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post #2836 of 6247 (permalink) Old Aug 29th, 2013, 12:47 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

GRAF READY FOR BID TO BE 'SLAMMIN' STEFFI'
Special to The Baltimore Sun
Monday, August 29, 1988

The scene had become as familiar as Steffi Graf's forehand. There was Graf, ready to accept the first-prize check from the tournament promoter and the applause from the crowd. She had just won another championship in another straight-sets final.

But instead of cheers, there were derisive whistles after her 6-3, 6-4 victory over Katerina Maleeva. One male spectator shouted out that he wanted a refund. Graf angrily took the microphone. ''What do you people want from me?'' she asked, before an embarrassed promoter yanked the mike back.

Had it happened anywhere else than in Hamburg, West Germany, it might have been merely excused as rude behavior. In Graf's homeland, where she has overtaken both Boris Becker and Helmut Schmidt as the country's most recognizable figure, it was a sign of the times.

''It's very difficult for me to do everything right for everyone,'' Graf said recently. ''If I'm playing fast, it's too fast. If I'm not playing well, as I didn't in Hamburg, a guy wants his money back. They don't know what they want, so I just play for myself. I try to do my best.''

Graf's best, which many believe is yet to come, has been more than good enough so far. Last summer, at age 18, she became the No. 1-ranked woman's player in the world. This week, at the U.S. Open, she will begin the last leg on her search for a Grand Slam.

It is a quest that no one has been able to complete since Australia's Margaret Court in 1970, a task only four players have successfully finished since the legendary Don Budge became the first a half-century ago.

What seems remarkable has been the relative ease with which Graf has won the Australian and French opens, as well as Wimbledon. She has lost just one set in a major this year, to Martina Navratilova. She beat Soviet Natalia Zvereva in the final of the French Open in 32 minutes 6-0, 6-0.

But the U.S. Open could be different. There will be the distractions of the roaring airliners taking off over the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows in New York. There will be the constant reminders from the media after each match. There will be the challenge of players who don't want to become a footnote to history.

It is not just the physical parts of Graf's game that frighten her opponents out of their anklets: the hammering forehand, the tennis equivalent of Mike Tyson's right fist; the precise footwork, which puts Graf in position to hit the ball on the rise; the sprinter's quickness, which helps shorten the court.

What isn't as visible, and thus isn't as vastly appreciated, is the mental edge Graf takes with her into every match. It helps overcome a rare moment of adversity, as the one she faced after dropping the first set and the first two games of the second to Navratilova in this year's Wimbledon final. Graf then won nine consecutive games.

It is the part of Graf's game that could be tested the most in the next two weeks at Flushing Meadow, especially during the early mismatches. ''It's as important as anything,'' Graf said before a tournament last week in Mahwah, N.J. ''Sure you have to be physically ready, but you have to be mentally ready too.''

Unlike Court, who had a reputation of being somewhat of a nervous choker in tight matches, Graf is supremely confident. It doesn't hurt to have had a two-year record of 144-4 going into last week's tournament.

And, unlike Court, who was raised playing on grass and who won all but the French Open on her favorite surface, Graf has had to go from a rubberized synthetic in Sydney, Australia, to clay in Paris to grass in London and now to the hard stuff in New York.

''It's more difficult now because you have to play on four different surfaces,'' said Graf, who is most comfortable on hard courts. ''I would think you have to be a more complete player.''

Two years ago, Graf was mainly a baseline player with one devastating shot. She has since developed the strongest serve in the women's game, and has fast hands at the net. Her backhand, though not as formidable as her forehand, is certainly more than just a means of returning the ball.

But whether Graf has had a tougher time in 1988 than Court had in 1970 is a matter for debate. Graf's two principal rivals, Navratilova and Chris Evert, are on the decline in their own Hall of Fame careers. Gabriela Sabatini, who beat Graf twice earlier this year, hasn't shown the stamina it takes to compete at major two-week events.

Though women's tennis was a bit top-heavy during the late '60s and early '70s, dominated by players such as Court and Billie Jean King, there was an underclass more capable of an upset. ''On any given day, a player like myself or Virginia (Wade) or Betty (Stove) or Franky (Durr) could beat Margaret,'' Rosie Casals said. ''It was more because of the style. We all played the same kind of game.''

Graf's schedule of 15 tournaments a year is carefully planned. She never switches surfaces, or continents, without a week's preparation. She has a small package of lucrative, long-term endorsements that don't take up a lot of her time. She rarely does interviews and the ones she does do almost always are with large groups of media.

There is a small coterie of family and friends surrounding Graf. She retreats to a tennis resort in Delray Beach, Fla., called Gleneagles, which she represents as part of her endorsements. She spent only two months at home in West Germany last year because of her schedule and, in part, a lack of privacy.

In many of the same ways, Graf is undergoing the kind of microscopic scrutiny Becker experienced after winning successive Wimbledons by the time he was 18. It seems her low-key personality is more apt to handle the attention than the high-strung Becker did, not allowing it to affect her tennis. Not that it isn't bothering her.

''In Germany, it is hard to be good at something,'' she said. ''People get bored. I don't know what they want from me, but I'm learning to ignore it. I've got to worry about myself. The media writes what it wants to. Either the matches were too slow or too fast. All they write about is the minutes or the money.''

What brought about Becker's downfall last year, and ultimately led to his maturation, was a girlfriend who wanted him to spend more time with her than on the practice court. It led to Becker firing longtime coach Gunther Bosch and losing in the early rounds of the Australian and U.S. opens, and one of the quickest exits ever by a defending champion at Wimbledon.

It hasn't happened yet to Graf. The most important male figure in her life remains her father, Peter. Her relationship with the rest of the women's tour is cordial, but she admits that she isn't close to anyone in particular. She and Sabatini, her doubles partner, barely talk off the court, partly because of a language barrier.

When a reporter recently asked Graf about being so isolated and not having a normal life, the player's bright smile vanished. ''Is she all right?'' Graf asked those at the press conference. ''I've been asked that a few times and I've always said the same thing. I've done everything I've wanted to do.''

Someone wanted to know how Graf spends her money. She reportedly makes between $3 million and $4 million a year with Adidas shoes and clothes, Dunlop rackets and mostly West German-based, non-tennis endorsements, which include cosmetics, clothes, an all-natural soft drink and an automobile. The word indulgence was mentioned.

''What's an indulgence?'' she asked. When told, Graf smiled: ''Nothing that I can think of. Being (financially) secure is a good feeling. A tennis life is not such a bad life.''

But as Graf continues to win, and dominate, the pressures are certain to increase. If she wins the Open, and thus the Grand Slam, there will be the expectations of successfully defending her gold medal at the Olympic Games next month in Seoul, South Korea. Then there will be questions about winning another Slam.
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post #2837 of 6247 (permalink) Old Aug 29th, 2013, 12:58 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The poor kid really wants to stay in the Now. And knows she needs to stay in the Now if she is to accomplish this. This is going to be a titanic tug-of-war with the media. I am sure Steffi is thinking: "Budge, Court, Laver, and the people who knew Connolly have all told me the media didn't make a big deal about their Slams at the time. Why can't they not make a big deal about it for me?"

Graf crushes Tauziat to win pre-Open tourney
USA TODAY
Monday, August 29, 1988
Doug Smith, with Ann Liguori contributing

MAHWAH, N.J. - Steffi Graf completed her preparation for the U.S. Open Sunday by easily winning the United Jersey Bank Classic.

Graf won her eighth title this year, beating France's Nathalie Tauziat 6-0, 6-1.

The $40,000 first prize pushed Graf past $1 million ($1,009,273) in earnings this year.

Tauziat, No. 34 in the world, upset No. 2 seed Katerina Maleeva to reach the finals.

"I think Steffi is playing really, really good, with confidence," Tauziat said.

Before thinking about the U.S. Open, Graf (54-2) said, "Please let me be a little bit happy about winning this one. Maybe tomorrow, I'll think about the U.S. Open."

The Open begins its two-week run today at the National Tennis Center in New York.

Graf's only losses this year were to Argentina's Gabriela Sabatini. Last year, she compiled a 75-2 record, losing twice to Martina Navratilova. "I'm playing much better than I was then," she said.

Agassi a hit: At Jericho, N.Y., U.S. teen Andre Agassi beat Yannick Noah of France 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 to win the Hamlet Challenge Cup exhibition.

The crowd-pleasing Agassi, 18, has won six Nabisco Grand Prix tournaments this year.

"It was fun to play Agassi," Noah said.

Noah, who also enjoys playing to the crowd, added, "We're playing a sport and a lot of times the guys forget that."

In the final set, Agassi had five of his eight aces. Agassi, the No. 4 seed at the U.S. Open, won a first prize of $40,000.

"I'm ready for the Open, as ready as I'll ever be," Agassi said.

Srejber milestone: At Rye Brook, N.Y., Milan Srejber of Czechoslovakia defeated Ramesh Krishnan of India 6-2, 7-6 in the NYNEX Open to capture his first Nabisco Grand Prix tennis title.

Srejber, the tallest player on the circuit at 6-8, pushed his total earnings for the year to $104,701. Krishnan, a semifinalist in last year's tournament, ran his total to $94,340.

Srejber, 24, deadlocked at 4-4 in the tiebreaker, won the final three points to close out the match.

"I was nervous in the second set when I was leading 4-3," he said. "I guess I was looking ahead to my first victory."

Said Krishnan: "I expected him to play at the net. It's tough to get passing shots by him because of his height. The thing I should have done was make it difficult for him to come in, but I wasn't able to."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Can Graf Slam Door At Open?
August 28, 1988
Mike Conklin
Chicago Tribune

NEW YORK — When Steffi Graf met Gabriela Sabatini in the Virginia Slims Championships last November on a Saturday in Madison Square Garden, the West German television network ZDF preempted its most popular program to show the match.

It was a smart decision. The ratings showed that 42 percent of the European nation`s viewers watched Graf`s victory. The figures will be even higher during the next two weeks, when the whole tennis world will follow the 19-year-old West German`s every move at the U.S. Open.

That`s because Graf is attempting to become the first player to win the sport`s Grand Slam-the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open-since Margaret Court did it in 1970. Only four players have accomplished the feat.

On the men`s side, Ivan Lendl, frustrated for years at the event (he was the runner-up in 1982, `83 and `84), is now trying to become the first man to win four consecutive U.S. Open titles since open tennis began, in 1968.

Graf is one of the many stars who will be going to the Olympics in South Korea after the Open, but right now she`s occupied by other thoughts.

``The Open is hard to put out of my mind,`` said Graf. ``Everybody`s thinking and talking about it, so it`s hard to forget. Don Budge (the first to complete the Grand Slam, in 1938) is telling me some things about it, and so is Margaret Court.``

``The final leg, it was a lot of pressure,`` recalled Court. ``You think, `I`ve got three and this is it.` There is definitely more pressure on the last one.``

The Grand Slam winners are Budge, Maureen Connolly (1953), Rod Laver

(1962 and `69) and Court. Martina Navratilova also won all four events in a row, in 1983-84, but because the accomplishment was spread over two calendar years it is not considered a true Grand Slam. Navratilova, Court and Connolly each put together strings of six consecutive titles in Grand Slam events.

In her three previous Grand Slam tournament conquests this year, Graf beat Chris Evert in Australia, Natalia Zvereva in France and Navratilova at Wimbledon.

Graf will get a $1 million bonus if she gets her Grand Slam, and the biggest challenges should come from Navratilova, who handed Graf her only two losses in 1987, in the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, or Sabatini, who has defeated the West German two of the last three times they`ve met.

If there are no major upsets, Graf and Evert would meet in one semifinal, and the form sheet says it would be Navratilova against Pam Shriver in the other.

But three other tough players are in Navratilova`s half of the draw:

Sabatini, Catarina Lindqvist and Zvereva, who has defeated Navratilova twice this year. Lindqvist has made the fourth round of the U.S. Open three straight years.

Lendl, who has been hampered by injures this year, should get his biggest challenge from Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander, last year`s runner-up.

Andre Agassi, the hottest player on the men`s tour this season, is the No. 4 seed. Agassi, an 18-year-old Las Vegas native, carries the strongest American hopes in the tournament since 1983, when Jimmy Connors completed a stretch of six straight years in which either he or John McEnroe won the title. Connors is the No. 6 seed this year and McEnroe is No. 16.

``I`m going in there to hopefully get by the first round because I haven`t yet,`` said Agassi, who lost his opening-round match in two previous tries at the Open. ``Seeded No. 4, I won`t have to worry about guys like Ivan Lendl or (No. 5) Boris Becker early.``

Barring upsets, Lendl and Agassi would meet in the semifinals of one bracket, if Connors doesn`t get in the way. Lendl has defeated Connors 16 consecutive times.

``He (Agassi) has that champion`s type of feeling, the confidence that I`ve seen in myself and a few other people,`` McEnroe said earlier this season. Last year, the teenager was ranked 25th, and in 1986 he was 91st.

Edberg, the No. 3 seed, is slated to meet No. 4 Wilander in the other semifinal, unless Becker upsets Edberg in the quarterfinals.

One particularly interesting early-round matchup could be McEnroe against Wilander in the fourth round.

The list of men`s stars going to the Olympics includes Edberg and Wilander.

Lendl is ineligible because he has moved to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia and has yet to obtain U.S. citizenship.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf wins easily, rolls into U.S. Open
Chicago Sun-Times
Monday, August 29, 1988
Chicago Sun-Times Wires

Steffi Graf, the world's top-ranked player, won her fifth consecutive tournament Sunday by defeating Nathalie Tauziat 6-0, 6-1 in the finals of the $200,000 United Jersey Bank Classic at Mahwah, N.J.

Graf, who will seek to win the final leg of the Grand Slam this week by capturing the U.S. Open, needed just 41 minutes to beat the unseeded Tauziat.

"I am very pleased with the level of my play as I go into the Open," the top-seeded Graf said. "I can't play much better."

Graf won $40,000 to raise her season earnings to $1,009,691, marking the second straight year she has topped $1 million.

Tauziat, ranked 34th in the world, said Graf is ``just too good and too fast. She hits harder and more accurately than anyone else in the world.

"I wanted to win a set, but then I tried to win some games" Tauziat said. "I came to the net but her passing shots were too good."

Tauziat won $20,000, the highest payoff of her career.

The 19-year-old Graf lost only 25 points against Tauziat. She lost only eight games in the four matches she played in the tournament.

Graf's forehand and backhand were both in top form as Tauziat, of France, could only manage to win the second game of the second set after fighting off two break points. Graf, of West Germany, went on to win the next five games.

"It was a perfect tournament for me," Graf said. "I'm not tired and I feel fresh for the U.S. Open. Today, I'll enjoy the victory and tomorrow I'll start thinking of the Open."

Graf is trying to become the first player since Margaret Court in 1970 to win the Slam.

"I know there will be a lot of pressure, but I'm sure I can handle it," said Graf, of West Germany. "I'm thinking positive. I think I can do it."

Graf will play Elizabeth Minter of Australia in a first-round match tomorrow.

Ivan Lendl is the No. 1 men's seed, followed by Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors.

HAMLET CHALLENGE: Second-seeded Andre Agassi defeated fourth-seeded Yannick Noah 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 to capture the $190,000 tournament at Jericho, N.Y.

Agassi won $40,000 and Noah earned $20,000.

Agassi, ranked fourth in the world, has won 22 consecutive match victories.

NYNEX OPEN: Fourth-seeded Milan Srejber of Czechoslovakia defeated Ramesh Krishnan of India 6-2, 7-6 to win the $123,400 tournament at Rye Brook, N.Y., and his first Nabisco Grand Prix title.

Srejber pushed his total earnings for the year to $104,701.

WILMINGTON CLASSIC: Fourth-seeded Emilio Sanchez of Spain defeated Kevin Curren 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4 to capture to win the $52,000 tournament at Wilmington, Del.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Steffi Graf's Strokes Of Good Fortune A Determined Teenager Closes In On A Place In History
August 29, 1988
Diane Pucin
The Philadelphia Inquirer

The August night was windy and chilly, and the threat of rain was overpowering.

Still, bundled in sweaters and dragging along umbrellas, a sellout crowd of more than 4,000 people hurriedly filled the temporary bleachers built around a tennis court at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., to watch a first-round match at the United Jersey Bank Classic tennis tournament.

This was a nondescript little women's tournament whose only purpose was to serve as a warm-up for the U.S. Open, but the volunteer at the ticket booth was turning paying customers away for only one reason. Steffi Graf was scheduled to play.

Graf is a 19-year-old West German who has a single-minded genius when it comes to tennis. Beginning today in New York, this long-legged, sandy-haired teenager will try to become only the fifth person in history, and the first since Margaret Court in 1970, to win tennis' Grand Slam.

As Graf crossed busy U.S. Route 202 from the physical-education building to the tennis courts with her head down and her father, Peter, at her side, two burly Ramapo football players quickly stepped aside.

One by one, as members of the crowd caught sight of Graf, they began to rise and applaud. They stayed standing as Graf was introduced by tournament director John Korff, and the applause reached a peak as Graf shed her white warm-up jacket and hit her first practice forehand.

Never once did Graf raise her head, give a wave or bestow a smile on this adoring collection of fans.

"You'd think she could at least smile," said Sven Busch, a U.S.-based correspondent for a West German news agency who has chronicled Graf's career. "Boris Becker would have reacted to these people. But she is too tough."

*

In 1938, when Don Budge became the first winner of the Grand Slam, he wore long, flannel pants and wielded a wooden racket. And he didn't really know he was on the verge of making history.

It took a New York Times sportswriter, Allison Danzig, to figure that winning Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. national championships in the same year was comparable to Bobby Jones' sweep of the Open and Amateur titles in Britain and the United States eight years earlier.

"That was the first time anyone called it the Grand Slam," Budge recalled.

In the last 50 years, only Rod Laver (in 1962 and 1969) on the men's side, and Maureen Connolly (1953) and Court on the women's, have matched Budge's feat.

Graf has already won the first three legs - the Australian and French Opens, and Wimbledon - with the loss of only one set. She beat Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union, 6-0, 6-0, in 34 minutes in the final of the French Open. She has won 28 straight matches going into the Open today.

So dominant has Graf become that a women's tennis historian, Ted Tinling, feels that only injury or illness can stop Graf from winning all four tournaments in this calendar year. (Martina Navratilova held all four titles at once, but won hers over a period of two years.)

Such a notable figure has Graf become in her native West Germany that Busch said an enterprising gossipmonger who can come up with information on a Graf love life could probably command $100,000 from West German newspaper and magazine editors.

It's what everybody in West Germany wants to know - the real Steffi, the Steffi without a tennis racket. It's what everybody in the United States will want to know, too, if the unsmiling wunderkind rampages through the women's draw at Flushing Meadow, as expected.

The tennis-playing Graf is well-chronicled. Her father, who was a tennis coach in Bruhl, West Germany, handed his precocious daughter a sawed-off racket when she was 4 and said, "Hit." Graf windmilled her chubby little arm and hit the heck out of the ball.

By the time she was 12, when her U.S. peers would be entering the eighth grade and beginning to think about makeup and boys, Graf was entering enough adult tournaments, and winning enough matches, to set a record as the youngest player ever to be ranked on the WITA computer.

In 1984, Graf became the youngest player ever to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals and won the tennis gold medal at the Summer Olympics when tennis was just a demonstration sport. This year, tennis is a real sport, and Graf wants another gold medal so much, she will leave for Seoul the day the Open ends.

She is 5 feet, 9 inches and 130 pounds of legs and arms. She looks like a thoroughbred colt that still has some growing to do. "She is a little taller each time I stand next to her," Tinling said. She walks with the peculiar, desultory slouch that characterizes most teenagers, but when she steps on a tennis court, her shoulders uncurl and her back straightens.

Her game is already breathtaking. There is the famous forehand, a lethal combination of power and speed that is the hardest stroke on the women's circuit.

The second-hardest shot might be her wicked righthanded serve, which often leaves the opponent with no sight of the ball, only the sound of air rushing by. Because her forehand is so impressive, Graf's backhand is sometimes ignored. But the opponents who used to play to the backhand and try the same tactic now find the ball placed unkindly at their feet.

Navratilova and Chris Evert have dominated women's tennis for the last decade. Navratilova did her damage with sheer, unbridled athletic excellence. She would often disdain the easy shot to try some newfangled, athletic maneuver that would sometimes backfire but always thrill the crowd. Evert lacks the athleticism of Navratilova, and has won with the patient brilliance of a brain surgeon.

Graf is different from both. She is impatient on the court. The quickest way to win a point is the Graf way. She would never toy with an opponent the way Navratilova has done. She is also a perfectionist. Like Evert, Graf learned the game on clay courts. But unlike the young Evert, Graf has already decided that she will not disdain the hard serve and volley when it suits her purpose.

Tinling thinks Graf, who was ranked No. 1 among the women for the first time last August, will keep that spot for the next five years, at least. Arantxa Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Spain who provided fodder for Graf's cannonlike shots in Mahwah, described Graf's 6-2, 6-0 whipping of her thusly: ''It's boom, boom, whoosh."

If there is any criticism of Graf's game, it is that it is too short. As in, no time for a snack, a trip to the restroom, a late arrival. After she blitzed Zvereva at the French Open, "people were saying, 'Why not give her a game?' " Graf said.

At a tournament in her native country, in Hamburg, a few obnoxious fans were vocal in demanding more tennis for their money. "What more do they want of me?" wailed a distraught Graf.

"One time I was beating somebody very fast, so I tried different shots and lost a couple of games," Graf said. "That was no good. Sometimes, it's too fast (for the fans). Sometimes, too slow. Another time, I was down 3-love, and a man shouted he wanted his money back. Now I only try to please myself."

There is sometimes criticism of Graf off the tennis court, however. Her Svengalilike father protects her privacy with the stiff authority of a Prussian guard, while her mother and younger brother usually stay home in Bruhl.

She has no close friends on the tour, and Tinling gave a disbelieving look when asked whether there was a young man in her life. "Oh, no," Tinling said. "Steffi thinks only of tennis. And her father would have it no other way."

But at the suggestion that she was playing only for her father, that he pushed her too hard, Graf grew incredulous.

"I play because I love the game," Graf said. "It is the thing I enjoy doing most. I'm happiest when I'm playing tennis."

She proves that the moment she steps on the court. She never looks to her father in the stands; she has eyes only for the ball.

"Never have I had to prod Steffi into practice," said her coach, Pavel Slozil, a former Czechoslovakian player. "She is the most dedicated player I have ever seen."

Graf lists water-skiing, eating greasy American fast food and listening to blaring rock music on her Walkman as her other favorite pastimes. Though she reportedly makes nearly $4 million a year from endorsements, Graf has indulged herself with a modest new car and a new Walkman, and with a condominium in Florida where she can spend quiet time in relative anonymity.

"At home, everybody knows me," she said. "People drive by my house all the time. Sometimes I need to get away."

In her quiet way, Graf wishes people would quit trying to dissect her personality. There is nothing to dissect. She is what she is, a 19-year-old who loves to play tennis.

Even the hubbub of winning a Grand Slam has yet to faze her. "I really don't think about it much," she said before her first match in Mahwah. "I always want to win all my matches, and this is no different. I just want to win all my matches."

She has called Court to talk about the achievement. Court, who is now a street preacher in Perth, Australia, said her advice was "to just not think about it."

Graf, who lost to Navratilova, 7-6, 6-1, in the finals of last year's U.S. Open, has a fairly easy draw. She plays her first match against Elizabeth Minter of Australia, and is expected to meet seventh-seeded Helena Sukova in the quarterfinals and Evert, who is seeded third, in the semifinals.

Her doubles partner, Gabriela Sabatini, beat her twice early in the year, but never when it mattered much.

Deep down, Graf will admit that winning the Grand Slam matters a lot.

"If you win the Grand Slam, people think you are one of the greatest players," she said. "I would like to be considered like that."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

A repeat, but worth re-posting. For all that "they say" Steffi didn't do enough media stuff, she is obviously spending off-court time with reporters.

Graf Has Grand Ideas For a 19-Year-Old Player
Peter Alfano
The New York Times
August 29, 1988

The guests had eaten dinner, and without any prodding from her father, Steffi Graf helped clear the table as she would if she were home in Bruehl, West Germany, returning with placesettings for coffee and dessert. It was a reminder that the best tennis player in the world is still a teen-ager, one who plays pinball, becomes animated when talking about books she has read and enjoys the privacy of her room, where she likes to dim the lights, turn up the stereo, and dance the night away.

She had a chance to do those things while staying with friends in Saddle River, N.J., last week, in a new house owned by Eva and Lester Kiss. The swimming pool wasn't ready yet, but the Deco II tennis court gave Graf and her coach, Pavel Slozil, a chance to practice in privacy.

She and her father, Peter Graf, met the Kiss family two years ago when Steffi came here to play in a tournament in Mahwah, N.J., a tuneup for the United States Open.

Staying here is almost like being home, Peter Graf said, giving Steffi a family atmosphere, a chance to be normal. It is a word that he uses a lot during times that are anything but normal, when his daughter is on the threshold of winning the Grand Slam.

A victory in the Open, which begins today, will enable Graf to become the first player to win the Grand Slam since Margaret Court of Australia did it in 1970. It will insure her place in tennis history.

There are only a handful of times during the year when Steffi Graf can enjoy the luxury of what most people consider a normal life. Sometimes, that is easier to do on the road. Lester and Eva Kiss have two sons and Steffi could have passed for their daughter. She wore a dress during dinner, sipped on Coke, and ate duck and vegetables.

She was friendly although quiet, which is her nature. She joked with Slozil, who was trying not to gloat about his pinball score of 700,000, recorded earlier in the day on the machine in the game room. The talk turned to video games; someone mentioning he was pretty good from the baseline in the tennis game, but had trouble at the net. "Just like me," Graf said.

Later, she changed into jeans and a sweatshirt and politely said goodnight to everyone at about 9:30 P.M. "That's like midnight for Steffi," said one of the guests, who met the Grafs four years ago in Florida.

It has become difficult for Graf to relax this way back home in Bruehl. Her home has become something of a tourist attraction, Peter Graf said, with hundreds of people driving by or poking around every day. He has three telephone lines, and they ring all day.

The more ambitious have tried to scale a wall to reach the house, only to encounter Graf's German shepherd, trained to discourage such behavior. The more brazen knock on the front door. Peter Graf recalled a young would-be suitor carrying flowers for Steffi, who was out of the country at the time. When he returned, conversing as if he and Steffi were close friends, Peter Graf became apprehensive and called the authorities.

Peter Graf is Steffi's coach and business manager. Being a father takes precedence over both. In tennis circles, he is considered overbearing, a tough man to deal with, sheltering his daughter. Although her mother stays mostly in the background, she will join the family in New York for the Open.

"I know my image is bad," Peter Graf said. "I am protective. I am like the mother hen. This is my daughter. People who have children would know how I feel."

Steffi Graf may be normal, but she is not your average daughter. She is a superstar, more significantly, a national hero and source of tremendous pride in West Germany. Surveys show that she is more widely known than Chancellor Helmut Kohl, with a recognition factor of almost 100 percent. If she were to win the Grand Slam, they would be dancing in the streets well into the morning hours back home.

But it is not all roses for Graf. In addition to all the adulation, she is subjected to the same intense scrutiny that her countryman Boris Becker faced when he won Wimbledon in 1985 at the age of 17. People hang on her words, value her opinions on any subject, a situation that can be a potential minefield. She is wise enough to keep most of her opinions to herself, not ready, she said, to let people know more about her.

She has to pick her friends carefully. And it is only natural to wonder about the motives of the young men who want to meet her. Such is the competition among the gossip-mongering newspapers in West Germany that a casual conversation can become a full-blown love affair.

Thus, Graf guards her privacy and critics are left to comment on her game, demanding perfection. When she won a tournament in Hamburg, West Germany, earlier this summer, a fan shouted he wanted his money back because she was losing a set.

"It's very hard to be good at something in Germany, because people there don't know what they want," Graf said. "I've learned to ignore it, to think about my own life. I'm playing for me, doing my best."

For West Germans and tennis fans around the world, the normal Steffi Graf is not the young woman who helps with the dishes, reads Hemingway and listens to music every chance she gets. Instead, she is a gifted tennis player, methodical on the court, playing as if she were late for an appointment. Her calling card is a buggy-whip forehand, the most intimidating shot in women's tennis.

To fans, she is the No. 1-ranked tennis player in the world, often appearing invincible. People time her match as if she were a race horse out for a morning workout.

"I can get bored if things go too easily," she said. "I'm not happy with my opponent then. It looks like I'm much better. Some of my matches don't last as long as signing autographs or giving interviews."

In addition to Margaret Court, only Rod Laver, Don Budge, and Maureen Connolly have won the Grand Slam: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the United States Open. It is the most exclusive of tennis clubs. All were in their prime, which Graf does not figure to reach for a few years.

She has already had enough achievements to be listed among the best players of all time. Graf has won Wimbledon, the French Open twice, and the Australian Open. She has lost just four matches in the last two years, winning 18 tournaments during that period. She is completing her second consecutive year as the No. 1 player.

The United States Open title has been elusive. She has been to the final the past two years, losing both times to Martina Navratilova. Some people think the matches will be a mere formality this year.

Chris Evert suggested that a lack of competition may be Graf's biggest handicap. "She's coming along at the end of mine and Martina's careers," she said. "It's not like we're in our primes. She's a wonderful athlete, but you have to wonder if she will have just a couple of great years or longevity.

"She'll need someone to come up to her level. I don't see Steffi being around at 30."

Every era has had a dominant player like this, a candidate for the title "best ever." Suzanne Lenglen, Helen Wills Moody, Alice Marble, Althea Gibson, Court, and Billie Jean King are among those usually mentioned, and more recently, Evert, then Navratilova were synonymous with women's tennis.

Now, before Evert and Navratilova even have a chance to take a final bow, Graf has won over the audience, in effect, saying, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

"In a way, it is strange that Chris and Martina could not win the Grand Slam," Graf said. "They were so dominant and won so easily. Now, I am 19 and on the way to doing it. The Slam is very important. You can win the US Open 10 times, but it's not like winning the Slam."

Watching Graf play gives you the feeling that she is one of a kind, a tennis whirlwind about to cut a swath across Flushing Meadows as she did in Melbourne, Paris, and London earlier this year. Laver, Budge, and Court all have said that she has the stuff of a Grand Slam champion.

But Graf said she is not going to allow the Grand Slam to become an obsession, spoiling what has already been a remarkable year.

Peter Graf has emphasized this point time and time again to his daughter. "Grand Slam, Grand Slam, Grand Slam, that is all anyone has wanted to talk about," he said Friday night in an after-dinner chat. "Steffi wins the French Open, people ask about the Grand Slam. After her matches at Wimbledon, they ask about the Grand Slam. There is more to her life than tennis."

It is her father, Steffi said, who must take the racquet out of her hand, telling her she has practiced enough. One of the reasons she works so hard is that there is little time to enjoy success in the year-round tennis rat race. She wishes that were different.

But sitting in the den of the Kiss home Friday evening -- a semifinal match at Mahwah scheduled for the next afternoon -- Steffi Graf did not give the appearance of being overly anxious or mildly nervous about the Open, putting her reputation on the line once more. College students fret about final exams, but she said she was eager for the tournament to start.

"Steffi can handle pressure," Pavel Slozil said. "She has not changed as a person one bit. She does not act as a superstar. I never met anyone who loves the sport more than her."

A United States Open victory would not even be the final chapter in an extraordinary year. Graf will represent her country in the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. She won the singles championship when tennis was a demonstration sport in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. She was only 15.

For the first time in 64 years, tennis will be a medal sport in the Olympics. Thus, Graf has an opportunity to achieve the ultimate in tennis: a Grand Slam and Olympic gold. No man or woman has ever won both; she can do it in the same year.

The image makers at Advantage International have prepared for it. The company that handles some of Graf's business interests has conjured a phrase to mark the occasion. They are calling it the Golden Slam.

It will make her an even bigger name worldwide. In Europe and Asia, she is among the best-known athletes in the world. Her endorsement contracts exceed those of any other female tennis player.

An Open victory and the Golden Slam would open doors in the United States, said Phil DePicciotto of Advantage. "She is a global commodity," he said. "America is the most important marketplace, but the dollar is weak, and other economies are important, too. It is harder to create or become a star in the U.S."

Graf finds that appealing. She can walk down a street in American cities without being smothered by fans. She can be normal. That may change a bit if she wins the Open, but it is worth the price. Winning won't spoil her, she said. More bad news for her opponents: she is looking forward to the next few years.

"I'm 19 and have not been in tennis that long yet," Graf said. "I'm not going to get bored in a couple of years."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

MINTER HOPES TO SLAM THE DOOR SHUT ON GRAF
ALAN TRENGOVE
August 29, 1988
Sydney Morning Herald

NEW YORK, Monday: There are not many players who can claim that they beat Steffi Graf as a junior. But Elizabeth Minter, of Melbourne, is one.

Now, five years later, she has the chance to achieve everlasting fame - not to mention the undying gratitude of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova - by repeating the deed in the first round of the US Open, which begins at Flushing Meadow today.

Graf is a warm favourite to complete the grand slam and become only the fourth woman to achieve tennis's most elusive feat.

The previous grand slam champions were Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Martina Navratilova (1984), although some traditionalists refuse to recognise Navratilova's grand slam because it was not accomplished in a calendar year.

Navratilova won six majors in a row - from Wimbledon 1983 to the US Open in 1984 - and was given $1 million by the international federation to celebrate her grand slam. But Helena Sukova thwarted her conventional slam in a semi-final of the 1984 Australian Open.

If events proceed as expected on the hot cement courts of Flushing Meadow, Graf will play Sukova next week in a quarter-final, Evert or Lori McNeil in a semi-final and Navratilova in the final.

In the final of last year's Open Navratilova beat her by applying intense pressure to her backhand.

The West German has since worked hard to improve her backhand. Even on the older woman's favourite surface of grass, at Wimbledon, she has proved superior in almost every department of the game.

When Graf brilliantly ended Navratilova's quest for a ninth Wimbledon title she took her match record to 120-4 over the last two years, including a streak of 45 successive victories.

The pattern continued last week in the $US200,000 warm-up tournament at Mahwah, New Jersey, where she pasted Sukova in a semi-final and Natalie Tauziat in the final yesterday. Her $US40,000 first prize sent her total prize money over the $US1 million mark for the second successive year.

"When I play this way no-one can beat me," said Graf, whose record would make false modesty ridiculous.

And of the grand slam?

"I'm very happy I've won the three big tournaments," she said. "I have a chance to go for the fourth, but I'm trying not to think about it. I don't know if I'll be able to not think about it. I know I can handle the pressure. I'm thinking positive. I think I can do it."

Minter, 23, thinks she can too.

"If I don't beat her it's hers," she said with a laugh from nearby Westchester, where she is boarding, rather than staying in a hotel, to save money.

At the 1983 US Open the left-handed Minter beat the then 14-year-old Graf on one of the "field courts" in a semi-final of the junior tournament, and went on to win the title.

"She had a good forehand, but there wasn't anything outstanding about her power then," Minter recalled. "She hit the ball cleanly, but I was playing well."

Since then Minter, whose sister, Anne, is the highest native-born Australian in the rankings, has lost some of the dedication.

She is in the second year of a Bachelor of Arts course at Deakin University and plans to quit tennis in 1989 to become a journalist.

Of her match with Graf she said: "I am just going to go out there and hit and not get too nervous. If I happen to win I may revise my thinking about retirement."

The withdrawal of both Hana Mandlikova and Pat Cash because of injury means that for the first time in many years the Open will be devoid of any seeded Australian.

In the women's singles Australian hopes will rest mainly with Anne Minter, who plays the declining Wendy Turnbull in the first round. Nicole Provis faces a difficult first-round match with Zina Garrison while Sydney-based Elizabeth Smylie, an Olympic contender next month, lost in the qualifying tournament to Newcastle junior Rachel McQuillan, who was herself later eliminated.

Because of Graf's grand slam mission the men, for a change, will play a secondary role. Ivan Lendl's attempt to reassert his authority in tennis will be the chief point of interest.

At the start of the year Lendl held a slight, though realistic, chance of achieving the grand slam himself, but he failed at Melbourne, Paris and Wimbledon. Injuries have not helped his morale.

This is Lendl's favourite tournament. He has won here for the past three years. But his semi-final defeat at the weekend by Yannick Noah in the Hamlet Cup, a special event at Long Island, was not a happy augury.

In the top half of the draw, Lendl is seeded to meet Noah in a quarter-final with the phenomenal 18-year-old Andre Agassi, winner of six tournaments in 1988, probably clashing with veteran Jimmy Connors in the other quarter-final. When Agassi beat Noah 6-3 0-6 6-4 in the Hamlet Cup final yesterday it was his 22nd victory in a row.

Agassi, an 18-year-old who ranks fourth in the world and had won six tournaments coming into the Hamlet event, received $US40,000 ($A49,072) as first prize.

Noah had 10 aces, but misfired first serves at vital moments. Agassi had eight aces, five in the final set.

"There were too many errors today by both of us," Agassi said.

In the bottom half of the Open draw Boris Becker has a potentially traumatic time ahead because he could meet the vastly improved Australian Darren Cahill in the second round; Brad Gilbert, who was his nemesis here last year, in the fourth round; and Stefan Edberg, his Wimbledon conqueror, in the quarter-finals.

The fourth quarter-final will be contested by such varied stylists as John McEnroe and Mark Woodforde (who should meet in the second round), Mats Wilander, Miloslav Mecir and Henri Leconte - a prospect to delight the most demanding aficionado.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf's Story Has Become Big Business
August 30, 1988
Mike Conklin
Chicago Tribune

In the offices of Advantage International in Washington D.C., the course of Steffi Graf's quest to capture the Grand Slam of tennis is being carefully plotted.

By winning the U.S. Open, which got underway Monday in New York, Graf can become only the fifth person in the sport's history to win the four major championships in one year: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The last time anyone took all four titles in the same year was in 1970, when Margaret Court did it.

"It is hard to put it out of my mind the way everybody is thinking and talking about it," said Graf. "I've won three so far. It seems that there is a chance, really, but if I am going to do it I can't say till afterward."

The West German may be reticent about her perch on the edge of tennis history, but the people at Advantage who manage her interests already are pointing beyond the U.S. Open.

They're looking at what they call "the Golden Slam."

"We're positioning it as the Grand Slam and Olympics in the same year," said Phil dePicciotto, Graf's business adviser, "and calling it the Golden Slam if she wins the Open and goes on for a gold medal in South Korea. It's a rare opportunity. The Olympics only come around every four years.

"If she's able to accomplish it, in Germany it wouldn't change things," dePicciotto added. "She already has 100 percent name recognition there. She's only one of maybe four or five that do.

"But she's never won the U.S. Open, and it's a spectacle that transcends the boundaries of sports. The Olympics would add that next level."

Four years ago, Graf finished first at the Olympics in Los Angeles, when tennis was a demonstration sport. She's only 19 now and a heavy favorite to complete the Grand Slam.

"I'm very excited to play in the Olympics, but it's tough going after the Open, just two or three days home, then already to have to leave for Seoul," said Graf. "That's very tough. Still, I'm looking forward to it."

If Advantage is planning ahead, it has good reason. Graf has been moving inexorably toward this kind of success her entire career. When she was 13 and competing in the junior tournament at Wimbledon, Billie Jean King predicted she'd be a Grand Slam winner.

Under the careful monitoring of her father, Peter, Steffi began reaching the final of tour tournaments when she was 16. She has added numerous weapons to her initial one, a strong forehand, and in 1987 emerged with 11 singles titles.

A U.S. Open championship this season would signal an official changing of the guard. Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have dominated women's tennis for most of the last two decades, but Navratilova, who beat Graf in the final in last year's Open, is 31. Evert is 33.

Gabriela Sabatini has defeated the West German twice this year and may represent even more of a challenge on the hardcourt surface of the National Tennis Center.

But Graf is the top seed and has been No. 1 in the overall women's standings since replacing Navratilova on Aug. 16, 1987. Navratilova, No. 2 in the Open, faces a tough draw to get to the final.

This year, Graf whipped Evert 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) in the final of the Australian Open, squashed budding Soviet star Natalia Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in the final of the French Open and beat Navratilova 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 in the final at Wimbledon.

"She's just the best player in the world and will be for five or 10 years," said Don Budge, who recorded the first Grand Slam, in 1938. "I don't see her not winning it. Navratilova gives her a tough time now and then, but Steffi is the better player now."

Graf has surpassed the popular Evert in another significant area. Chicago-based Ad Age magazine, in its current edition, reports that Graf's off-court endorsements are worth $3 million a year. Evert gets about $2 million.

Her associations are with adidas for shoes and clothing; with Dunlop for rackets; with Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla., where she lives and trains; with Jade body moisturizer; with Opel automobiles; and with a firm that makes fruit juice.

"All of her endorsements are for lifestyle-type products," said dePicciotto, who has worked with Graf since she was 14. "They're items she uses and believes in. It all fits in. Nothing takes away from her tennis, believe me. She accepts only one or two percent of the opportunities she gets."

Among the offers she has turned down, according to Ad Age, is one from a company that markets underwear. She'd like to get involved with cooking products and a consumer electronic line.

"If she wanted to risk the longevity of her career, she could be greedy and accept everything," said dePicciotto. "That isn't the path we're going to take."

Her father and Advantage have done a good job nurturing Graf and her career. Among their rules are for her to arrive early for tournaments to practice and never switch continents or playing surfaces in consecutive weeks. Perhaps just as helpful is the efficient, quick way she dispatches inferior opponents, spending as little time on the court as possible. Last year, she dropped only 14 sets, 10 of them to Sabatini and Navratilova.

"She's better than she was a year ago," said Navratilova. "She's definitely improved her backhand return and she volleys extremely well. She also has incredible spring in her step."

The biggest challenge may prove how Graf handles the off-court pressure. DePicciotto said the tennis press has put few extra demands on her because they haven't been surprised by the West German's steady rise to the top.

"The less she reads the paper, the better," said Rod Laver, who achieved the Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969 (Maureen Connolly was the other player to do it, in 1953). "The Grand Slam is more publicized because the press is always looking for an angle. She can't be defensive, she has to be offensive. She has to play her own game."

The biggest increase in media interest has come from weekly news magazines and network TV shows. DePicciotto estimated there were 700 requests for interviews after Graf won Wimbledon in July.

"I had more pressure last year when I became No. 1 and right before," maintains Graf. "People were always following me around and I didn't feel very free. Now I'm used to it and can handle it. I'm a bit older and more used to it."

Last week, Advantage brought her to New York for a special press conference to accommodate the media. She also was available during the United Jersey Bank Classic in Mahwah, N.J., which she won Sunday in straight sets over Nathalie Tauziat.

In her native West Germany, her matches at the Open will be broadcast live no matter what the hour.

"Interest in Steffi has really grown, especially since Boris Becker has lost some popularity in the eyes of German people," said Herbert Winkler of the German Press Agency, based in Washington D.C. "Steffi seems to have greater staying power. Her growth is more consistent while Becker is always up and down."

When she won at Wimbledon this year, Graf received a congratulatory telegram from West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The message said: "You have come a giant step closer to a Grand Slam with your new success. Along with other tennis fans, I fervently hope that you succeed at achieving this goal." Now that's pressure-receiving a telegram from your country's leader before you take the court.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Just read the last 2pages.
Once again, THANK YOU Ms Anthropic, really

The article I really appreciated the most was the one by Diane Pucin, from The Philadelphia Inquirer. Simple, not trying to interpret, what she thinks or who she is.

Still "amazed" at Steffi saying she'll now try to ignore the people (crowd).

Can't wait to read the articles about THE Open
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by djul14 View Post
Just read the last 2pages.
Once again, THANK YOU Ms Anthropic, really

The article I really appreciated the most was the one by Diane Pucin, from The Philadelphia Inquirer. Simple, not trying to interpret, what she thinks or who she is.

Still "amazed" at Steffi saying she'll now try to ignore the people (crowd).

Can't wait to read the articles about THE Open
The incidents in Hamburg grabbed the English-language media's attention, so they made a bigger issue of it than Steffi probably did herself (Steffi was pretty good at "moving on"). They took the one quote from the one press conference and used it over and over again.

I guess some of the media's (and certain fans') "amazement" or "puzzlement" about Steffi's response could be attributed to the "generation gap" or "tennis culture shock." By now, the media was used to star players like Navratilova and McEnroe, who wanted the crowd to be behind them and admitted they were bothered when the crowd was not, who wanted praise from the media and who were bothered when they felt insufficiently lauded. Then the media gets someone like Steffi, who has a completely different mentality and approach to the game and its trappings. There is a somewhat famous quote from Steffi from a German television interview in an article right after she has won the Slam (although she actually said it prior to winning it) that was absolutely mind-blowing back then. It will probably still be mind-blowing, maybe even more so, to people who haven't already heard/read it. It will be pretty obvious Steffi Graf was not a normal jock or teenager.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Evert's comments about "the girls" being aware and extra motivated will become even funnier once Patty Fendick reveals that "the girls" are also running a locker room betting pool -- not about whether Steffi will win the Slam, but betting on how long each opponent will last on court.

Evert's comment about Navratilova's number one fixation is also humorous. Dissension in the ranks, or maybe payback for Martina's "I'm better" rant in Houston.

Graf one step closer toward Grand Slam
Houston Chronicle
Thursday, SEPTEMBER 1, 1988
Houston Chronicle News Services

NEW YORK - Steffi Graf, trying to complete the first Grand Slam sweep in 18 years, made a believer out of Elizabeth Minter on Wednesday.

"I think she'll win the tournament,'' Minter said after falling to the top seed 6-1, 6-1 in the opening round of the U.S. Open. "I don't think she can be beaten, especially on this surface. She's just too powerful.''

Graf, who has lost only one set in Grand Slam competition this year, barely broke a sweat in her 42-minute workout against Minter.

"You could see she was intimidated,'' said Graf, who has won 29 matches in a row. "Sometimes she didn't even know the score or that it was her turn to serve.''

While Graf took another step toward the Grand Slam, third-seeded Chris Evert made history by playing in her 18th straight Open.

Evert, a six-time Open winner, tied the women's record for most consecutive U.S. championships played when she beat Conchita Martinez of Spain 6-4, 6-1.

"This tournament means a lot of memories and history to me,'' said Evert, who equaled the record set by Pam Teeguarden from 1967-84.

Andre Agassi, the 18-year-old son of a Las Vegas, Nev., casino worker, won his first Open match of his fledgling career 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-3 over qualifier Philip Johnson, the 23-year-old son of a Georgia minister.

Agassi, who has won 19 straight Grand Prix matches and six titles this year, is being touted as the next great American player. But the fourth seed said he isn't feeling any pressure.

"I play tennis for myself, not to fulfill other people's expectations,'' said Agassi, who lost in the first round here the past two years.

Five-time champion Jimmy Connors started his 19th U.S. Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Agustin Moreno of Mexico.

"I am pleased with the way I played and I'm pleased with the shape I'm in,'' said Connors, who broke a four-year title drought in July. "If I can lift my game another notch, it would be pretty good for me.''

Other men's seeds advancing to the second round were No. 7 Yannick Noah and No. 13 Jonas Svensson.

In women's play, ninth-seeded Lori McNeil of Houston, No. 12 Barbara Potter and No. 15 Sylvia Hanika won their opening matches. McNeil beat Iva Budarova of Czechoslovakia 6-4, 6-0.

Another Houstonian, Richey Reneberg, defeated another Czech - Marian Vajda 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Michael Chang, who last year became the youngest male (15 years, 6 months) to win an Open match, defeated Luiz Mattar of Brazil 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. His record still stands because Tommy Ho, who turned 15 in June, lost his opening-round match to Johan Kriek 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5).

Graf is only 19, but she plays like a veteran.

"I didn't go out there expecting to win,'' said Minter, an Australian ranked 95th in the world.

"She (Graf) is the best in the world. She hits the ball ten times harder than anybody I've ever played.''

If Graf wins the Open, she will become the first player since Margaret Court in 1970 to win the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. championships in the same year.

Graf insists she is not occupied with the thought of winning the Grand Slam. Despite the hype over the Slam, Graf said she wasn't anxious about getting started at the Open.

"I'm not impatient,'' Graf said. "When it comes, it comes. I'm sure everything is going to work out.

"I'm just trying to win the U.S. Open. The Grand Slam just happens to come with it.''

If so, that leaves only 127 women at the U.S. Open who do have it on their minds. For them, the rallying cry at Flushing Meadow is Stop Steffi.

"The girls are talking about it,'' Evert said. "The girls are aware of it. They are alert and getting their game sharp; they are motivated.

"I think the players will play really well this tournament because of Steffi going for the Slam.''


Evert says she is impressed with the way Graf has carried herself despite all the attention she receives and all the pressure being placed on her.

"I think she is handling it great,'' Evert said. "Steffi is very gracious. The only time she has not been gracious is when Martina (Navratilova) has said she is No. 1, she is the best player. Sometimes Martina gets on that subject too much.

"Steffi is very mature, a wise girl. She isn't nervous at all, she's very relaxed now.''

Unlike Graf, Agassi got a good workout in his opening match.

Johnson, who played on two NCAA championship teams at the University of Georgia, pushed Agassi to the limit in the first set and made him battle for points throughout the match.

"It's tough to play against a guy like that because he hits the ball so low, he plays real quick and he hits two-handed from both sides,'' Agassi said. "I'm just glad I got through it.''
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

U.S. Open; One Down, Six to Go for Graf
PETER ALFANO
September 1, 1988
New York Times

Steffi Graf's magic number is now six, the number of matches she must win to become the United States Open champion and complete the Grand Slam. For those who are hoping this will provide the Open with two weeks of added excitement, the drama and suspense building, then the opposition will have to be made of sterner stuff than Elizabeth Minter, the personable Australian who was steamrolled by Graf in a first-round match yesterday.

It took only 42 minutes for Graf to make herself at home. She defeated Minter, 6-1, 6-1, and pronounced herself physically fit and mentally prepared to become the first player to win the Grand Slam since Margaret Court did it in 1970.

''I was happy that it was fast,'' Graf said. ''It's out of the way. It was nothing special. You could tell that Minter was not concentrating. She sometimes did not know it was her serve or what the score was.''

No Luck at All

Sometimes, the luck of the draw is no luck at all. Minter, who is ranked No. 95, found that out last week when she found out she was playing Graf. ''Your number comes up every so often,'' she said. ''I was disappointed when I saw who I would play, but I decided to just go out and have a good time. And the match is on video, something to show the grandkids.''

Minter admitted that she had no chance to beat Graf and that only Gabriela Sabatini and Martina Navratilova had realistic expectations of stopping the West German teen-ager. ''Graf hits the ball 10 times harder than any other player,'' Minter said. ''I don't think she will lose here.''

Evert a Two-Set Winner

Earlier in the day, Chris Evert talked about the motivation that Graf's quest had given the other players in the draw. Barring an upset, the focus will be on women's tennis when the quarterfinals, semifinals and final are played. ''Because of Steffi, I think the girls will play better,'' said Evert, who defeated Conchita Martinez of Spain, 6-4, 6-1, yesterday.

That was not the case yesterday, though. Many players are intimidated by Graf. Sabatini has handed Graf her only two losses of the year and that only made Graf work harder, she said.

''I wasn't working as hard until then,'' said Graf who lost both matches during March, in tournaments played in Florida. ''Something was missing, I don't know what. But they made me want to practice a lot.''

The Grand Slam is all that anyone wants to talk to Graf about, and thus far, she has tried to discourage the talk. ''It's the U.S. Open that I'm trying to win,'' Graf said. ''Ask me about the Grand Slam if I do it.''

No Close Friendships

She is basically shy, a player whose No. 1 status has set her apart from the rest in more ways than one. She is the player to beat, thus close friendships are not practical. It can be lonely at the top.

Graf also must contend with Navratilova, a proud player who is arguably as good as anyone who played the game. Learning to be No. 2 is never easy and Navratilova has not given up the goal of overtaking Graf.

There is also the matter of the Grand Slam controversy. In 1983, Navratilova won Wimbledon, the United States Open and Australian Open, when that tournament was played in December. The following year, she won the French Open, thus she held all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. What's more, she went on to win Wimbledon and the United States Open in 1984, giving her six Grand Slam championships in succession.

'Stick With the Rule'

But the popular definition of the Grand Slam, is winning the four major titles in the same calendar year. That is what Court, Maureen Connolly, Don Budge and Rod Laver did.

''That she won six Slams in a row is incredible,'' Evert said, ''but you just can't start changing the rules. I'd stick with the rule the way it is.''

That has given Navratilova added incentive here. Beating Graf in the Open final would probably rank among her more memorable victories. It will not, however, be an easy task. ''I'm not feeling impatient at all,'' Graf said. ''I know I could lose the next round, who knows? What comes, comes.''
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

U.S. Open Women's Matches : Graf Doesn't Waste Time Against Minter
September 1, 1988
LISA DILLMAN
The Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK — The first match of 19-year-old Steffi Graf's final step toward a Grand Slam had about as much suspense as the outcome of Mike Tyson's last fight.

Correction. Give the nod to Tyson's last unofficial meeting--that being the one at 4:30 a.m. last week in front of an all-night clothing store in Harlem.

That, supposedly, was a surprise meeting and a one-sided beating.

Graf, however, was expected to meet--and beat--99th-ranked Elizabeth Minter of Australia, which she did, 6-1, 6-1, in the first round of the U.S. Open Wednesday at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow.

It was one-sided, too. The outcome left the winner saying it wasn't even a good match. As for the loser, Minter appeared disoriented playing Graf and sometimes forgot the score, according to Graf.

"It was nothing special," Graf said of the 41-minute victory. "It was hard for me to play well because she didn't play well. It was hard for me to show some good points."

Speaking of points, it was amazing Minter could even string together a few good ones to win two games. Afterward, Minter said she hadn't expected to win.

"I was just going to go out and have a good time," Minter said. "I was hitting the ball reasonably well before the match, so I just said I'd have a good time. It's on video. Something to show the grandkids."

It may be on video, but the Graf-Minter contest definitely won't be filed in the classics department.

Wednesday, Graf had this round won before she stepped onto the court.

"You could see the way she was intimidated," Graf said. "She sometimes didn't know she was supposed to serve. She didn't know the score and she wasn't concentrating in between."

Which is what has happened to most of Graf's opponents in her three other Grand Slam victories--the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon--this year. At least, Minter has distinguished herself from the other tennis-playing Minter, her sister Anne, by having the potential to become the answer to a trivia question.

Question: Who did Steffi Graf beat in the first round of the U.S. Open on her way to winning the Grand Slam?

Answer: Elizabeth Minter.

Add Graf: The West German, practical as ever, is taking all this Grand Slam stuff in stride. She knows that only Don Budge, Rod Laver, Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court have won the Slam, taking all four titles in the same calendar year. But Graf claims the Grand Slam isn't on her mind, just the business of hitting forehands and backhands.

"It is the U.S. Open I am trying to win," she said. "I have to think about every match. If it would be, it would be."

If Graf isn't talking about the Slam, the stop Steffi troika--Chris Evert, Navratilova and Pam Shriver--as well as other players are finding extra motivation for the 1988 U.S. Open.

"The girls are talking about it," said Evert, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Spain's Conchita Martinez.

"It is a real exciting year for all the players. The girls are aware of it. They are alert and getting their games sharp. Nothing personal. But I think the players will play really well this tournament because of Steffi going for the Slam."

The other seeded women had little difficulty in advancing to the second round as No. 6 Manuela Maleeva, No. 7 Helena Sukova, No. 9 Lori McNeil, No. 14 Katerina Maleeva and No. 15 Sylvia Hanika all won in straight sets.

Once again the Women's International Tennis Assn. has managed to surpass last year's effort in the calendar department. Each year, the group issues a calendar featuring 12 of the world's top female players wearing enough makeup to keep the cosmetic sponsor's stockholders happy.

In 1989, tennis fans will see a new degree of questionable taste. Gabriela Sabatini, clad in about as much zippered leather as Michael Jackson, is posed getting out of a car.

Or perhaps she's getting ready to meet Jana Novtona's motorcycle gang. Novotna, is featured standing next to a cycle with a helmet in her hand, looking like a poorly dressed new-waver.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

A Different Graf Takes Court
USA TODAY
Wednesday, August 31, 1988
BILL HALLS, Gannett News Service

NEW YORK - This is not the same Steffi Graf who lost in the finals of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship to Martina Navratilova for the last two years [sic].

At 19 and in pursuit of the sport's first Grand Slam since Margaret Court achieved the feat in 1970, she appears much more self-assured and comfortable.

In her opening match Wednesday she breezed past Australian Elizabeth Minter 6-1, 6-1 in 41 minutes before 18,642 fans on the Stadium Court of the National Tennis Center.

Graf said she tries not to think about the Grand Slam. "It is the U.S. Open I am trying to win," she said. "I have to think about the next match. If it is to be, it will be."

There doesn't appear to be any trace of nervousness.

"I'm happy the match was fast," she said. "It wasn't a good match."

"I think she's going to win this tournament," Minter said. "I suppose (Gabriela) Sabatini (of Argentina) has the best chance of beating her on this surface. Eventually, she'll be beaten ... some day."

"She was intimidated," Graf said. "I could feel it during the match. Some players come out and just go for broke. Sometimes, she (Minter) didn't know it was her serve or what the score was."

The U.S. Open surface is Deco Turf II, a fast hard court that favors Graf's power game, particularly her potent forehand, delivered off a circular arm motion similar to a windmill pitching delivery in fastpitch softball.

Sabatini and Navratilova are the only two players who have beaten Graf in the past two years, both twice.

"My topspin game bothers her (Graf) a little bit," Sabatini said. "I will go in there and know that I can win the match and mentally that is very important."

Navratilova appreciates Graf's talent but remains bitter that she was not credited with a Grand Slam when she won six major tournaments in a row in 1983-84. She won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Australian Open in 1983 and the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1984. But the Australian Open, now played in January, was played in December back then and tennis officialdom refused to credit her with a Grand Slam because she did not win the four tournaments in the same calendar year.

"I find that pretty amazing," she said. "When I won it, it was Grand Slam Martina, and now I don't even exist. I am just trying to figure out how you can win six (majors) in a row and not win the Grand Slam."

Navratilova said Graf will face mounting pressure as the two-week U.S. Open moves closer to the final.

"With Steffi going for the Grand Slam, all the pressure is on her," she said. "She is always facing underdogs."

To help relieve the pressure, Graf plays pinball, reads Hemingway and practices dance steps. And she has no illusions about her chances.

"Anyone can beat me," she said. "Sabatini, Martina and Chris (Evert) all have a good chance. And (Pam) Shriver and (Lori) McNeil are tough."

Graf said two losses to Sabatini in March made her more determined to than ever.

"That made me see that I wasn't working as hard as I should have," she said.

"There was something missing. Motivation, something. After that loss I felt again I wanted to go out there and practice. I really helped me."

At about the time Graf was destroying Minter, Evert was dispatching Conchita Martinez of Spain 6-4, 6-1 in another first round match. This is her 18th year at the U.S. Open. She has won it six times.

"Chris is exceptional," the West German said. "She has been in tennis for so long. I do not think I will be around as long as she has been around. She's extraordinary. Always on top of her game and near the top of the computer (rankings). Chris is just so steady and mentally tough."

Evert said Graf is a "very gracious champion and a very mature, wise girl who has learned how to relax and take each match as it comes."

Court, the Australian champion, won the Grand Slam in 1970.

Before that, only three other players achieved the feat. Don Budge was the first in 1938. Maureen (Little Mo) Connelly won it in 1953 when she was three months younger that Graf would be if she won this year. Rod Laver won it twice, as an amateur in 1962 and again as a professional in 1969.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The first member of the Stop Steffi brigade trips up. But Pam will be back just a little later in her role as WTA politician.

Highlighted below is a great example of a fundamental difference between the Sorority Sisters and Steffi. I love that quote. It's a beautiful response to Navratilova's "I won the Slam, too! Now everybody acts like I don't even exist!" complaining.

McEnroe and Becker Lose At U.S. Open - Shriver, Gilbert Also Go Down In First Big Upset-Filled Day
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Friday, September 2, 1988
Gary Pomerantz

FLUSHING MEADOW, N.Y. - The castle walls shook at the second round of the U.S. Open on Thursday and four knights bid adieu. Men's No. 5 seed Boris Becker left with a limp. Women's No. 4 seed Pam Shriver left with tears in her eyes. Men's No. 11 Brad Gilbert left muttering to himself, victimized by a Peruvian baseliner.

But most nostalgically for the locals, No. 16 John McEnroe left his hometown court a pitiable shell of his former greatness, beaten in five sets by Mark Woodforde, an Australian lefty who will never be compared with Rod Laver. McEnroe even taunted the umpire over one call, saying, "Did I do something to you in a previous life to cause this?"

Indeed, this Open began to take a more defined shape on a day when women's No. 1 seed Steffi Graf strafed Manon Bollegraf of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-1, in a 52-minute clinic, then blanched when asked about her reputed rivalry of ego and accomplishment with No. 2 seed Martina Navratilova, who also advanced in straight sets Thursday.

"I don't care about that," said Graf, in quest of the final link of the Grand Slam. "What she has achieved is great. I just try to achieve myself."

Seeded players such as No. 5 Gabriela Sabatini, No. 10 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, No. 11 Zina Garrison among the women and No. 8 Miroslav Mecir, No. 10 Henri Leconte, No. 12 Guillermo Perez-Roldan and No. 14 Andres Gomez among the men all advanced. So did Mikael Pernfors, formerly of the University of Georgia, who dispatched unseeded Jim Courier 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

In fact, No. 2 Mats Wilander was the only seeded player to encounter major difficulty and still survive. The steady Swede outlasted South African Kevin Curren 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a 3 1/2-hour match. Curren saved five match points before finally falling.

Now, the exit of Becker sets up a projected semifinal match between Wilander and fellow Swede Stefan Edberg, who knocked off Guy Forget of France 7-5, 6-1, 6-3. Barring upset, the other men's semifinal presently projects to feature No. 1 Ivan Lendl and No. 4 Andre Agassi.

McEnroe, a four-time U.S. Open champ, lost a two sets to one lead and fell to Woodforde 7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 6-1. It was the second time in three weeks that McEnroe, 29, has lost to Woodforde, ranked 36th in the world. One stat announced the final fall of McEnroe's Open Empire: this represented the first time he's lost a five-set Open match in 10 attempts.

"If in a year or 15 months I'm still losing these kinds of matches maybe I'll re-evaluate," McEnroe, 29, said of his tennis future. "But for now this is what I want to do."

Becker, meanwhile, seemed helpless throughout his match. Suffering from blisters on his left foot and "any problem you can imagine" with his right foot, the two-time Wimbledon champion took a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 whipping from Darren Cahill, the son of a former Australian football hero. Becker, who had virtually no lateral movement and received several ice treatments during the match, said, "All (Cahill) had to do is keep it a little bit away from the center and I couldn't reach it."

To the 22-year-old Cahill, however, this was in-your-face retribution for disparaging comments he claimed Becker had made about his game earlier this year. "I had something to prove," said Cahill, ranked No. 33 in the world. He had lost to the West German in straight sets in the Queen's Tournament prior to Wimbledon. "(Becker) gave me a little bit of a stink when I chose (Pat) Cash to win Wi mbledon. He said that our match (at Queen's) in the semifinals was like a first-round match. I was very keyed up to play today and I wanted to win badly."

Peru's Jaime Yzaga, the 69th-ranked player in the world, rallied to defeat Gilbert 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-2. Primarily a clay-court specialist, Yzaga (pronouned E-Zaguh) broke Gilbert's serve six times over the last three sets. He reached the round of 16 at the 1985 U.S. Open.

Shriver seemed emotionally stripped after suffering her earliest defeat here since 1979. She lost to Leila Meskhi, a 20-year old Soviet, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, despite having held a 4-2 lead in the decisive set. Shriver has suffered through a miserable summer of ill health and ill fortune, however.

Choking back tears of frustration, Shriver said, "In my two matches here I've had some anxiety attacks that I've never had before like wondering whether the ball I threw up (to serve) would be where I wanted it.

"In my career, most of the time I've been able to bank on my serve and at this point I'm withdrawing from an empty bank account. (Meskhi broke her service seven times). There's nothing there."
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