Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2 - Page 184 -
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post #2746 of 6247 (permalink) Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 03:18 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

This match was something that just doesn't happen in real life. It seemed like something out of a movie script at the time, as if Hollywood were trying to create a tennis thriller. In the first set, it seems Steffi has control until the last minute and Navratilova starts running away with it. There is briefly a feeling that the kid is headed for another straight sets loss in the final. And then just an amazing barrage of winners, tremendous court coverage, a sense that nothing is impossible. If this match, this Wimbledon tournament were a horse race, it would look a lot like this: .

We note that Martina is --finally-- at her gracious-in-defeat best. Even saying the magic words about losing to a better player. And we note that Steffi acknowledges Navratilova's relationship with Wimbledon and empathizes with her loss of the title and the chance (for this year) for the record. It would seem that bygones are bygones. Of course, the peace is short-lived...

Great Plate Passes to Graf
Saturday, July 2, 1988
MIKE DAVIS, Gannett News Service

WIMBLEDON, England - The Great Plate, and the eternal flame of women's tennis, has passed into younger, stronger hands, and it looks like they're going to be hanging onto it for a while.

Saturday, July 2, 1988. Write it down and remember it. On that date, the Martina Era ended and the Steffi Era began.

It happened with the shocking suddenness of a clap of thunder. Steffi Graf, down a set and trailing 2-0 in the second, unleashed a blast of pure heat not felt since they stopped atmospheric A-bomb testing.

Graf won nine consecutive games and 12 of the final 13 to level Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon ladies singles final and capture the third leg of what could be the first Grand Slam in women's tennis since 1970.

The final count Saturday was 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, but it didn't seem like a three-set match. It seemed like a rout, just like all of Graf's matches during this tournament.

Heck, it WAS a rout.

"I got blown out," Navratilova admitted.

And aced out of some pretty heavy history.

Gone, for this year and maybe forever, is Martina's chance for a ninth singles title here; she still shares the all-time record of eight with Helen Wills Moody.

Gone is her 47-match Wimbledon singles winning streak, three short of Moody's tournament record.

Gone is her distinction of never having lost a Wimbledon singles final.

Gone is the era of a great champion who, along with Chris Evert, dominated women's tennis for nearly two decades.

"It's a very special feeling," Graf said of her first (of many?) Wimbledon crown. "When I won the French Open last year (her first Grand Slam title) I didn't think I'd ever feel that way again. But I did today.

"It's a sad thing for her," she added. "I know she was really up to win her ninth title. It means a lot to her. This is her tournament. She's won it so many times."

Six straight, before Saturday.

It can't be stated for certain, of course, that Navratilova is through. She'll probably take another shot at Graf in the U.S. Open, and she stopped short Saturday of saying this would be her final Wimbledon.

But the handwriting is there on the ivy-covered walls of Centre Court - where yesterday, for the first time since 1981, somebody besides Navratilova held aloft the champion's silver plate in the post-match ceremony.

Martina will be 32 in October, and when asked if she'd be back next year, she said, "I don't know. We'll see how my body holds up."

Graf just turned 19, making her the youngest ladies' champion here since Maureen "Little Mo" Connolly, who was 17 when she won in 1952 and 18 when she did it again in '53.

And if there has ever been a quicker, more agile all-around athlete in the women's game than Graf, her name does not leap to mind. If Navratilova can be humiliated by Graf as she was Saturday on grass - Martina's best surface, Steffi's worst - it seems doubtful that she can beat her younger rival anywhere else, either.

"It would be hard to put a period behind the end of an era yet," Martina said. "But this is definitely the end of a chapter. The torch has sort of been passed, if you want to put it that way."

Passed? Graf grabbed it with both fists and ran. Fast.

There was no single moment either player could point to and say, "This is where the match turned."

But after her serve was broken in the second game of the second set, Graf lifted her game out of its first-set doldrums, and Navratilova couldn't keep up.

The first set went much like the Graf-Navratilova final here last year, won by Martina 7-5, 6-3. Navratilova kept working Graf's suspect backhand, and Graf kept making errors - with the backhand and, surprisingly, with her powerful forehand as well.

Martina broke Graf in the 10th game and again at 5-6, 15-40, when a sensational backhand cross-court winner struck from behind the baseline gave her the set.

But even at that precarious stage, it was clear Graf was a different player than the one Navratilova beat a year ago. Her shots weren't missing by much, and many of her backhands were delivered with authoritative, overspin punch - not the weak slices that set up so many easy Navratilova volleys a year ago.

Graf knew the backhand was what she needed to improvement most if she was to handle Martina's slicing left-handed serves.

So in preparation for Saturday's match - and in lieu of a woman player who could emulate the Navratilova serve, of which there are none on this planet - Graf enlisted the aid of a couple male left-handed practice partners. One was Mark Woodforde, the young Australian who lost to Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of the men's draw. The other, according to the BBC, was an unidentified "Shakespearean actor."

The work paid off, starting about the third game of the second set, when Graf broke Navratilova to put the set back on serve.

But it was at 30-15 of the next game that Graf gave a real glimpse of what was to come. She ran to the baseline to return a Navratilova lob, then sprinted to the net to scoop up a drop volley and push it cross-court with the forehand for a winner.

It was the kind of play only an athlete like Graf can make. Even Martina applauded.

Steffi broke again in the fifth game on a passing shot ... with the backhand.

And the roll was on. Over the next six games Navratilova won only eight points. Graf was galloping all over the court, slamming winners from either wing, taking the net with new-found aggressiveness and volleying decisively, running down anything that looked like a Navratilova winner and turning it into one of her own.

"She was everywhere. She was so fast," said Martina, sounding amazed. "Balls most players can't even get to, she hits winners off of. And once she gets going, she's hard to stop."

Navratilova momentarily stemmed the tide by breaking Graf's serve in the fourth game of the third set. But even then she seemed beaten.

A brief rain shower caused a suspension of play after that game, and while the players waited it out in the locker room, Graf said, "I saw her and she was down. I thought then she'd have a tough time."

She did. Graf broke back in the fifth game, held at love, then broke again, cashing in her first match point with a cross-court backhand that nicked the tape and bounced in. Just what she needed - luck.

Incredibly, Navratilova, perhaps the greatest server the women's game has ever seen, lost her last seven service games against the Graf machine.

Afterward, Martina could not have been a more gracious loser. She handled her post-match interview like a champion.

"I didn't succumb to the pressure (of her winning streak and record bid), I succumbed to a better player today," she said. "If I was going to lose, this is the way it should happen - in the final against a better player."

That player now needs only to win the U.S. Open in September to complete the first women's Grand Slam since Margaret Court's 18 years ago.

"Everyone's talking about it now," she said. "But I'm not going to change anything. I'm going to continue to concentrate just on the next tournament. When I come to Flushing Meadow, then I'll think about it."

In the meantime, she left the rest of women's tennis with something to think about: "I can raise the level of my game still more."

The mind boggles.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Love the imagining of Helen Wills Moody as Gloria Swanson!

Wimbledon 99: Action Replay: Moment which ushered in the quickfire era of Graf
John Roberts at Wimbledon
Monday 21 June 1999

Steffi Graf's winning Wimbledon record began on July 2, 1988 when she beat Martina Navratilova to take the title exactly a year after losing in the final to the same player. John Roberts was there for The Independent. This is his report.

THE WIMBLEDON crown of Martina Navratilova slipped over her bespectacled eyes when her serve was broken in the third game of the second set in Saturday's final. What took place in the next game underlined that women's tennis had moved inexorably into a new era of Steffi Graf domination.

Navratilova finessed a drop volley into an expanse of empty court and there, a year ago, the point would have ended. Not this time. Graf checked her progress over the tramlines to her left, bounded across the turf with lengthy strides, and clipped the ball before its second bounce, sending one of her famous forehands past the eight-times champion.

The prospect of a ninth singles title gone, perhaps forever, Navratilova was still marvelling at Graf's acceleration long after the 19-year-old West German had won the match 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 and added a cheque for pounds 148,500 to official career winnings of pounds 1.3m.

"It's her biggest weapon," said Navratilova. "If she doesn't get there she can't hit that big forehand, but she just gets into position so well. She's got incredible spring in her step and is so quick off the mark. She kept running everything down, going for balls other people wouldn't get, and hitting winners off them. She's got long legs, but she gets down. She's the fastest player out there."

Navratilova took the disappointment well and said: "If you have to lose, you might as well lose to the better player on the final day and pass the torch, if you like to call it that." We could only imagine the scene unfolding in California.

It would have been breakfast time in Sacramento. Helen Wills Moody, an 82-year-old semi-recluse reminiscent of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, is visited by an Erich von Stroheim character carrying a silver tray. "Miss Navratilova lost, Madam." A wrinkled arm shoots into the air, bony fist curled in triumph.

Unless the state of the women's game alters dramatically, and sturdy new talent emerges, we can continue the fantasy and move on to 1996. The 27-year-old Graf is on the point of breaking the Wimbledon record held jointly by the 39-year-old Navratilova and the 90-year-old Wills Moody and there is nobody to stop her.

We shall see. Graf's immediate objective is the United States Open at the end of next month when victory would assure her of immortality as only the fifth player of either sex to complete the Grand Slam of the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US championships in a calendar year. Margaret Court of Australia was the last to achieve this, in 1970, although Navratilova, after winning the French in 1984, held all four titles at the same time but not in the same year.

The West German is trying not to overburden herself with too many thoughts on the subject. "I knew that question was going to come up, I was waiting for it and it took so long," she exclaimed during her interview. "Everybody is talking about it, but I am sure I still have to concentrate on every single tournament. I am not going to change anything. When I come to Flushing Meadow, that's when I am going to think about it."

Legend has it that her father built replicas of the four Grand Slam surfaces - rubberised cement, red clay, grass and asphalt - at the family home. This is not true. They have access to a clay court at a local club and one court of their own. Appropriately, the surface is asphalt, which will help prepare her nicely for New York. The disturbing news for Gabriela Sabatini and any other prospective rival who may come along is that this is only the start. "I am sure I can raise my level again," Graf said. "I am going to need another two or three years to be able to do a few things I really needed to do today."

Navratilova, who promised to return to try again, said: "I think Steffi can do pretty much anything with her game," acknowledging that last year Graf was greener on the other side of the net.

FOOTNOTE: Martina Navritilova won a record ninth Wimbledon singles title in 1990, overtaking Helen Wills Moody's record. Steffi Graf went on to win another six.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

One of the best descriptive paragraphs about Steffi, ever. There was a sense of a dog's joyfully impatient "yeahyeahthrowtheballthrowtheball" enthusiasm about her.

Graf's victory heralds a new era - Tennis
The Times
London, England
Monday, July 4, 1988
Rex Bellamy

Steffi Graf's 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon women's singles final on Saturday was "definitely the end of a chapter", as Navratilova said. It also took us deeply into another chapter, because Graf is three-quarters of the way to a grand slam of the Australian, French, Wimbledon and United States championships.

Graf, less than three weeks past her nineteenth birthday, is the youngest women's champion at Wimbledon since 1953, when Maureen Connolly won the second of her three titles. Only one other German has won the women's championship. That was Cilly Aussem, aged 22, in 1931.

Aussem's triumph interrupted the reign of Helen Wills Moody, who shares with Navratilova the Wimbledon record of eight singles titles. Wills Moody did not compete in 1931, whereas Graf confronted and deposed the reigning monarch. Graf has won 21 consecutive grand slam singles matches at the cost of only one set.

There is a rather untamed, boisterously puppyish air about Graf especially when she is racing and bouncing about the court and that mop of hair is flopping this way and that. Stillness seems alien to her nature. One assumes that when she frolics with her dogs, the dogs tire first.

That was how it was in the final when, having put a few inhibitions behind her, Graf played with all the free-swinging ardour of youth to win nine consecutive games. There had been earlier hints of dominance, because in the first set she had three break points for a 5-2 lead.

Graf's recovery from 5-7 and 0-2 down demanded resilience and competitive steel, because Navratilova was playing well. Two trivial incidents may have had a psychological effect: Graf switched to a more loosely strung racket and Navratilova became fidgety about spots of rain on her glasses.

The match had three phases. Graf led 5-3, Navratilova won six games in a row, and Graf then won nine. Navratilova's strategy was to attack Graf's initially shaky backhand and go to the net in the hope that (if the ball came back) she could play a winning volley, usually to the forehand.

The start was worrying for Navratilova, because she was doing everything right but the score was going wrong. Then she achieved an authoritative rhythm, partly because she was the only player exerting pressure from the forecourt and partly because Graf began to make mistakes.

Graf's surge to her best form sprang from the head as well as the heart. She began to hit through the ball more freely, on both flanks, and spiced the dish with better serving and at last regular forays to the net. Moreover, her speed and agility became intimidating. Navratilova, muttering anxiously to herself, was often tentative.

"She's the fastest player I've met," Navratilova said later. "She's got incredible spring in her legs and is so quick off the mark. She's a super player and a nice human being. If you have to lose, you might as well lose to the better player on the final day and pass the torch."

Graf commented: "It was sad for Martina to lose. Going for the record was special. At 7-5 and 2-0 she was really up to win it. In the second set I was really pumped up, aggressive, because I wanted to play better. The last couple of months, I have not really been pushed to play that well."

In the last 13 games Navratilova, perhaps the most gifted grass-court player in the history of women's tennis, scored only 23 points.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf Guns Down Navratilova's Bid - West German Wrests Wimbledon Title Away
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Sunday, July 3, 1988

LONDON - She dearly wanted one more day in the sun. When it was denied to her, Martina Navratilova wept. Not only beaten, beaten badly, she lost Saturday for the first time in seven years at Wimbledon. Then she stood off to the side, holding a little silver plate. For everyone to see, Steffi Graf raised high the champion's plate on Centre Court. Sunlight danced off the plate and sunlight made golden the teen-ager's hair.

Graf beat Navratilova 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, the loser and old champion saying, "I got blown out." This after Graf lost her first set of the tennis tournament and lost the next two games as well. From there, merciless in the application of her power and precision, Graf won the next nine games. She won 12 of the match's last 13 games. She won 44 of the last 60 points against a woman who had won 47 straight Wimbledon matches over seven years.

Now the winner of three Grand Slam tournaments this year - the Australian and French preceded Wimbledon with the U.S. Open to go - the West German did the former Czech only one favor: She left her with no regrets.

"If you have to lose, you might as well lose to a better player on the final day," Navratilova said, graceful in defeat. For a year the world's No. 1 women's player, Graf used the speed and strength of youth to answer every question posed by the crafty Navratilova. Whatever was needed - a crackling return of serve, a sprint to reach a drop shot, a forehand that burned in flight - Graf had it all on this day when the shadows of legend fell at last over Navratilova.

It wasn't difficult, Navratilova said, to stand on Centre Court, unnoticed, as someone else held high the champion's plate. The plate had been hers the last six years. She'd held it up eight times, first in 1978. She said the tears were certainly of sorrow. She wanted the ninth championship to break a record set 50 years ago. She may not have many more days in finals here. At 31, she's a young woman and a tennis antiquity. Age now is Navratilova's implacable enemy on Centre Court.

During a rain delay Saturday, Navratilova put her body on a massage table for treatment of her sore right leg. And what did Graf do in this idle time? "I watched television, listened to radio." She added that she noticed Navratilova was not relaxed in there.

Navratilova wept for herself because, as Graf said, "It's a sad thing for her. She really felt she could win it. . . . This is her special tournament." Yet as Navratilova wept, she felt a competing emotion.

"I was happy for Steffi today, too," Navratilova said an hour later, the rims of her eyes red. "I could feel what she was feeling. I know what a great feeling it is."

For a few minutes Saturday, it seemed possible Navratilova would know the feeling again. As she did in last year's Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals when she handed Graf her only defeats of the year, Navratilova exploited Graf's backhand, both on return of serve and on groundstrokes.

"My backhand was terrible," Graf said of her work in the first set. She had won 20 straight matches in the three Grand Slam tournaments without losing even a set. But she hadn't faced Navratilova, either; not since the U.S. Open final.

"I played really well that first set," Navratilova said, "but then Steffi started serving better and returning better." And not only that. "She kept running everything down. She's so fast. She's the fastest player out here. Not only getting there, but hitting winners," those words spoken by Navratilova with respect for a teen-ager she called "a super player."

Navratilova won six straight games and owned a 2-0 lead in the second set. Other than being prompted by the prospect of further embarrassment, Graf couldn't say what happened at 2-0 to turn the match around.

"I wasn't aggressive enough, I guess," she said. "But I kept trying to fight back. I wanted to show I could play much better than that. . . . I started moving better. I was much more into the game."

She was invincible on this day. To lose, she said softly afterward, "would not have been the way to go to the Grand Slam." (Margaret Court in 1970 is the last woman to win the four majors in one year.)

Navratilova said, "Even if I'd been 100 percent, she'd have still won." As Graf's march toward victory reached hyperspeed, it seemed that Navratilova tried to delay Graf by taking an unusual amount of time to wipe raindrops from her eyeglasses. Many in the Centre Court crowd of 15,000 began slow-clapping and whistling in protest; Navratilova reacted angrily, throwing a fist.

"That was low," she said of the crowd's reaction. "That really upset me. How dare them? I'd wipe off one lens and the other would get mist on it. What did they want me to do? Play without my glasses? I'm not stalling, I'm just trying to see."

Graf, who said she was undisturbed by that incident, ran off seven of the next eight points to close out the second set.

It wasn't long, then, before Graf ended it. And as she did upon winning the French Open, Graf tossed her racket into the crowd at courtside. A German reporter said, "That's an expensive habit," and Graf, hopeful, said, "It could be."

Navratilova said she'll be back here, her body willing, for more cracks at that ninth championship. "But I won't have any regrets if I never get it," she said. With a smile then: "Eight ain't so bad."
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Graf deposes Navratilova in three sets Grand Slam within reach
The San Diego Union
Sunday, July 3, 1988
Barry Lorge

In the moments after she became the Wimbledon women's singles champion, winning 12 of 13 games after trailing 0-2 in the second set, Steffi Graf shed a tear and raised her arms toward her family in the Competitors' Guest Box on Centre Court. Her father-coach and younger brother saluted her in kind. Then she tossed her racket into the standing-room section.

She will go to the U.S. Open at the end of August as the champion of Australia, France and Wimbledon, seeking the Grand Slam previously achieved by only two women: Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Margaret Court in 1970.

Graf's 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 triumph ended Martina Navratilova's Wimbledon winning streak at 47 matches and six successive titles -- one short of the ninth singles championship that would break the record she shares with Helen Wills Moody (1927-38). Graf's heart was bursting as it did at the French Open 13 months ago, when she beat Navratilova for her first Grand Slam title.

"I didn't believe I would ever have the same special feeling again after a victory," said Graf, who also threw her racket to the adoring crowd that day. "I felt that way again today."

Three weeks past her 19th birthday, she is the youngest women's champion at Wimbledon since Connolly won the first of her three singles titles in 1952. Another San Diegan, Karen Hantze Susman in 1962, and Australian Evonne Goolagong in 1971 were also 19, but closer to their 20th birthdays.

Graf could become the youngest player to sweep the four major singles titles in one year [sic] -- a subject on the mind of tennis fans, including the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who presented the gold champion's plate. "The Duchess said to me that I was on the way to the Grand Slam," Graf said.

In 21 matches in Grand Slam tournaments this year, the only set she has lost was the first yesterday, after leading 5-3.

"When I was serving at 5-4, I was not really aggressive enough," Graf said. "I was just trying to get the first serve in instead of going for the shots. After that game I was very angry with myself."

Furious after losing her serve again to fall 0-2 down in the second set, she loosened up and attacked Navratilova with a raging arsenal of serves, volleys, returns and passing shots. She swept the next nine games, winning 26 of 35 points.

"I was just trying to fight back. I wanted to show that I can play much better," said Graf, who started returning serves to Navratilova's body. "Then suddenly I hit some great shots and was moving better. I was much more into the game."

She ran like the wind and hit a storm of winners on a breezy day of intermittent sunshine and showers at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. Finals customarily start "at 2 p.m., precisely," but the beginning was delayed just more than 1 1/2 hours, until completion of the three-times-suspended men's semifinal won by Boris Becker, 20, who practiced with Graf when both were juniors growing up near Heidelberg, West Germany.

The women's final took 1 hour and 33 minutes, not counting a 44-minute rain delay that came at 3-1 in the final set, just after Navratilova had broken Graf with two backhand crosscourt return winners -- the first a pure reflex from a champion battling for survival.

Even treatment for weary legs and respite for an unraveling psyche could not revive Navratilova, however.

"I saw Martina in the locker room at the break, and I could see she was not relaxed," Graf said. "I felt she was down and was going to have a tough time coming back. I thought if she was going to play like she looked at that moment, it could be very difficult for her."

Graf watched television, listened to the radio and worked up another head of internal combustion. "I just thought that if I was to lose the match, I was going to crack my rackets," she said.

She came back out scampering and smoking, making Navratilova's usually high-powered game look like slow motion.

"The first game, I was really stiff," said Navratilova, who lost her last seven service games. "Her body, at 19, is a lot easier to get warmed up than mine at 31. That's just a fact of life ...

"I just wanted to hold serve, make it close, but Steffi wasn't going to let me do that. She returned really well. I thought I could do better on my serve, but she was just hitting winners all over the place. There wasn't a whole lot I could do at that point. Once she gets going, she's tough to stop."

A year ago -- when losses to Navratilova in the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were Graf's only defeats in 77 matches -- her backhand was vulnerable to left-handed slice serves that took her out of court.

Navratilova had early success with the same tactic yesterday, but could not sustain it. Graf ran around second serves to hit punishing forehands, then started blasting winners off the backhand. She also disheartened Navratilova by lofting windswept lobs that robbed Navratilova of confidence in her overhead and getting to virtually all drop volleys.

"She's so fast, she got to many balls that other people wouldn't reach and hit winners," Navratilova said. "Her speed is her biggest weapon, absolutely. If she doesn't get there, she can't hit that big forehand ... She's better than she was a year ago. She has improved that backhand return and she looked for opportunities to come in."

The crowd was pro-Graf, and Navratilova -- a Czech turned Texan who never has enjoyed popularity commensurate with her success at Centre Court -- alienated what support she had in the sixth game of the second set. She had lost four consecutive games, mist was starting to fall, and a lengthy pause to wipe her glasses as Graf waited to serve was interpreted as stalling. Some spectators showed disapproval with a slow handclap, and Navratilova shook her fist and screamed at them.

"That was low. That was bad. That really upset me," Navratilova said. "I couldn't believe it. I'm not stalling, for God's sake ... I wasn't doing it for gamesmanship, I'm just trying to wipe my damn glasses off."

After losing her serve after the rain delay to fall behind 1-4 in the final set, Navratilova angrily slammed her chair with a racket. The crowd gasped. Graf obviously had taken control of the match -- tactically and psychologically. Two games later, it was over. Navratilova double-faulted twice from 40-15 in the last game, and Graf closed her out with two winners.

Graf gave the racket she used to win the French Open this year to Diana, the Princess of Wales, after they played some social doubles a couple of weeks ago. But yesterday, she remembered what it felt like in Paris last spring, and tossed her magic wand to the commoners in standing room who were cheering madly for the new Queen of Wimbledon.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Another thing that stands out when I look back on this match is that Steffi was the rare player who worked on her weaknesses, both in practice and during the course of a match. So many players know their serve stinks, or a groundstroke gets picked on, or their netgame (or total lack thereof) lets them down at crucial moments. They know why they lose. They say they are going to fix the problems. But they never do, or it takes them until so late in their career that the improvements are offset by general physical decline. It must have come as an extra shock to Navratilova to see that Steffi wasn't bluffing when she said she had worked on her backhand and was "ready" for the slice serve in the ad court.

Graf Makes Heavy History
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Sunday, July 3, 1988
Furman Bisher

WIMBLEDON, England - Steffi Graf dropped by Wimbledon Saturday afternoon on her way to the Grand Slam to pick up a piece of silver. It was a tray and bore a rather significant inscription: "The Lawn Tennis Championships, All England Tennis Club, Ladies' Singles 1988."

The Duchess of Kent came down from the Royal Box to make the presentation, pausing en route to chatter with ballboys in a row, as she and the Duke are wont to do. Significant in her own way was a rather forlorn figure in the shadow of the umpire's chair taking all this in. It was Martina Navratilova, the deposed champion. For the first time since 1982 she would not be doing the parade lap around Centre Court displaying yet another trophy for her den in Fort Worth, Texas.

It might take more than a little getting used to, for the finality with which Fraulein Graf had done her in had all the ingredients of the start of a new regime in international women's tennis. Call her a woman, if you must, though Graf is a lass of only 19, an age she reached less than a month ago.

How Far the Fraulein Has Come in a Year

She still breaks into girlish giggles during press interviews. She still has pets, a couple of German shepherds named Max and Enzo and a boxer named Ben, a collection of Springsteen and Collins tapes and T-shirts, all of these in the old homestead in Bruhl, a village near Heidelberg, like some sleepy little town you might find in Wisconsin.

The Germans have a way of describing a place: So rural the foxes say good night to the rabbits.

Consider how far the fraulein has come since a year ago, when Navratilova shot her down as first she challenged her at Wimbledon. She lost only 14 sets the entire year of '87. She lost only two matches, both to Navratilova, the other in the U.S. Open. She became only the second winner of a million dollars in a year among female players. The other, of course, Navratilova. Not even Chris Evert. Since last August she has been No. 1 in the world, and probably will be for time to come.

The Grand Slam events in world tennis are the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon. Graf had taken the prizes in Australia and France without the loss of a set. Nor had she lost a set in the fortnight at Wimbledon until Navratilova took charge of her in the first, at a point when Graf led, 4-2. Six games in a row Navratilova beat her, with surgical precision, directing her winners to Graf's backhand. If there is a chink in her armor, this is it, a flaw she further contributed to by indecision, often leading to flailing swings from a flat-footed stance.

Suddenly, She Won Nine Games in a Row

Swiftly, she corrected this. She left the baseline for the net, turned her volleys into points and her serve up a few decibels. "Suddenly," as she said, "I had won nine games." In a row.

From that point on, Navratilova was out of it, a 31-year-old woman a bewildered teen again. Booming serves, crisp volleys and fiery backhand shots flew by her. From 2-0 in the second set, she went to 2-6 and Graf broke her time after time. Even one of the number of annoying rain delays of the week, when the sky pauses to spit down on this township then take flight, couldn't help. With Navratilova 40-love and serving after the shower, Graf raged back and finished off the third set, 6-1, applying the final thrust with a furious backhand that tipped the net and fell in. Up went the German girl's hands in triumph, and into the sky arose an eruption of cheers and shouts.

No doubt about the favorite here, but Navratilova had taken her beating with something less than pure grace. Also, so abrupt and so devastating had been the turnabout that the audience was still in a state of readjustment. Not only that, but what they were witnessing fell under the heading of heavy history. For the next decade, even, they may not see another women's champion but Graf, so dominant is her game. There are no other challengers in view rising along with her.

Navratilova's streak of 47 winning matches in a row at Wimbledon was over. It is unlikely she will ever come back to break the tie of eight championships, held in concert with Helen Wills Moody, the now 82-year-old Californian. "We'll see," she said, when asked about next year. Of course she'll be back, but always there will be Graf.

Navratilova pronounced the most succinct benediction to the day. "She started playing better, and I didn't play as well."

Sunday comes and the final war of the males between Boris Becker, also of West Germany, and Stefan Edberg, the Swede. By Monday, Germany may rule the world of tennis. Be thankful Hitler never thought of war with racquets.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Miami Herald
Sunday, July 3, 1988
From Herald Wire Services

Steffi Graf had 40 minutes in a dark, lonely locker room to consider the circumstances.

She was up, 3-1, in the third set against defending champ Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon. Her serve had been broken just before the rain came down. She would have to go out there again on a slippery Centre Court, her muscles tightened, her rhythm upset, and try to recapture some momentum.

"I was watching a little TV, listening to some radio," Graf said. "Martina looked down. I said to myself, 'If I lose this match now, I'm going to crack all my rackets.' "

Eight minutes after Graf and Navratilova resumed play, it was over, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. No nerves. No netted passing shots. No cracked rackets. Just a new 19-year-old Wimbledon champion from West Germany who is three-quarters of the way to a Grand Slam. Just some teen-age tears, and a great deal of relief.

"It's going to be hard to be depressed now," Graf said.

In the completion of a men's semifinal match suspended by darkness Friday and delayed twice by rain Saturday, two-time champion Boris Becker beat top-seeded Ivan Lendl, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, after Lendl saved eight match points.

Becker will meet third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the men's final today.

Graf's victory, which ended Navratilova's six-year reign and her 47-match victory string at Wimbledon, was

devastating. "It's hard to put an exclamation point or a period on eras," Navratilova said. "But Steffi is No. 1 right now. It may not be the end of an era, but it's definitely the end of a chapter."

Graf started slowly, nervously. She tried too hard to hold onto an early break, and was broken in the 10th and 12th games of the first set.

Navratilova kept charging, headlong, toward the net. Serve and volley. Return and volley. Serve to the backhand. Attack the backhand. Graf lost six straight games, and didn't seem to know what to do about it. She had five break points and couldn't take advantage.

"My backhand was terrible," Graf said. "I wasn't aggressive enough. I was just trying to go for my first serve, not my shots. I was very angry with myself. I wanted to show I can play much better."

But the second set began the same way. Navratilova broke in the second game for a 2-0 lead with a perfect backhand volley.

Then, turnabout. Total, and complete.

"I hit some great shots, and I started moving better, hitting into her body to cut down the angles," Graf said. "I was much more into the game."

Graf broke Navratilova with three successive forehand shots, her trademarks: two bullet returns, sandwiched around a touch volley. She broke again for a 3-2 lead with a backhand passing shot. Everything was in order now. Graf was on her way to a streak of nine straight games, and 12 of the last 13.

"Once she gets rolling, she's impossible to stop," said Navratilova, who will have to wait, maybe forever, to beat the record of eight Wimbledon titles she shares with Helen Wills Moody. "She kept running everything down, balls nobody else would get. Not only getting there, but hitting winners when she got there."

The fans at Centre Court, backing Graf from the start, turned on Navratilova. When she fiddled with her glasses, cleaning the mist off them in the second set, she was impolitely jeered by the crowd.

"That was bad," said Navratilova. "That was low."

Navratilova gestured back, just as impolitely.

"I was so upset, I couldn't believe it," she said. "I wasn't arguing about line calls and it wasn't gamesmanship. I was just wiping off my glasses.

"I wasn't stalling. I was just trying to see."

None of this did her any good. But Saturday, 100 standing ovations wouldn't have helped.

"I didn't succumb to any pressure," Navratilova said. "I succumbed to a better player. That's why it wasn't hard for me to take, watching her get the trophy. I lost to a super player. I knew how she must feel."

When it was over, Graf tossed her racket into the crowd, cried a bit, and was told by the Duke and Duchess of Kent that she is on the way to a Grand Slam.

Graf won the Australian and French opens before coming to England. If she can win the U.S. Open on hardcourts in September, she will become the first woman since Margaret Court in 1970 to sweep the four major tournaments in the same year.

"Everybody's talking about it," Graf said. "But I'm going to concentrate on every tournament. I'm not going to change now."

Graf never has won the U.S. Open, where she lost to Navratilova in last year's final. But she has won consistently on hardcourts, including the Australian Open this year, and grass was the last surface where she had failed to win a major title.

Graf, the youngest woman singles champion at Wimbledon since Maureen Connolly won in 1952 at age 17 and the first German woman to win the singles title since Cilly Aussem in 1931, expressed sympathy for her vanquished rival.

"It's a sad thing for her," Graf said. "She was up to win it, 7-5, 2-0. But she's still tough to beat. I haven't been pushed that hard to reach my peak for the last few months."

Navratilova hadn't lost a singles match at Wimbledon since Hana Mandlikova beat her in the 1981 semifinals. Her loss also marks the first time she has failed to win a singles or doubles title at a Grand Slam event since the 1983 French Open.

Now, at age 31, she said she would need some time to think about her future.

"I want to go float on some saltwater for a while," she said. "Then we'll see how my body holds up.

"You know, eight (Wimbledon titles) ain't such a bad number."

The boxscore for the Wimbledon women's final between Steffi Graf (G) and Martina Navratilova (N).

G N First-serve percentage 70 62

Double faults 1 3

Aces 4 1

Total points 97 78

Deuces 2 11

Services lost 4 8

Love games 2 0

Service points 44 48
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Miami Herald
Sunday, July 3, 1988

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace bulges with golden moments. One especially hit me Saturday morning. To a ruffle of drums by stalwart men in maroon tunics and bearskin caps, captains of the Old and New Guards touched their left hands to symbolize the change.

I made my little pilgrimage strictly to warm up for the tennis version. We hillbillies aren't that hung up on pageantry.

This particular hillbilly wasn't certain, either, that Martina Navratilova would turn over the keys to the Wimbledon kingdom to Steffi Graf. But only a complete cretin could have denied the possibility after Graf had sailed through the first two legs of the Australian and French opens and six rounds of this third step toward the Grand Slam without losing a set.

Graf lost one set Saturday.

Then she snatched the keys from Navratilova.

Then she beat the tar out of her with them, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.

Changing the Guard in sports is not always executed as gracefully as at Buckingham Palace. This one sure wasn't.

Late in the second set of the Ladies' final, queen Navratilova stopped play to clean her glasses. Even a set up, she was in serious trouble. She was down, 3-2, in the second set and about to lose her fourth of what would become nine straight games leading to tennis' equivalent of the guillotine.

Some in the crowd figured Navratilova was stalling. The English don't like her much, anyway. Frailty is their thing, and Lord knows Navratilova had given them precious little of that in eight championships. She has said she "feels like a Martian here." She also has played like one, so foreign have her gifts seemed to one quivering challenger after another.

Some fans started clapping. Meaning: Get on with it, Martina, face the music.

Instantly, imperiously, dramatically, Navratilova slashed her left arm toward a section of spectators.

The gesture was more regal admonition than crudity. She was majesty, and she was affronted. Her gesture said, "You insolent peasants! How dare you question the queen!"

Well, the queen is dead. Long live the queen.

The wonder kid from West Germany kicked the crown off Navratilova's noggin with insolence far more daunting than anything the crowd threw at Navratilova.

Wimbledon isn't Buckingham Palace. It is much more than that to a 19-year-old facing a 31-year-old long considered the greatest female tennis player of all time.

That's why Graf wept when it was over. Wept for joy. That's why Navratilova choked back her own tears. Queens do not cry.

Ironically, the arm that Navratilova flung at the spectators is the one with which she has served terror into opponents' hearts every year since she first won here in 1978; that arm has brought her 49 Grand Slam titles including singles, doubles and mixed doubles. A perceptive writer named Peter Bodo once described it as "the organic realization of Excalibur."

Excalibur wouldn't cut hot butter Saturday.

Once Graf got going, her magnificent forehand slapped Excalibur aside like a stick of straw. Graf's backhands, hissing only inches over the grass and placed with laserlike precision, refused Navratilova the slightest surcease from the killing forehand.

It was bloody awful. And awfully bloody.

The Changing of this particular Guard began when Graf, down a set and 0-2 in the second, forehanded a pass off Navratilova's serve for only her second break of the match.

When Navratilova came to, the Duchess of Kent was handing the kid the trophy.

Most Americans probably will never comprehend the magnitude of this match (or most others at Wimbledon, for that matter). For fans of the Yankees or Dolphins or Fighting Irish or Lakers or Hurricanes or whatever, no Wimbledon contest will ever remotely compare with the importance of how their own team did that day.

But the world in general will still be ooh-ing and ah-ing over what happened here Saturday when those American scores are buried in antiquity.

Sadly for millions who have admired her gifts and individualism for years, Navratilova may now be headed toward antiquity if not burial.

If she can't beat Graf on grass, easily Navratilova's best surface because of her serve-and-volley virtuosity, how is she going to handle her on the hard courts of Flushing Meadow at the U.S. Open in September?

If Graf at her age can so brutalize Navratilova at hers, can the ex-queen's chances possibly improve from here?


When this Captain of the Old Guard turned over the keys, she turned them over for all time.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Always that little hint of good-humored smart-assness that so few journalists picked up on.

San Francisco Examiner
Sunday, July 3, 1988
San Francisco Examiner Staff

WIMBLEDON - Steffi Graf hurled her racket into the stands and picked up the torch. Centre Court at the All-England Club belongs to a new generation. Are you ready for the ''Graf Slam?''

The queen is, well, not dead but overthrown. Long live the queen. For seven years Martina Navratilova ruled the grass at Wimbledon. She has been deposed.

Graf, who began the game at age 3 using a cut-down racket in her hometown of Bruehl, West Germany, beat Navratilova 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 Saturday to win the women's final.

''It was a sad thing for her,'' said Graf, 19. ''It was a very special tournament for her after these years. But it would have been sad more not to keep the chance at the Grand Slam.''

Graf has won the first three - the Australian and French opens and Wimbledon - of the Big Four. A victory in the U.S. Open in New York in September would make Graf the first woman to take the Slam, all in a calendar year, since Margaret Court in 1970.

Normally, the women hold Centre Court for the final Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. But Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl were given a 1 p.m. start there, and rain delayed prolonged their match until 3:19 p.m.

So, Graf got going late. In more than one way. Navratilova, like some bleeding gunfighter able to raise his arm one last time in defiance, fired - winning six consecutive games late in the first set and early in the second - then fell back.

Graf took over. Trailing one set to none and 0-2 in the second set, Steffi won nine games in succession and 12 of the next 13. Even another shower, the third of the day, couldn't dampen her enthusiasm.

After receiving the obligatory handshake from the loser, Graf belied her image as a no-nonsense Teutonic ice maiden and flung her Dunlop racket into the stands.

The symbolism was quite clear. In effect, Graf had tossed aside the last barrier to her coronation. It was so appropriate that the plate awarded the women's champion here was given by the Duchess of Kent.

''The Duchess said I'm away to the Grand Slam,'' Graf would disclose later. ''She said she was happy to give me the trophy and I deserved it.''

Navratilova had won 47 consecutive matches at Wimbledon and never had lost a singles final. The record of eight women's singles titles now remains partly in the grasp of Helen Wills Moody, 82. She and Navratilova will be side by side in the record books - until, perhaps, Graf moves them out.

Not since Chris Evert in 1981 had anyone but Navratilova stood in the glow of the setting sun and raised the winner's plate above her head. On this day, Navratilova could only watch while Graf, having wiped dry a tear, took the trophy.

''Of course I'm disappointed,'' said Navratilova, 31. ''But it's not as bad as I thought it might be because I was blown out the final two sets.

''It wasn't that difficult . . . because I was beaten by a better player. And I was happy for her. Someone down there said he felt sorry for me. But there was no reason. I felt happy for her. I know what it's like.''

If nothing else, Navratilova put a blemish beside Graf's name. In 20 previous Grand Slam matches this year, seven in Australia, seven at the French Open, and six here, Graf hadn't lost as much as a set.

''She played better than I did,'' Navratilova said. ''I didn't have a good day serving, but she hit some good volleys. Balls other people might not get, she not only gets, she hits for winners.''

Navratilova tried everything to stop Graf. In the second set, after Graf had won four games in succession and was serving, Navratilova backed off the court and methodically wiped her glasses. The fans began clapping rhythmically. Navratilova raised a bent arm, a gesture that could be interpreted as obscene or merely questioning.

''I didn't realize what was happening,'' Graf said. ''It didn't bother me. Early I tried to play a topsin game, placing the ball at angles, but it didn't work. Then I hit a few winners, and I stopped being so tentative. I went for it.''

She threw caution to the cool breeze, and not long after was tossing her racket to the cheering fans.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Some of the write-ups about this match hint at the strange sensation that the laws of Newtonian physics have somehow been violated. Even in the NBC broadcast commentary, Bud Collins says Steffi has shrunk her side of the court while expanding Martina's side. Some of the balls give the impression of hanging in the air for an unnaturally long time on Steffi's side. Like at 2-2 in the second set at deuce #1 and ad-out #2. Or the points at 3-2, 0-15 and 4-2, 15-15. I realize this just the combined effect of Steffi actually being fast enough to wait until after Martina has hit the volley before she begins to run and still get there in plenty of time and of Martina hitting some bad blooper volleys and then standing there watching Steffi sprint (Type 3 Graffing) instead of being ready to play the ball. I realize it, but I almost always think, "Look at the hang time on that ball! This has to be time dilation!" when I re-watch the match.

Daily News of Los Angeles
Sunday, July 3, 1988

She had just broken Steffi Graf's service in the third set after losing nine successive games to the 19-year-old when the falling rain halted play on Centre Court.

Martina Navratilova, unbeaten in seven years of singles play at the All England Club, would later claim she still felt she had a chance to come back Saturday and win her ninth Wimbledon title. But her 31-year-old body foretold a different outcome during the 44-minute delay.

"I saw Martina in the locker room at the break and I could see she was not relaxed," Graf said. "I felt she was down and I thought she was going to have a tough time coming out. I thought that if she was going to play like she was at that moment, it could be difficult for her."

It wasn't difficult. It was impossible. Stopping Graf would have been about as easy as stopping time. Graf took the next three games to win the match and her first Wimbledon title, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.

"This is how it should have happened," said Navratilova, who 10-1/2 months earlier surrendered her No. 1 world ranking to the West German teen-ager. "If you have to lose, you might as well lose to the better player on the final day and pass the torch, if you can call it that."

Graf didn't just take the torch from Navratilova. She sprinted away with it, winning 12 of the match's last 13 games and 54 of the last 78 points in coming back from an 0-2 second-set deficit.

Her victory Saturday leaves her poised to win all four Grand Slam events in the same year - something Navratilova, for all her years of dominance in women's tennis, was never able to achieve.

With earlier victories in the Australian Open and French Open, Graf now can become the first woman since Margaret Court in 1970 to win the Grand Slam with a U.S. Open title in September.

"Should she win it, I'll be the first to say 'Great job,' because that is an incredible accomplishment," Navratilova said. "My goal will be to win the U.S. Open. But if she wins, that's great."

A year ago, Navratilova defeated Graf in both the finals of the U.S. Open and at Wimbledon - signaling that her days as a force might be numbered but were not over. The first set of Saturday's Wimbledon final started out looking much the same.

"My backhand was terrible," Graf said. "I was very angry with myself after the first set. I had many break points in the first set and I just couldn't get one. I thought I didn't take my chances there. . . . The last two sets, that's the way I should have played right from the beginning."

The first-set loss was Graf's first in 21 Grand Slam matches this year and, when Navratilova broke her in the second game of the second set, it appeared as though the old order would stand for another year.

"Even when I got the break back to 2-1, I was not really comfortable with the way I was playing," Graf said. "But I took point after point and suddenly I'd won nine games in a row. I was really surprised.

"I was just trying to fight back. I wanted to show I could play much better. I just wanted to hang in and try again serving. Then suddenly I got some great shots and was moving better. I was much more into the game."

It was then that Graf's combination of power and speed took over.

"Even if I didn't serve as well as I wanted to, I still played pretty damn well," Navratilova said. "But she was hitting winners all over the place. There wasn't a whole lot I could do at that point. Once she gets going, she's tough to stop."

Although Navratilova had previously lost only five sets since her last Wimbledon defeat, a semifinal loss to Hana Mandlikova in 1981, two of the sets were this year.

Both 50th-ranked Rosalyn Fairbank and Chris Evert had exposed Navratilova as beatable. The inevitability of her eventual defeat did not lessen its impact much.

"It is a sad thing for Martina to lose," said Graf, who is the youngest woman to win Wimbledon since 17-year-old Maureen Connolly did it in 1952. "I'm sure it means a lot to her. It's a special tournament and she's won it so many times and to go for the record would be something really special for any player."

But Graf, 43 consecutive singles match victories shy of the 50-year-old record by Helen Wills Moody of 50 that Navratilova had been within three matches of, did not hesitate.

With Navratilova leading 40-love in the seventh game of the final set, she gave Graf an opening. A pair of double faults made it deuce. Graf hit a forehand return to take the advantage and the match winner came on a backhand that skipped off the net and in.

Graf threw her fist in the air, and her racquet in the stands. Then, with Navratilova standing off to the side, she posed for photographers. For Navratilova, who had never before lost a Wimbledon singles final, it was a time to reflect.

"It was not so bad because I could feel what she was feeling," Navratilova said. "Of course, I'm disappointed. But it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be because I got blown out the last two sets. . . . It wasn't that difficult because I got beaten by a better player."

Navratilova was noncommittal about her future at Wimbledon. She would like to break Moody's record for most women's singles titles, which she now shares, and said "if anything will keep me in, that will."

It probably will be her body that will determine if she can compete for a record ninth title. During the delay, while Graf casually watched television and listened to the radio, Navratilova took treatment to help her sore legs and to keep from tightening up.

"I thought if I could just hold my serve, anything could happen," Navratilova said. "But I wasn't able to hold my serve. The first game I was really stiff and they didn't give us a whole lot of warning about having to come out. At 19, it's a lot easier to get that body warmed up than at 31. It's just a fact of life."

And, after eight titles and 47 consecutive singles match victories, it was time for another reign at Wimbledon. That, too, was a fact of life.

"It's hard to put any exclamation points or periods on any eras," Navratilova said. "But Steffi's No. 1 and has been for a year, so this is definitely the end of a chapter."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

And of course the grand poohbahs offered their congratulations.

Daily News of Los Angeles
Sunday, July 3, 1988
Associated Press

West Germans rejoiced Saturday night over Steffi Graf's first Wimbledon tennis victory.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other federal officials sent congratulatory messages to Graf's home in Bruehl, north of Bonn [sic].

"I send you my most heartfelt congratulations," Kohl said in his telegram to Graf's family residence.

"You have come a giant step closer to a 'Grand Slam' with your newest success. Along with other tennis fans, I fervently hope that you succeed in achieving this goal," Kohl said.

Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann also sent his congratulations.

"Like millions of other people, I was thrilled by your perfect performance," Zimmermann said. "This was tennis as it should be."

He added, "With your victory over Martina Navratilova, you have conclusively proven that you are the world's No. 1 women tennis player."

Graf defeated Navratilova, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, ending her opponent's run of six consecutive Wimbledon women's singles titles.

West Germans also will be keeping a close watch on today's men's singles title match at Wimbledon where countryman Boris Becker plays Sweden's Stefan Edberg.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

I believe Mr. Miller has had a revelation about women's tennis, or at least Steffi's particular variety. This was literally a case of winning someone over.

Graf has potential to become greatest - Steffi Graf
The Times
London, England
Monday, July 4, 1988
David Miller

Steffi Graf is a gift to tennis. The modest West German is a combination of the self-effacing charm of Evonne Goolagong and a power in the women's game relatively even more remarkable than Boris Becker's. She is an awesome delight, with the girlish charm that Christine Truman once brought to the court; and an even more formidable forehand fit to punch holes in plate glass.

Never was anyone more likely to achieve the elusive grand slam. Donald Budge, the doyen of those who have done so exactly 50 years ago is of the opinion that Graf is potentially superior to those women who have previously done so: Maureen Connolly, Margaret Smith and, of course, the deposed Martina Navratilova.

"Steffi is stronger on service than either Connolly or Smith, and her forehand is exceptional," Budge said yesterday, while easing the frustration of the continuing rain with champagne and an anniversary cake, courtesy of the NBC television network. He has that well-groomed American manner associated with Fairbanks and Jimmy Stewart.

"Steffi needs to work a little on her backhand, especially in the advantage court, and I think she could afford to take the ball a little earlier on that side," Budge suggests. "She looks likely to dominate the game for the foreseeable future, and this will depend, I think, only on the degree to which she can maintain her enthusiasm."

In successive years at Wimbledon, Budge whipped Gottfried Von Cramm and Bunny Austin in straight sets. He thinks the disadvantage one of them! of contemporary players is that they play too much, and therefore have insufficient time to work at their weaknesses. He used to play tournaments for seven or eight months, then go home and practise "so that next year you came back a better player".

Billie-Jean King was saying the same thing only the other day: that too many of the women nowadays are trying to do nothing more than hit the cover off the ball, giving themselves no time to think. Budge reflects that Lendl profited from working at his net game in practice.

He thinks that Becker has a sufficient all-round game to achieve the grand slam, though he infers, without being as impolite as to say so in as many words, that Becker is still a boy growing up.

"For some reason Boris wants to try to beat people from the baseline, but that is not his strength," Budge says. "When he gets into difficulties, then he usually starts to go forward more, because his real strength is at the net; but sometimes it is by then too late. Wilander is a very good player, and might do the Slam, but he is a little boring. I think Becker can do it if he will be patient."

What pleases Budge about Graf, and indeed all of us concerned with entertainment rather than with the percentage-game accumulation of prize-money, is the simplicity and speed of her action between points: a quick return to the baseline, maybe a bounce or two of the ball, and on to the next point.

"People are endlessly complaining to me about the time wasted, about players bouncing the ball seven or eight times," Budge says. "I think there ought to be a regulation to limit it, say, to two. We never spent all that time sitting down just a wipe of your brow as you changed ends."

He reflects, nostalgically, that in the Thirties the centre court would schedule five matches, and usually would finish them. Today it is fortunate if they get through three. Watching the unaffected Graf, perhaps the greatest woman athlete the game has seen, you feel she is capable of playing five matches in an afternoon herself. What a tonic she is.
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post #2758 of 6247 (permalink) Old Jul 4th, 2013, 12:15 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

I think that Steffi was at the peak of her powers in that first Wimbledon win over Martina. She basically walked on water in that match. That magical quality to her game pretty much lasted until the end of '89, then came the scandal with her father and the rise of Monica, all leading to her mini-slump (she was still great but definitely not the same). When she came back on time, she was a tactically smarter and a more secure player, but she wasn't as breathtaking explosive as she was in '88 and '89 when she was leaping high into her forehands and crushing topspin backhands as well as she ever would (she'd pretty much stop using this shot regularly once Martina faded).
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post #2759 of 6247 (permalink) Old Jul 4th, 2013, 12:22 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Steffi had her party after Wimbledon, staying out until 3 a.m. Sunday morning or so and then rolling in to do interviews at about 9 a.m. With a doubles match yet to play. The rain delay was likely beneficial for the Graf-Sabatini team.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Monday, July 4, 1988
Andrew Warshaw, The Associated Press

Steffi Graf celebrated her first Wimbledon title yesterday as a new era dawned on the grass courts of London.

The sight of someone other than Martina Navratilova lifting the gleaming silver trophy on Centre Court confirmed beyond a doubt that the power in women's tennis has shifted to a new generation of champions.

For six years in a row, Navratilova had been asked at Wimbledon when she thought a player might come along to stop her winning streak and challenge her dominance of the tournament.

After Saturday's 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 defeat by Graf, Navratilova acknowledged that it was time to hand over the reins to the younger generation, even at the place where she had remained invincible for most of the last decade.

''Steffi's No. 1 in the world and has been for over a year, so this is definitely the end of a chapter,'' Navratilova said after failing in her bid for a record ninth Wimbledon women's singles crown.

''This is how it should have happened. If you have to lose, you might as well lose to the better player on the final day and pass the torch, if you can call it that,'' she said.

Navratilova, who beat Graf in last year's championship match and had never previously lost a Wimbledon final, said she didn't know if she had the physical ability to return.

''I don't know if I can come back again,'' she said. ''It's hard for me to think so far ahead right now. We'll see how my body holds up.''

Although Graf has emerged as the natural successor to Navratilova and Chris Evert, other teen-age players such as Argentina's Gabriela Sabatini and Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union are making a strong impact in the game.

Sabatini is the only player this year to beat Graf - and she's done it twice - while Zvereva eliminated Navratilova in the fourth round of the French Open in Paris last month.

Even doubles events are changing shape. In the women's doubles final, Graf and Sabatini were slated to meet Zvereva and Larissa Savchenko.

There was no Navratilova, no Evert, no Pam Shriver.

''The whole complexion of the game is changing,'' said Evert, a three-time Wimbledon champion who lost to Navratilova in the semifinals, their 78th career meeting. ''It really is different because someone has taken over the Wimbledon spot.''

While Graf waited in the rain to play her doubles final, a stream of congratulatory messages poured in from around the world.

''I've had a lot of telexes and phone calls,'' she said.

For a while Saturday, Navratilova exploited Graf's backhand in the same way she had done last year and had the West German in trouble.

But once Graf found her timing, she ripped through her opponent, passing Navratilova - the best volleyer in the women's game - at will. Even at the net, Graf played with the authority of a seasoned grass-courter.

''She hit winners off balls many people wouldn't even get to,'' Navratilova said.

Newspapers in Britain and West Germany hailed Graf, who goes for the Grand Slam at the U.S. Open beginning Aug. 29.

''Once upon a time, it was Martina Navratilova - but now Steffi Graf is the queen of tennis,'' said the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in Germany.

''The signs are clear that a new era of dominance is beginning,'' wrote the London Sunday Times.

Another British paper, the Sunday Telegraph, declared that Navratilova's ''legendary reign . . . is over.''
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post #2760 of 6247 (permalink) Old Jul 4th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

That the courtiers and commoners were so quick to embrace the new queen must not have sat so well with Team Navratilova. This is an excerpt from a "Martina Behaving Badly" type of article. (I know it might seem like I am picking on her, but I am being nice to Navratilova in all of this. This is about Steffi's 1988, not 1988 in general, so I am ignoring many of the surly and petty things Martina has been saying and doing.) Now, you might think, "This is Judy Nelson saying this, not Navratilova herself." Yes, but this is an almost word-for-word rehash of things Martina said in 1987. It smacked of resentfulness, giving the impression that Martina would have just as easily complained that she had to start playing tennis at 4 while Steffi had the luxury of starting at 12, if that had been the case.

The Deseret News
Sunday, July 3, 1988
Jeff Lenihan, Scripps Howard News Service


Judy Nelson, who left her husband five years ago to become Martina's constant companion, says Navratilova has nothing against Graf.

"Martina just doesn't think that playing tennis successfully is just a question of taking the money," she says. "Martina admires excellence and great athletes, and Steffi is certainly that. But she needs to show a little maturity.

"The young girls like Steffi have had it easier. Martina feels that very strongly and wishes they would realize it more.

"The one thing Martina resents is the chances that she never had that have come Steffi's way. Steffi started when she was four and has always had the best guidance. She was professional before her 14th birthday, for heaven's sake.

"When Martina started she had a supportive family and that's it. There were no special diets or coaching. It wasn't available to her and it bothers her a lot that she'll never know how much better she might have been."

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