be able to judge Navratilova's state of readiness for the final, it is Evert, and she observed that the six-time champion isn't as dominating as she has been in the past.

Because of this, she knew she had a chance to win the match. Rambo movies or not, Evert thinks Navratilova's confidence is shaken.

"I think Martina is a little fragile," said Evert. "I've beaten her twice this year, and seen her crumble in those matches.

"She's talking about how confident she is . . . and her body language says she's confident, but I don't think she's confident."

Evert also said that she expected Graf to win tomorrow's final, which would probably be no surprise to Shriver, who was simply run over by Graf yesterday.

"It wasn't very difficult. She didn't give me much trouble again," said Graf. "I expected a harder match but she just couldn't do much. She wasn't in the right place at the right time."

Making the situation even more disheartening for Shriver was the fact that she had also been clobbered by Graf in last year's semifinal. She badly wanted to wash away some memories of that 51-minute disaster.

"This match was pretty similar," Shriver said. "The scenario was about the same. I had to wait in the locker room for a trauma match (Evert's) and then I got to go on Centre Court for the first time in the tournament again. And it was the same because I had the same insecure feeling and I didn't feel 100 percent physically."

She did manage to last an additional eight minutes, mostly by moving very slowly, but her illness doomed her to another lopsided loss to the 19-year-old West German, who has not lost a set so far in this tournament.

"You can't go out there against Steffi Graf as half a player and expect to be in there," said Shriver, who admitted that she had to fight an urge to play to avoid embarrassment, rather than thinking about winning.

"That's not like me," said Shriver, "but I've been just hanging on throughout this tournament with glue, and Band-Aids, and coaxing.

"You can fake it for so long . . . or bluff, or get by by gutting out a match. But today I knew I had to come up with something I didn't have.

"Today there was going to be no hiding, no bluffing. And for a while out there I felt very, very naked, and I just didn't want to be there."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Can anyone stop Graf's Slam bid?
Daily Breeze
Friday, July 1, 1988
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- Forehand. Forehand. Forehand. Can anyone stop the pounding advance of Steffi Graf through the rounds of the Grand Slam?

Pam Shriver was the latest to try -- and fail -- in the women's semifinals at Wimbledon Thursday.

Shriver, ranked third in the world and a semifinalist at Wimbledon for the third time, managed just 39 points against Graf -- only 15 against her serve -- as the 19-year-old West German raced to a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

"I was playing good tennis, returning well, serving well," Graf said in one of the tournament's biggest understatements. "I was expecting more trouble."

Graf has a way of making sure opponents don't live up to her expectations.

In three Grand Slam tournaments this year, she has played 20 matches. She has won them all, and has yet to drop a set.

"The fact that nobody has been able to win a set against me is certainly a plus for me," Graf said, that understatement showing again.

Saturday, she meets Martina Navratilova in a replay of the 1987 women's championship match. For the second year in a row, she will be the final obstacle between the 31-year-old American and a line in the tennis record books. Last year, it was a tournament-record sixth consecutive women's singles title. This time, it is the overall Wimbledon record of nine singles championships.

Graf said she will be the underdog, a role she is not used to playing but one she accepts in this case.

"The pressure is certainly on me because she has won the title so many times and she is the favorite to win even if I am No. 1," Graf said. "It is her surface."

Grass courts have not been Graf's favorite place to play. This is only her fourth Wimbledon and, until last year, she never had advanced past the fourth round.

Even last year, fresh from her first Grand Slam victory in the French Open, Graf looked unsure of herself and was beaten in straight sets by Navratilova.

This year, however, with her first Australian Open title in hand and another French Open title in her pocket, Graf has appeared more confident and nimble on the chewed-up turf of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

"I feel much more confident on the grass and that's maybe the most important thing," she said.

Navratilova riddled Graf last summer with a slicing serve that skidded away from her backhand on the grass the way a bald tire does on a wet road.

"I made many mistakes on that point," Graf recalled.

Then the new confidence showed.

"I am waiting for that serve and I am prepared for it," she said.

And always waiting is that forehand, probably the most potent weapon in women's tennis, a shot that Graf will run around any ball to fire and one that more often than not hits its target.

At the French Open, after scoring the most lopsided women's championship victory ever, Graf said the shot that brought her to the top was working better than ever. She has used it well at Wimbledon, where groundstrokes are not as important as on clay, turning it almost into a volley from the baseline.

Shriver felt its full force.

Take the sixth game of the first set, for instance, when Graf wrapped up her third service break with a ripping forehand down the line.

Or the final game of that set, when the West German came to the net and fired a forehand volley behind a mammoth serve to Shriver's backhand.

Or the first game of the second set, when forehand winners - passing shot, lob and volley - put Graf up 0-40. Shriver saved six break points to hold serve, but in the second game Graf was at it again, holding with a forehand crosscourt, then breaking with the help of two more forehand winners and a flick-of-the-wrist backhand scorcher that she hit running away from the net.

In the seventh game, Graf broke again on a forehand putaway, a forehand crosscourt winner and a forehand return so hard that Shriver at the net barely laid racket to ball.

Graf then held serve for the match on - what else? - a forehand winner.

"I felt naked out there," said Shriver. "If she actually hits it at me, I may have been hit and knocked over.... She hits the ball very hard."
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The Popular Assassin - Graf Ousts Shriver In 59-Minute Rout - WIMBLEDON NOTEBOOK
Friday, July 1, 1988
Bruce Jenkins

Wimbledon, England -- If you're wondering what Steffi Graf is really like, be assured you're not alone. A lot of American journalists are wondering the same thing.

It seems that on the few occasions Steffi reveals herself to the press, the conversation is in German. After a typically bland session with the English-speaking crowd at Wimbledon yesterday, she was asked if anything could ever bother her on the court.

Her answer, translated: "Yes. If somebody makes me laugh. Then I could not play a point."

One hopes this will happen someday, because Steffi has a disarming laugh and a great smile. She is extremely well-liked. The other players all admire her modesty and generosity - as opposed to, say, Gabriela Sabatini, now almost universally regarded as an arrogant, not-too-bright snob.

"There's no psychological warfare with Steffi," says Pam Shriver. "The only place she isn't generous is on the court."

Out there, she is nothing short of an assassin. Her intent is cold and murderous, and like a professional hit-man, she gets things done quickly. Shriver found that out yesterday in a 59-minute, 6-1, 6-2 semifinal that sent Graf into the championship tomorrow against Martina Navratilova.

One had to feel sorry for Shriver, who took the court with mononucleosis and the knowledge that Graf had beaten her just as decisively in last year's semifinal.

"You can only fake it for so long," she said. "I felt very naked out there, very insecure, like I didn't want to be there. It was like, `Forget about winning -just don't get embarrassed.' And that's unlike me. That's totally the wrong attitude."

Graf said she "expected more" from Shriver, probably because Pam had a match point against her (before losing) at Boca Raton, Fla., earlier this year. But we should learn not to expect much from Shriver. She's a fine person and she's been around, and all that, but in 10 years of big-time tennis, she has played in only one Grand Slam final (the 1978 U.S. Open, which she lost). Prime time simply isn't her gig.

And speaking of the Grand Slam . . .

"This final is really going to be wild," says Shriver. "Steffi's halfway to the Grand Slam, and Martina's going for No. 1. Steffi's trying to win Wimbledon for the first time, Martina's going for her ninth. Steffi's a righty bomber, Martina's a lefty serve-and-volleyer. It's really a great occasion."

And a rare one. Amazingly, Graf and Navratilova have not played each other this year. Their last two matches were hugely significant - Martina winning the '87 Wimbledon and U.S. Open. They seem to get together only when it really counts.

Graf hit her usual assortment of improbably wonderful shots yesterday. She actually caught up to a ball that had gone past her, racing to the scene and reaching around for a backhand flip that turned into a winner. But here's the best measure of her play: In 20 Grand Slam matches this year, she has not lost a set.

"I'm definitely picking Steffi," Chris Evert said after her heart-breaking semifinal loss to Martina yesterday. "Her serve is a weapon now. I think it matches Martina's. And she moves better. She has ironed out all of her weaknesses."

And she is 19 years old.

Graf's big problem here last year was Navratilova's deep, slicing serve to the backhand - a natural weapon for Martina as a left-hander. "I made mistakes on that almost every time," Steffi admits. "But I think I have improved."

Virginia Wade, the 1977 Wimbledon champ and a keen observer, said yesterday, "Steffi's backhand is immeasurably better. She's absolutely clocking it now: topspin returns, passing shots, everything."

The most interesting news is that Peter Graf, Steffi's father, is thinking about installing a grass court at their home in West Germany. That way Steffi can simulate Wimbledon all year long. And that's almost too scary to think about.

The Men's Side

Looking ahead to the men's semifinals today:

Ivan Lendl is not just the best all-around player on tour but the fittest. He's putting that to a severe test at Wimbledon, playing an astounding 225 games as compared to just 144 for his semifinal opponent, Boris Becker. Lendl also has played seven tiebreakers, while Becker, a perfect 15-0 in sets, has played just one.

As for Miloslav Mecir, who plays Stefan Edberg in the other semifinal, this mysterious Czech is once again on center stage. He has never seemed comfortable under such pressure; in his two big Grand Slam appearances, he lost the 1986 U.S. Open final and an '87 French Open semifinal, both to Lendl.

"You never know what you're going to get from this guy," says Becker. "Sometimes he plays like he just wants to warm up."

Mecir admits, "I just lose interest when my favorite shots don't come."

Even at his best - which was definitely the case against Mats Wilander in the quarterfinals - he can be deceptive. "A loss to Mecir is not a quick death," said Canadian pro Glenn Michibata. "It's a slow hemorrhage."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

St. Paul Pioneer Press
Friday, July 1, 1988
Associated Press

The women's tennis final at Wimbledon Saturday between the world's top two players is not just any championship match.

For both Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, there is far more at stake than just winning the title.

Navratilova, who has dominated the event for almost a decade, is aiming at two records - a ninth singles title, which would break the mark she now shares with Helen Wills Moody, and a seventh successive Wimbledon crown.

Graf also is on a quest to make history. The 19-year-old West German, winner of the French and Australian championships, will complete the third leg of the Grand Slam if she wins.

Then, only the U.S. Open will stand between Graf and a place in the annals of tennis. American Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court of Australia are the only other women to win the four Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year.

Saturday's match is a repeat of last year's final when Navratilova won 7-6, 6-1, wearing down a nervous Graf with a sliced serve to the West German's backhand that reaped points.

Navratilova won again when the pair met on cement in the final of the U.S. Open, stretching her career record against Graf to 7-3.

Since then, however, her opponent has been on a remarkable roll.

In her three Grand Slam tournaments this year, Graf has won 20 matches in a row without dropping a single set, including six rounds on the grass at Wimbledon on what has always been regarded as her least favorite surface.

In reaching the final, she has lost only six games at an average of 2.83 games per match.

It's a statistic Navratilova can get nowhere near matching.

While Graf has destroyed all opponents in her way, driving them off the court with her devastating forehand and a quickness that had semifinal victim Pam Shriver shaking her head in disbelief, Navratilova has struggled.

In her quarterfinal, the defending champion, playing in her 16th Wimbledon, Navratilova was down 4-2 in both the second and third sets against unseeded Ros Fairbank of South Africa.

With a mixture of guts, instinct and a little luck, Navratilova pulled through, but was shaken again in the semifinals by her old rival, Chris Evert.

Evert took Navratilova to the brink. Evert saved three match points before losing 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.

Evert, having met Navratilova 78 times, knows her rival's game better than anyone else. Yet she still picks Graf to win Saturday.

"I think Martina is a little fragile," Evert said. "I don't think she's confident."

Graf, who took over the No. 1 ranking from Navratilova in August last year, is the top seed.

The West German said she is confident of reversing last year's result and winning her first Wimbledon title.

"Last year, Martina's strongest point was certainly her sliced serve on my backhand. I made many mistakes on that point," Graf said. "I'm prepared for that this time."

Graf, whose serve-and-volley game has improved immeasurably since last year to go with her destructive groundstrokes, has one worry going into the championship match: pressure.

"The pressure is certainly on me because she won the title so many times and she is the favorite, even if I am No. 1. It is her surface," Graf said.

It's also been Graf's surface for the past two weeks. But none of her opponents have had the Wimbledon pedigree of a Navratilova.

"I want that ninth title," Navratilova said. "I don't want to wait until next year."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Women serve up better Breakfast at Wimbledon
Friday, July 1, 1988
Rachel Shuster

The first serving of Breakfast at Wimbledon has proven to be the most appetizing for NBC the last few years - and Saturday morning's women's final should be no exception.

"The women have actually provided better matches for us lately, and I suspect it will be the same this year, too," NBC's Dick Enberg says.

No. 1 seed Steffi Graf meets No. 2 and defending champion Martina Navratilova in a rematch of last year's final.

"Graf looks tremendous," Enberg says, "but Navratilova can beat her."

That's also the opinion of NBC analyst Bud Collins, who picked Navratilova before the tournament and is sticking with that prediction.

"I may be cuckoo, but I really feel she can pull one more out," Collins says. "Graf, the wunderkind, the 'bullet lady,' is murder, but on grass, I don't know. Martina's match against Chris (Evert) in the semifinals was a big pressure match.

"Now, she really has nothing to lose but the title, so to speak, so she can go out and flail away. If she doesn't get her serve in, she can't win."

But NBC analyst JoAnne Russell - who predicted a 35-minute victory for Graf in the French Open final against Soviet Natalia Zvereva and was off only one minute - likes Graf in a two-hour match.

"I did pick Steffi before the tournament, and I'm still picking her to win," she says. "What the heck, you've got to have somebody upset the champ now and then.

"On grass, yes, that would be an upset, even though she's the No. 1 seed and Martina's No. 2. Isn't that weird? But I don't think Steffi ever looks at herself as the underdog."

Russell says Graf "has to get her first serve in. And Steffi can't just chip the backhand when Martina serves her wide. She has to hit some balls. If she forces Martina on her serve, Martina will not be as aggressive on her return."

And Russell detects a chink in Navratilova's game that Graf can exploit: "Martina's been missing a volley or two, where last year, or the year before, she wouldn't miss at all. Rosalyn Fairbank made her miss (in the quarterfinals), and Chris made her miss.

"Martina makes the impossible look easy, but she's missing a few balls."
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Note how Steffi is not writing Navratilova off just because she has had some shaky matches. She's quietly confident that she's ready for the slice serve in the ad court. Navratilova, perhaps bluffing, doesn't think Steffi can pass as well as Evert off the backhand.

Daily News of Los Angeles
Saturday, July 2, 1988

Change is slow to come to Wimbledon, where they tend to let the grass grow under their feet.

In an era when "lawn tennis" has become an archaic term, the All England Club members steadfastly cling to the sport's roots. Only recently did they finally succumb to fashion and deem acceptable the use of ballgirls and yellow tennis balls. And the revolutionary notion of offering ticketholders rain checks is going to be introduced next year, after 111 years and countless soaked patrons.

Wimbledon is also perhaps the last bastion of Martina Navratilova, an eight-time singles champion here in search of a ninth title today. Weather permitting on Centre Court, she will try to hold off time and top-seeded Steffi Graf, the West German teen-ager who has come to dominate the sport almost everywhere else.

Graf was all of 12 years old when Navratilova last lost a singles match at Wimbledon, a 1981 semifinal defeat to Hana Mandlikova. That was six successive titles and 47 consecutive match victories ago.

A victory today over Graf would give No. 2-ranked Navratilova sole possession of the record for Wimbledon singles titles she currently shares with Helen Wills Moody at eight and would leave her just two matches short of Moody's record of 50 consecutive match victories.

But, at age 31, Navratilova isn't the force she once was, even at Wimbledon. After losing only three sets in the previous six Wimbledons, she dropped a set in each of her last two matches, nearly losing to both 50th- ranked Rosalyn Fairbank in the quarterfinals and to longtime rival Chris Evert in the semifinals.

While Navratilova lost 15 games to Evert, Graf has lost only 17 games through the first six rounds of the tournament and could be on her way to becoming the first woman to win tennis' four Grand Slam events in the same year since Margaret Court in 1970.

Graf, 19, already this year has won the Australian and French Opens and - including Wimbledon - has yet to lose a set in 20 Grand Slam matches. No one has struck this kind of fear into Wimbledon opponents since, well, Navratilova in her prime.

"There's probably more pressure on Martina because this is the last thing she's holding on to, that she dominates in tennis, and the last two (matches) have been very close," said Pam Shriver, who is Navratilova's doubles partner and who was routed by Graf, 6-1, 6-2, in the singles semifinals.

"On the other hand, if Steffi loses here again, people are going to start asking if it's something about Wimbledon."

Graf, who lost to Navratilova in last year's Wimbledon final but deposed her atop the world rankings six weeks later, acknowledged that the onus of winning Wimbledon remains upon her. She missed the tournament because of illness in 1986, but got as far as the round of 16 in '85 and '84.

"The pressure is certainly on me because she has won the title so many times," Graf said. "She is the favorite to win. Even if I am No. 1, it is her surface.

"Martina is not a different player because she had trouble this year. She had tough matches against Fairbank and Evert, but she can play much better."

Graf's power game is well-suited for the grass of Wimbledon. In last year's Wimbledon final, however, left-handed Navratilova beat her, 7-5, 6-3, by keeping the ball to the right-hander's backhand, something no one here has been able to come close to doing this year.

"Steffi is coming over the backhand better, but I don't think she'll be passing up both wings as well as Chris did (in the semis)," Navratilova said. "Also, with my slice and serve, it's going to be harder for her to go over because the ball is coming away from her.

"With a right-hander serving to her backhand, it's easier for her to come over the ball. But I expect her to return better than she did last year."

Graf has improved her game. She is another year G older, wiser and stronger.

"I feel more confident on grass and that's maybe the most important thing," Graf said. "Last year, Martina's strongest point was certainly her sliced serve on my backhand. I made many mistakes on that, but I'm waiting for that serve and I'm prepared for it."

Navratilova also defeated Graf in the final of the U.S. Open last September and, win or lose today, she is almost certain to return to Wimbledon. But Evert, who may not be back, thinks her rivalry with Navratilova accounts for keeping them both in the game.

"In the last five or six years, we've had each other to compete against now that the whole complexion of the game is changing," Evert said. "With Steffi and Gabriela (Sabatini), it really is different. Someone else has taken over."

In their semifinal, which ended on a dubious line call, Evert said she thought Navratilova seemed "very beatable."

Watching the match on TV in the locker room, Graf sensed the same thing but took no solace in it. "She won't be that nervous again," Graf said.

"It'll be a wild match," Shriver said. "Martina will get herself really up to play. She's never lost in a Wimbledon final. She's had to dig her way out of her last two matches.

"If she comes out and plays a very, very solid serve and volley match, it won't be much different from last year. But Graf will have one more year of experience and she'll probably raise her game a little bit, so Martina had better expect to serve a really fine match."

Navratilova has only lost three times in 10 matches with Graf. She has lost only seven sets. She has won four of their five matches in Grand Slam play over the past three years. The question is whether she can maintain that edge another year.

"It should be a good battle," Navratilova said. "I'm looking forward to it."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Understatement of the tournament in bold below. It was probably more intimidating than trash-talking.

Wimbledon - Will Steffi bring down Martina's last bastion? - Wimbledon still realm that Navratilova rules, but Graf may topple old guard's queen today
Houston Chronicle
Saturday, JULY 2, 1988
JEFF LENIHAN, Scripps Howard News Service

WIMBLEDON, England - Swiftly and suddenly, Steffi Graf has taken over most of the domain which used to belong to Martina Navratilova.

Just three weeks past her 19th birthday, Graf has already wrested the world's top ranking away from her 31-year-old rival and currently is going for the Grand Slam, something Navratilova has never won.

But the All England Lawn Tennis Club represents the last bastion of Navratilova's empire, and Wimbledon is the one tournament which has prevented the sport's changing of the guard from entering its final phase.

Clearly, the sport is no longer Navratilova's castle, but the Czechoslovakian-born left-hander refuses to relinquish that final room.

Again today, Graf will try to pry Navratilova away from the tennis title she cherishes most. For the second straight year, prodigy and legend meet for the championship.

Judging by the way the two players reached the finals, it's hard to give Navratilova much of a chance against a player younger, quicker and stronger. Graf never lost a set - she never yielded more than three games in a single set or four in an entire match - en route to the finals, while Navratilova has struggled.

Yet Navratilova seems to have a magical spell over this tournament, making it a possession over which she is extremely protective. The numbers are awesome. She has won a record six straight singles titles (no man or woman has ever won more consecutively), is 86-7 in matches here and has won 47 straight. Her last loss here came in a 1981 semifinal against Hana Mandlikova, when Graf was celebrating her 12th birthday.

Navratilova is looking to win her ninth Wimbledon singles title, which would push her past Helen Wills Moody and give her yet another record.

So it will be tradition and guile against youthfulness and raw ability, the queen of the old guard vs. the upstart.

If the match is decided on ability alone, the title can be handed to Graf. But if experience, intelligence and the intangibles come into play, Navratilova will win.

Navratilova, a decided underdog at the betting houses here, has talked frequently about her compelling urge to win her ninth title, claiming it's the only way she will feel completely fulfilled.

Despite her incomparable string of successes during the past decade, Navratilova still does not believe her accomplishments will be fully recognized or appreciated in years to come, and the more records she puts on paper, the more difficult it will be for her to be ignored.

"She's pretty close to the all-time record,'' says Pam Shriver, Navratilova's doubles partner and a loser to Graf in a Thursday semifinal. "There is probably a lot of pressure on Martina because this is the last thing that she's holding on to that she dominates in tennis - Wimbledon. The last two years it's been very close, but on the other hand if Steffi loses here again people are going to start asking if it's something about Wimbledon.

"There's pressure on both, but I think there's probably a little bit more pressure on Martina. But she rises to the occasion so often here that I don't think it will bother her that much.''

Navratilova has had a difficult week, what with repeated rain postponements and delays as well as consecutive three-set matches with Rosalyn Fairbank and Chris Evert.

"There's been so many interruptions and everything this week that I feel as if I've already played 10 matches,'' she said Thursday after defeating Evert.

Friday, Navratilova retired from her mixed doubles match in order to save herself for the final.

Like Navratilova, Graf is trying to keep several streaks alive. She has won 20 straight Grand Slam matches since losing to Navratilova in last year's U.S. Open final. This year Graf won the Australian and French Opens.

Since losing to Navratilova 7-5, 6-3 here last year, Graf has improved her game considerably, she says.

"I'm feeling good, my service is stronger and it's going to be a very good match this time.''

Says Navratilova: "I can't see her playing as well as Chris did (Thursday).''

One area in which Graf will have to be better is with her backhand service returns. Last year, Navratilova's slicing left-handed serve to Graf's backhand caused the young West German significant trouble.

"If Martina serves well and comes out and plays a good serve-and- volley game again,'' Shriver says, "then it may not be that much different than last year. But Steffi has had another year of experience and Martina better realize that she has improved.

"In any event, it should be a wild match. I'm looking forward to it.''
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Miami Herald
Saturday, July 2, 1988
From Herald Wire Services

She has grown up in public view, in much the same manner Chris Evert two-fisted her way into the hearts of tennis fans and into the minds of her opponents. And, at the same age, Steffi Graf is likely to become Wimbledon champion today.

But with a much different style.

While Evert's game was about patience and precision, Graf's is all power and penetration. She does not try merely to beat her opponents; the 19-year-old West German bludgeons them.

"She is a killer," BBC tennis commentator Dan Maskell said while watching Graf destroy Pam Shriver in the semifinals Thursday.

Today, Graf will try to stop Martina Navratilova's run for a seventh straight and ninth career singles title at the All England Club. She is also looking to avenge a 7-6, 6-1 loss to Navratilova in the 1987 final.

In doing so, Graf would be three-quarters of the way to a Grand Slam. No woman since Margaret Court in 1970 has accomplished a Slam.

On the hard courts of the Australian Open, Graf beat Evert in the final. On the red clay at the French Open, she trounced Natalia Zvereva in a 6-0, 6-0 final. All Zvereva had done was beat Navratilova.

Now, on the baked grass courts of Wimbledon, Graf has not dropped a set in her first six matches.

"I think I really improved since last year," Graf said Thursday. "Last year, Martina's strongest point was certainly her sliced serve on my backhand. I made many mistakes on that point. I am waiting for the serve, and I am prepared for it."

"I expect her to return better than she did last year," Navratilova said. "I think I have a little more on the ball than last year."

The two haven't met since last September at the U.S. Open, which Navratilova won.

That victory was enough for many who follow the sport to consider Navratilova as the No. 1 women's player in the world, even though the computer ranked Graf at the top.

"Martina's whole motivation is to regain her No. 1 ranking," Shriver said. "In the past year, she's changed everything from rackets to coaches looking for the answer. She has a champion's attitude."

The question here was whether she had the game. Navratilova, 31, still has her usual bravado, strutting around the court, pumping her fists. But, in her three-set struggles against Ros Fairbank and Evert, the confidence seemed to be a facade.

Graf, meanwhile, appears to be unbeatable. The serve explodes off the racket now, much the same way the forehand has for years. The backhand has become a force.

Not that Graf is all business. Asked about playing in the Wimbledon men's draw, Graf laughed and said, "I think I would win a first-round match."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Sports of The Times; The Foregone Conclusion
Peter Alfano
July 2, 1988
The New York Times

THIS was as close to a sure thing as there is in tennis. Even though Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf had been in three tournaments this year without crossing paths, everyone knew they would finally meet on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the final. According to London bookmakers, people bet so heavily on the likelihood of this happening that there was no second choice worth mentioning.

All the elements are there for a memorable match today. Graf, the 19-year-old West German, is ranked No. 1 in the world and is seeking her first Wimbledon title and the third leg of the Grand Slam. Navratilova, 31, is the former No. 1, trying to win a record ninth Wimbledon singles championship, and her seventh in succession.

''The lefty serve-and-volleyer against the booming righty,'' was Pam Shriver's assessment of the match. ''And for Martina, Wimbledon is the last thing she's holding on to, the last thing she dominates in tennis.''

Not everyone, though, is captivated by the final. That it was so easy to predict this matchup is seen as an indictment of women's tennis, exposing the lack of depth in the draw and the paucity of close matches.

In a rather unflattering column in The Times of London on Thursday, David Miller suggested that the women were taking the prize money under false pretenses. He said that surveys disclosed that most spectators come to watch the men at Wimbledon and that the women are short on personality, drama and endurance.

Miller lamented that the women's game had become a poor imitation of the men's, with players lifting weights, running sprints, trying to be like Boris Becker and Pat Cash. Then he contradicted himself, suggesting it was a travesty that Shriver could earn so much in this sport while being so unathletic.

Tennis may not be strictly a country club game, anymore - a round of quiche and Perrier, waiter - but in Europe, and especially at Wimbledon, there is still a belief that this is an endeavor for gentlemen and ladies. And ladies, of course, do not sweat. The British, or Miller at least, appear to prefer dainty little buttercups, camped on the baseline, playing interminable rallies.

IT simply is a matter of preference, Jimmy Connors said. There are those who find men's grass-court tennis equally boring, a macho exchange of serves and volleys, the game's equivalent of ''in your face.'' Other shot-making skills are not required.

Others think there is nothing more sleep-inducing than watching two baseliners slug it out on the red clay of Roland Garros in Paris for about five hours.

A more valid criticism of the women's game is that it lacks the overall depth of the men's and probably should not have a 128-player draw in the Grand Slam events. Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander, the No. 1 and No. 2 male players, are only marginally better than the rest of the top 10. Among the women, though, Graf and Navratilova are now head and shoulders above the rest, which accounts for their matches ending so quickly.

And much was made of the fact that Shriver managed to work her way to the semifinal while playing with mononucleosis. The implication is that none of the men seeded that high could afford even a case of the sniffles.

If there is a major upset early at Wimbledon, it usually occurs in the men's draw. Boris Becker was a second-round casualty last year; John McEnroe packed his racquets early this time. There are also more close calls, matches like Lendl versus Woody Woodforde of Australia, who is ranked only No. 54 but took Lendl to five sets, holding a match point. When Connors lost, it was to Patrick Kuhnen, a little-known West German ranked No. 90.

The upsets among the women may have been less dramatic, but Gabriela Sabatini, seeded No. 5; Sylvia Hanika, No. 15; Lori McNeil, No. 10; Natalya Zvereva, No. 8, and Hana Mandlikova, No. 9, all were beaten at least one round earlier than anticipated. And Navratilova's narrow escape against the unseeded Ros Fairbank was as gripping as any of Lendl's close calls.

In general, form held among the men and the women this year. Grass is called the great equalizer by the players, but the French Open provided the upsets, with Navratilova, Evert, Sabatini, Lendl, Becker, Yannick Noah and Stefan Edberg all losing relatively early.

SO while Navratilova-Graf has been a foregone conclusion, it does not lessen the anticipation of seeing them slug it out in the final today. It may not be Borg-McEnroe, but it is the women's equivalent.

Navratilova is the best serve-and-volleyer of her time, without peer on grass. Graf, according to Ted Tinling, a consultant to the women's game and member in good standing of the All England Club, is a tennis yuppie with a ''go for it'' mentality.

He compared her philosophy of trying for winners on almost every shot to the all-or-nothing philosophy of the modern-day brokers on Wall Street. Sometimes, Graf and the stock market crash.

Navratilova's comfort on grass -and the feeling that she has a divine right to the Wimbledon title - will make her tough to beat. In last year's final, she exploited Graf's backhand, slicing her serve and ground strokes to that side. Graf kept returning into the net in the 7-5, 6-3 loss.

Graf has worked on her backhand, she said, and can now hit it with more authority, almost as hard as her forehand, if not as consistently. Graf's serve has also been improving, Evert said. She thinks it is as good as Navratilova's.

And with one more year of play on grass, Graf may now have enough experience to take the championship Navratilova covets most. It won't be a shock if she does it in straight sets either.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf the favourite to claim victory in battle of nerves - Tennis
The Times
London, England
Saturday, July 2, 1988
Rex Bellamy

Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova are so evenly matched, in terms of racket skills and athleticism, that the Wimbledon women's singles final will probably be decided by their emotional responses: to the occasion and to each other. On the basis that Navratilova has more at stake and is occasionally prone to nervous inhibitions, I take Graf to win.

Navratilova, four months short of her 32nd birthday, is record-oriented these days and wants to establish a Wimbledon record by winning the title for the ninth time. But she is aware that, because of advancing years, the record probably has to be broken this year if it is to broken at all. That is an incentive, but is unlikely to help her to relax and play freely.

Since she beat Graf in the United States final last September, Navratilova has been beaten in straight sets by Chris Evert in an Australian semi-final and by Natalia Zvereva in the fourth round of the French championship.

True, Navratilova has won 47 consecutive Wimbledon singles since Hana Mandlikova beat her in a 1981 semi-final. But in her last two matches this week, she has been taken to 7-5 in the third set by Rosalyn Fairbank and Evert in turn.

It is often said, usually in a disparaging way, that Navratilova ``plays like a man". What is wrong with that ? Nature endowed her with an unusually strong and athletic physique and except for her self-indulgent early years she has exploited that advantage by disciplined dieting, training, and practice.

Navratilova leads Graf 7-3 in their private series and has won their last two matches, in the 1987 Wimbledon and US championships. On the other hand, since the US final, Graf has won 20 consecutive grand slam singles in straight sets.

Graf is halfway towards emulating the feats of Maureen Connolly (1953) and Margaret Court (1970), who both completed a grand slam during a calendar year, and Navratilova (1983-84), who completed the official, modern version of a grand slam by winning the four titles consecutively.

Graf, aged 19, is too young to let the distant prospect of a grand slam weigh on her mind. She has plenty of time for that. At present she is highly trained, supremely confident, and has lost the knack of losing.

In addition to the emotional factor, much may depend on the quality of Navratilova's serving to Graf's backhand. Indeed, both backhands will be severely examined. Graf is a more mature player now than she was a year ago: and I expect her to prove it, to become the first German champion since Cilly Aussem in 1931.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Can Martina Say '9' To German? Graf Faces Navratilova And 8 Wimbledon Titles
July 2, 1988

WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf have waited 10 months for their latest confrontation. They couldn't have picked a better place.

Both rivals are on a mission as they meet today for the women's championship at Wimbledon.

Navratilova, who has six straight championships here, is after a record ninth Wimbledon singles title.

The West German Graf wants the third leg of the Grand Slam.

Graf is No. 1 in the world, but Navratilova rules Wimbledon.

"The pressure is certainly not on me because she has won the title so many times," said Graf, who lost to Navratilova 7-5, 6-3 in last year's final. "She is the favorite to win it even if I am No. 1. It is her surface."

Pam Shriver, who lost to Graf 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals, agrees. Shriver says the pressure is on her doubles partner.

"Wimbledon is the last thing that she's holding onto, that she dominates in tennis," Shriver said.

"There's pressure on both, but I think there's probably a little more pressure on Martina. But she rises to the occasion so often here that I don't think it'll bother her that much."

Navratilova, who has won 47 consecutive matches at Wimbledon, has survived two three-set matches in the last two rounds. Ros Fairbank led 4-2 in both the second and third sets in the quarterfinals. Chris Evert extended Navratilova to 7-5 in the final set in the semifinals, and they might still be playing if a linesman had seen the last shot differently.

"I don't think Martina's confident," said Evert, who has beaten Navratilova twice this year.

"I pick Steffi."

Evert practiced with Graf before the tournament and believes Graf has improved since last year.

"Her serve is a weapon now," Evert said.

"It's interesting to see the quotes around at the French Open and here. Martina says all her shots are better. I think Steffi's serve is matching Martina's now. She moves better now. She's ironed out all the weaknesses she had, such as her backhand. It's a very effective slice backhand. There are no glaring weaknesses in Steffi's game any more."

Graf has overpowered six players, losing only 17 games, no more than four per opponent. Navratilova has dropped 43.

Graf has won her last 20 Grand Slam matches in straight sets. Graf has not lost a Grand Slam match since Navratilova stopped her at the U.S. Open.

Last year, Navratilova won two of three Grand Slam finals against Graf, but this year, Navratilova failed to reach the finals in Melbourne and Paris. Evert defeated her in the semifinals at the Australian Open, and Natalia Zvereva upset Navratilova in the fourth round at the French Open.

"If Graf wins here, she's won for the year," Shriver said.

"Even if Graf loses here, Martina has to win the rest of the tournaments the rest of the year.

"But Martina's not looking at it for No. 1. She's looking at it for her ninth Wimbledon. It's someone trying to get her first Wimbledon and someone who's trying to get her ninth.

"A lefty serve-and-volleyer against a big, booming righty. It's a great occasion. I think it'll be a wild match."

-- Navratilova retired from her quarterfinal mixed doubles match after Friday's late-afternoon rain delay. Navratilova and Emilio Sanchez trailed Kelly Jones and Gretchen Magers 7-6, 4-4. Earlier Friday, Navratilova and Sanchez beat Steve Kruger and Molly Van Nostrand 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Navratilova said she quit because of "the lateness of the hour, the uncertainty of the weather and the importance of the women's singles."

-- Defending men's doubles champions Robert Seguso and Ken Flach face second-seeded John Fitzgerald and Anders Jarryd in today's final.

Seguso and Flach are trying to become the first team to repeat since John McEnroe and Peter Fleming in 1983-84.

-- Graf and Gabriela Sabatini defeated Evert and Wendy Turnbull 6-3, 6-4 in the women's doubles semifinals. Graf and Sabatini will meet Soviets Larisa Savchenko and Zvereva in Sunday's final... Amy Frazier of Rochester, Minn., reached the semifinals of the girls' championship. The lone American junior left plays top-seeded Brenda Schultz of the Netherlands today.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The San Diego Union
Saturday, July 2, 1988
Barry Lorge

Steffi Graf has always been in a hurry.

As a young girl growing up near Heidelberg, West Germany, she paced a path across the living-room floor until her father got home to play tennis. She could not wait to get outdoors to practice. Papa sawed the handle off a racket to get it to Steffi's size and stretched string between furniture to simulate a net. "One or two days later," said Peter Graf, still his daughter's coach and adviser, "all the lamps were gone."

Graf, 19 last month, ended Martina Navratilova's five-year stranglehold on the No. 1 women's ranking last summer. If she dethrones Navratilova, who is seeking a record ninth title and seventh straight in today's ladies' singles final at Wimbledon, Graf will be going for the Grand Slam at the U.S. Open in September.

Graf won 11 tournaments and 75 matches last year, losing only twice -- to Navratilova in the finals of Wimbledon 7-5, 6-3 and the U.S. Open 7-6, 6-1. In both matches, Navratilova exploited Graf's backhand. On Wimbledon grass, she repeatedly served wide, left-handed slices that opened up the court; on asphalt at Flushing Meadow, N.Y., she paved her way to the net by hammering at Graf's only obvious vulnerability.

Since then, Graf has solidified that side, developing a formidable topspin stroke for power and a slice to keep the ball low and deep. This year, she is 44-2, having lost twice to doubles partner Gabriela Sabatini. She has not played Navratilova. Graf won the Australian Open on synthetic hardcourts, the French Open on clay, and has hurried through 20 straight matches in the Grand Slam tournaments without losing a set.

Grass has been her least familiar and most troublesome surface, but she has quickly learned to play a fast-court game that suits her personality, if not her experience.

Like 1976-80 Wimbledon champ Bjorn Borg, whose game in some ways could have been the prototype for hers, she grew up on clay, slugging from the backcourt with a forehand as potent as Mike Tyson 's punch. For Wimbledon, she has developed an attacking serve, underspin approach shots and a volley adequate to end lickety-split points. Like Borg, she is an adaptable athlete. She moves on turf like a thoroughbred galloping in a meadow and has the tactical instincts for the speeded-up game on grass. Her time is coming.

"Under normal circumstances, I would say that if anyone just plays one grass-court tournament a year, that's not enough, but when Borg won his five straight, this was his only grass-court tournament every year," said Pam Shriver, who has gotten five games from Graf in the Wimbledon semifinals the past two years. "Certainly, you get people who can handle the surface just once a year and be fine. I think that's pretty special."

Graf bustles purposefully around the court, blasting opponents as if she did not want to be late for afternoon tea. The pace of her shots, and her play, is all business.

"She does everything very fast," said Mary Joe Fernandez, 16, who got four games in the fourth round from the accelerated rival she has known for nearly half her life and likes immensely. "She serves very quickly, gets up fast, goes right to the other side. I tried to slow things down, to think a bit, but even so, the points went bang, bang."

Shriver tried to dally, too, to break the rivet-gun rhythm. She lasted 59 minutes. "I kept cool, but I was hot inside," said Graf, who hates stalling.

Navratilova also plays rapidly, but she likely will try to impose a more controlled tempo, using all available wiles to hold on to the precious plate she has held aloft eight triumphant times.

It promises to be a fascinating final. Navratilova was shaky in three-set cliff-hangers against Ros Fairbank in the quarterfinals and Chris Evert in the semis, but she started serving and volleying with her old authority in the final set against Evert.

"I think Steffi is coming over the backhand better, but I don't think she'll be passing on both wings as well as Chris did," Navratilova said. "Her forehand is still much better than her backhand, and with my slice serve, it's going to be harder for her to go over the ball because it's tailing away ... But I expect her to return better than she did last year. It should be a good battle."

Countered Graf: "I think I have really improved since last year. My serve is much stronger. I feel much more confident on the grass, and that's maybe the most important thing. Last year I made many mistakes on Martina's slice serve to my backhand, but this time I am waiting for that. I am prepared for it."

Most insiders doubt that Navratilova can stave off Graf any longer. "Martina appears in her body language to be very confident, but she's not," said longtime rival Evert. "I would still pick Graf to win."

But Shriver, who has won 17 Grand Slam doubles titles with Navratilova, knows how high she can get on Wimbledon grass, where she has never lost a singles final. And how determined she is to extend her current 47-match singles streak at Wimbledon and overtake the record set by Helen Wills Moody, who won all 50 of the matches she played in eight appearances between 1927 and 1938.

"There is probably more pressure on Martina because this is the last thing that she's holding on to that she dominates in tennis: Wimbledon," said Shriver. "But she rises to the occasion so often here that I don't think it will bother her ... It's someone who's trying to get her first Wimbledon against someone 12 years older who's trying to get their ninth. A lefty serve-and-volleyer against a booming righty. It's a great occasion. I think it will be a wild match."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Yeah, Pam, it would have been great... Note how she uses the words "unfair" and "nasty" but not "untrue."

Flach, Seguso struggle to gain doubles final
Houston Chronicle
Saturday, JULY 2, 1988
Houston Chronicle News Services

WIMBLEDON, England - Ken Flach and Robert Seguso are on the verge of winning their second straight men's doubles title, but it isn't coming easy. Flach and Seguso, both of whom play out of Sebring, Fla., survived a match point in their five-set quarterfinal, then won the final set of their semifinal match 14-12.

Flach and Seguso, seeded first, meet John Fitzgerald and Anders Jarryd, seeded second, in the championship.

Has James Dean been reincarnated?

If so, can his soul really be inhabiting the body of Boris Becker?

Becker, the 20-year-old West German tennis star, is so infatuated with the late movie star that his friends say Becker really believes he is Dean reincarnated.

Becker has visited the crossroads where Dean died after crashing his Porsche to pay homage to the idol he never met. Becker also drives a Porsche. Dean died on Sept. 30, 1955, near Paso Robles, Calif.

A famed rebel, Dean used to dress up in black and hide behind dark sun glasses. Becker shares Dean's rebellious streak and lately has been dressing up in black and hiding behind sun glasses.

Sherwood Stewart of The Woodlands and Zina Garrison of Houston, the No. 14 seeded team, have reached the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles division.

Stewart-Garrison defeated Eddie Edwards and Elna Reinach of South Africa 6-1, 7-5 to gain the quarters.

Another Texas team - Kelly Jones of San Diego and Gretchen Magers of San Antonio - advanced past Emilio Sanchez of Spain and Martina Navratilova of Fort Worth, the No. 1-seeded team, 7-6 (8-6), 4-4, retired. Navratilova decided to retire because of the weather conditions and the pressure of her women's singles final today.

Another Texas mixed doubles team lost its quarterfinal match. Rick Leach of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Patty Fendick of Sacramento, Calif., defeated Marcel Freeman of Los Angeles and Lori McNeil of Houston 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

The Russian women's doubles team of Larisa Savchenko and Natalia Zvereva defeated Garrison and Katrina Adams of Chicago 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals.

Women's top seed Steffi Graf was one of the few spectators without a Centre Court seat Friday for the men's semifinal match between Miloslav Mecir and Stefan Edberg.

The West German, who faces a struggle of her own today in the final against No. 2 Martina Navratilova, dropped in for a look at the tennis after winning in a women's doubles semifinal with her Argentine partner, Gabriela Sabatini.

Graf leaned against a wall in the upper part of the stadium to get a view of the action.

Edberg's five-set victory over Mecir lasted more than three hours Friday, apparently long enough for the grass on the All England club Center Court to grow.

In the break between that contest and the other semifinal between two-time champion Becker and world No. 1 Ivan Lendl, two men trotted onto the court with mowers to give the turf a touchup trim.

Edberg's British coach Tony Pickard said the Swede's comeback from a two-set deficit against Miloslav Mecir proved wrong ``an awful lot of people who have said Stefan had no guts, no fire in his belly.

``Today was an enormous effort by Stefan,'' said Pickard, Edberg's coach for the past five years. ``We put in a tremendous amount of work for this tournament. But this is professional tennis. Every week, we have a job to do.

``In this sport, it's not over until the last ball has been hit. Stefan proved that today.''

A Thursday column in the London Times has incited many of the women's players here.

In the column, author David Miller said, ``The prize money is wholly out of proportion to the relative entertainment provided'' by women's matches and added that women's matches are ``short on personality, trauma and endurance.'' For good measure, he added that ``crowds use women's matches as an expedient moment to go to tea.''

As a clincher, Miller said: ``Because their sex is slower and weaker, that makes their game second-rate to the men.''

``It was unfair,'' said Pam Shriver. ``I was thinking, `Wouldn't it be great to come out and play a magical match to prove I'm not un-athletic or whatever he called it. I think it was very nasty.''

Becker often talks about Wimbledon as if it is the most important thing in his life, the genesis of all his success. He was at it again this week.

``Wimbledon shapes my life,'' he said of the place he once called ``my birthplace.''

Added Becker, ``My year is what I achieve at Wimbledon. My fame, my contract, the money I earn ... everything comes from these two weeks.''

It is interesting to note that Tony Roche of Australia will earn $20,000 if he can win the 35-and-under singles. That's nearly twice as much as he earned for finishing second to Rod Laver in the 1968 singles final.
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