Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2 - Page 193 -
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post #2881 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 9th, 2013, 11:52 AM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

That Bernie Lincicome even sorta kinda takes Steffi side in the war of words is an indication of how bad it must have been.

Numbers Add Up To A Graf Slam
September 9, 1988
Bernie Lincicome
Chicago Tribune

NEW YORK The numerical significance of Steffi Graf precedes actual accomplishment. "Will this be your first U.S. Open?" Graf was asked.

"To win, yes," Graf said, not needing to count.

"And the Grand Slam?"

"That, too, the first," she said being at the same time helpful and open-ended.

I suppose, just to keep things Teutonically tidy, we ought to assign a digit to this one.

Grand Slam 1.

We didn't do it for Little Mo Connolly or Big Maggie Court when they won their Slams, not that there was any need to. Neither won a second.

There used to be less urgency to identify achievements for the ages and to hoist replacements into niches still occupied by warm bodies.

"How come," Martina Navratilova asked, "when I won it, it was the Grand Slam and now it isn't?"

Navratilova did hold title to the four featured, full-draw tennis tournaments that make up the Grand Slam: Wimbledon and the Opens of Australia, France and the U.S.

"Sports Illustrated even called me Grand Slam Martina," said Navratilova.

In fact, Navratilova won not only four but six of the titles in a row, overlapping into at least a Slam And A Half. She got a million dollars for it. See, that's what I was saying earlier. If we had thought to write it down then, Martina would have had Grand Slam 1.5.

Without picking too much nit about this, what happened to Navratilova was New Year's. She couldn't get all the titles onto the same calendar, leaving Graf the opportunity to do at 19 what Navratilova was never able to do at any age.

Goals are important for teenagers to have.

There is no doubt that Graf will do it, especially now that Navratilova is no longer around to do anything about it.

"I wanted to stop her, sure," Navratilova said, "but I wanted to win the Open more."

We have only her word for that. It was very recently that Navratilova was herself thinking in multiples. Wimbledon times 8. U.S. Open times 4. Australia times 3. French times 2.

That's 4.25 Grand Slams right there.

Graf has a full quartet only if you count last year's French along with the three this year, during which she has won 320 games and lost only 73.

"She only had to beat me once," Navratilova said, refusing to let go.

That was at Wimbledon, when Navratilova took the only Grand Slam set off Graf this year. Chris Evert lost to Graf in Australia (taking her to a second-set tiebreaker) and little Natalia Zvereva could not win a game from Graf in the French.

"The only way she will not win the Open," said Billie Jean King even before the Open began, "is if she breaks a leg."

With both legs working, not to mention a lethal right arm, what remains to stop her is Evert, and then either Gabriela Sabatini or Zina Garrison.

"She is human," said Evert, unable to prove it the last six times they have met.

"It is strange that they never won the Grand Slam," Graf said, meaning Evert and Navratilova. "They were so dominating.

"It is so important. You can win the U.S. Open 10 times and it is not like winning one Slam."

Doubt no longer exists that Graf is in charge of the next era of women's tennis. Evert and Navratilova are relics. This is the dawning of the Age of Steffi.

Her father, Peter Graf, is so upset with a proposed change in the ranking system that will give less weight to Grand Slam titles, he is threatening to start his own tour.

Even if Navratilova's Slam were counted, Graf could exceed her. Because this is an Olympic year, Graf has a chance to add a fifth title of global significance, unavailable to any of her predecessors and available only every four years to whoever succeeds her.

Such an accomplishment might require a number and a name. Grand Slam 1 + 1 or Grand Slam 1 + Gold.

Graf's marketing people are thinking of calling the five titles a Golden Slam.

They have resisted calling it her first.
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post #2882 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 9th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Relentless Agassi defeats Connors
Friday, September 9, 1988
Doug Smith

NEW YORK - Jimmy Connors had a sellout crowd of more than 20,000 behind him Thursday night in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open.

But the crowd couldn't help him withstand relentless pressure from the 18-year-old who stood before him.

No. 4 seed Andre Agassi rushed past Connors, 36, the "old man'' of tennis, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.

In the women's draw, No. 1 seed Steffi Graf is on course for a spot in Saturday's final and a chance to become the first player to win the grand slam of tennis in 18 years.

Graf has won the Australian and French opens and Wimbledon and needs the final jewel -- the Open title -- to complete the grand slam.

She first must get past No. 3 Chris Evert in a semifinal match Friday. No. 5 Gabriela Sabatini plays No. 11 Zina Garrison in the other semifinal match.

"With Chris, I know I'll have to be prepared right from the start,'' said Graf. "But I'm very confident right now. I haven't lost for a long time.''

Said Evert: "Once I'm out there, I'll have to know instinctively the shot to hit.''

No. 1 Ivan Lendl took a step closer to a record fourth consecutive U.S. Open title Thursday by defeating Derrick Rostango of Brentwood, Calif., 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in a quarterfinal match.

Lendl will meet Agassi in a semifinal match Saturday. In the other semifinal, No. 2 Mats Wilander faces unseeded Darren Cahill.
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post #2883 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2013, 11:50 AM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Evert poops her pants. And projectile vomits. Once again, the microscopic forces of nature prove they can beat anybody. ("Tell me, Master of the Jungle, who is the Master of the Jungle?") And the gods of tennis demonstrate they have at least some commerce with the gods of irony as the most vocal members of the Stop Steffi Brigade fall without ever facing the kid over whom they've been obsessing. Also ironic is that E. coli very, very likely saves Evert from a very, very unpleasant case of Graf infection.

The Miami Herald
Saturday, September 10, 1988
JIM MARTZ, Herald Sports Writer

Chris Evert said she felt like she had been through a war, and she hadn't even stepped on the court to face Steffi Graf.

Evert never got out of bed Friday to play Graf in the semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis championships. Her dream of halting Graf's Grand Slam bid ended at 10 a.m. when she withdrew because of a severe stomach virus.

Now it's up to Gabriela Sabatini, the only player to beat Graf this year, to deny her a chance today (11 a.m., Channels 4, 34) to win the first Grand Slam since Margaret Court in 1970. Sabatini became the first woman from Argentina to reach a Grand Slam final when she upended Martina Navratilova's conqueror, Zina Garrison, 6-4, 7-5.

Evert came down with acute gastroenteritis late Wednesday night, and she hasn't been out of her hotel room since. The virus apparently is catchy.

Rick Leach also withdrew Friday morning from the men's doubles final he was to play in the afternoon with Jim Pugh against Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez.

"I think both players have very similar illnesses," said Dr. Gary Wadler, tournament physician. "Rick Leach's illness is very acute right now. He has a 103-degree fever and he can't stop his vomiting and cannot stand up, so we elected to send him to the hospital for some intravenous fluids and some medication.

"Chris Evert has a very similar illness, not quite as severe, also with diarrhea, also with recurring, intractable vomiting and fever. She is on the improving side, but I saw her this morning and clearly she is not in a position to play tennis today. She has a 101-degree fever."

This was the first time in 18 years of Grand Slams that Evert had to default. And it marked the first time a player (male or female) had withdrawn from a semifinal in this tournament since H.L. Doherty in 1902.

"I'm disappointed," Evert said in a statement. "It came so suddenly after my match on Wednesday. . . . I was really looking forward to playing Steffi and being part of her Grand Slam bid.

"I could have gone out there with no pressure, hit out and really have given it a shot against Steffi."

Graf said she was "feeling 100 percent. I'm not sick. I want to give everything, to try to do my best." But she was "very surprised" that Evert had to withdraw and was disappointed not to play.

"It would have been very important to play Chris," said Graf, who had a cakewalk through her first five Open matches. "She gives me a match in which I have to concentrate. It would have been good to have a match. I was ready to play ...."

Instead, she had a hard practice for an hour and 15 minutes.

Graf and Evert are 6-6 in their career meetings, but Graf has won the last six. Gallows humor around the National Tennis Center suggested that Evert was suffering from Steffitis or a Graf infection, illnesses induced by just thinking about playing Graf.

In fact, Evert had a virus that has hit other players, too. Wadler said he had seen more players with upper respiratory infections and viral-type illnesses than in previous years.

"My body feels like it has been through a war," Evert said. "Every muscle and joint aches. Physically, I couldn't go out and play. I don't have any energy."

Her withdrawal means that Evert, 33, has gone two consecutive years without winning a Grand Slam title. She had won at least one the previous 13 years, an unprecedented feat.

Sabatini, an 18-year-old who lives on Key Biscayne, is at an unprecedented stage of her career. It was the first time in five Grand Slam semifinals that she won.

Garrison charged to the net as she did against Navratilova, but Sabatini answered with passing shots.

"Her ball is hard to hit," said Garrison, who would have been the first black to reach the U.S. final since Althea Gibson won in 1958. "It's one you don't see every day."

Garrison broke for a 5-3 lead in the second set, but Sabatini broke back twice to wrap up the match.

"I missed some crucial forehands," said Garrison. "Maybe I should have chipped the ball and come in instead of going for outright winners. I played well but didn't play well all the way through."

Sabatini and Garrison agreed that Graf would not benefit by having Friday off. "You need to have a game on the court and feel the pressures of playing," Garrison said. "Two days off is very, very hard."

Graf boasts a 12-2 career advantage against Sabatini. But Sabatini's two victories came last spring in three sets at Boca Raton and Amelia Island, Fla. Graf won the last meeting, 6-3, 7-6, in the French Open semifinals. That makes Graf 1-2 against Sabatini this year and 58-0 against everyone else.

"I think my game bothers her a little bit, the topspin," Sabatini said.

"She's a very good player and has all the shots," Graf said. "Other than her, nobody else has that kind of (topspin) game."

With a women's semifinal and the men's doubles final being called off, U.S. Open officials had to scramble to put other matches on the Stadium Court. After Sabatini and Garrison, fans got a men's invitational match between Tom Gullikson and Hank Pfister.

Tournament director Michael Burns said there would be no ticket refunds because matches were played.
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post #2884 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2013, 11:51 AM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Poor Pavel is probably thinking something along the lines of: "I wish someone would give her a tougher match so I can have a rest..."

Also, tucked in the bottom, is a mention of the on-going rebellion of the ATP against the then-governing body of the men's game, along with an ITF outline to make a tour of their own. Such unsettled times (players breaking away from established tours, diverse sanctioning organizations planning rival tours) could have made the WTA a little anxious about the Graf camp's threat. For at least this one time, Peter's hotheadedness was well played.

Graf Gets Day Off; Sabatini Makes Final
September 10, 1988
Bill Fleischman,
Philadelphia Daily News

NEW YORK Steffi Graf played tennis yesterday at the U.S. Open, but not against her scheduled semifinal opponent.

Instead of facing No. 3 seed Chris Evert on the stadium court at the National Tennis Center, the top-seeded Graf practiced with her coach, Pavel Slozil, on Court 25.

The player who is one match from becoming just the fifth player in tennis history to sweep the Grand Slam events in one year left the weary Slozil leaning on the net after their 75-minute workout.

An estimated 200 pleased fans discovered Graf practicing on the court adjacent to the stadium. If Graf had played Evert on the stadium court, 20,000 fans who are tracking her Grand Slam pursuit would have watched.

At mid-morning, however, Evert was forced to withdraw. The lingering effects of acute gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, fever) left Evert feeling as if she had been in combat. The same stomach virus prevented Rick Leach from playing in yesterday's men's doubles final, giving the championship to Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez.

Evert's withdrawal marked the first time in 18 years the six-time Open champion could not fulfill her obligation in a Grand Slam event. Since Evert, 33, is nearing the end of her brilliant career and might not progess as far as an Open semifinal again, this was a devastating way to go out.

"I'm disappointed," Evert said in a prepared statement. "I could have gone out there with no pressure and really have given it a shot against Steffi. (But) my body feels like it's been through a war. Every muscle and joint aches."

Graf was in her Manhattan hotel room yesterday morning, preparing to leave for her match when she heard a television news report that Evert was ill. A few minutes later, a U.S. Tennis Association official called Graf to confirm that Evert could not play.

Evert's withdrawal, the first in a U.S. championship singles semifinal since 1902, cleared Graf's path to today's final against Gabriela Sabatini. Sabatini, the No. 5 seed, won her semifinal yesterday over No. 11 Zina Garrison, 6-4, 7-5.

Graf was an overwhelming favorite to defeat Evert for the seventh consecutive time, but the 19-year-old West German wanted to win on the court, not in the medical room.

"I was ready for playing today, I was really into it," Graf said after her workout with Slozil. "It would have been important for me to play Chris. She has the kind of game where I have to be concentrated."

Since Graf has not had a difficult match in the Open, skipping the semifinal test with Evert might disturb her. She is still favored to add Sabatini to her Graf-fiti wall of victims, but Sabatini, the first Argentinian woman to play in a Grand Slam final, is the only player who has figured out how to beat Graf this year. Since Sabatini's two victories over Graf on cement and clay in Florida earlier in the year, Graf has won 34 matches in a row.

Garrison thinks not playing a semifinal will bother Graf.

"You need to have gone on the court, felt the pressures of the people and your own pressures," Garrison said. "You need that competition. Two days off in professional tennis is very, very hard."

Graf, however, continues to appear unaffected by any Grand Slam pressure.

"I'm quite relaxed," she said. "I'm happy with the way things are going."

Graf said she planned to stick to her normal routine last night - an Italian dinner, a movie and bed about 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow, she will show up and try to secure her esteemed place in sports history. To join Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver and Margaret Court in the Grand Slam club, Graf will have to overcome her doubles partner.

Although Sabatini's career record against Graf is 2-12, those two victories this year have created a slight crack in Graf's confidence.

Looking ahead to today's final, Sabatini said, "I think my topspin bothers her a little. I'm fighting very much now. I have always said I wanted to win a Grand Slam. This was a good opportunity, so I came and am playing my best."

Graf admitted Sabatini had a point about the topspin.

"Nobody really plays like that, so I'm not used to it as much as with other players," Graf said.

Against Garrison, Sabatini struggled in the second set, falling behind, 5-3. But Garrison's serve deserted her, as it frequently did in her quarterfinal upset of No. 2 seed Martina Navratilova, and Sabatini won the next four games.


Rick Leach's withdrawal from the men's doubles final added to the bizarre day. Dr. Gary Wadler, the U.S. Open physician, said Leach was suffering from the same symptoms as Chris Evert.

"He has a 103-degree fever and he can't stop his vomiting and cannot stand up," Dr. Wadler said. Leach was treated at North Shore University Hospital.

Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez became the first Spaniards to win a men's doubles title at the Open with their walkover against Leach and Jim Pugh.

Replacing the women's semifinal and men's doubles final on the stadium court were two over-35 semifinals. Tom Gullickson, the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 4 Hank Pfister, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, in singles play, and, in doubles competition, third-seeded Marty Riessen-Sherwood Stewart beat second-seeded Bob Hewitt-Frew McMillan, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6.

Although the sellout crowd was disappointed in the tattered schedule, no rioting was reported at the croissant stands.


In today's men's semis, No. 2 seed Mats Wilander was to meet unseeded Darren Cahill at 11 a.m. After the women's final, top-seeded Ivan Lendl plays No. 4 Andre Agassi.


The Association of Tennis Professionals announced that 85 of the top 100 players have committed to a planned ATP tour, starting in 1990. Jimmy Connors, who does not belong to the ATP, and Lendl are the only top 10 players not signed. But both say they support the tour.

The ATP is upset that it only has three representatives on the nine-man Men's Tennis Council. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), which controls the Grand Slam events, has reportedly issued invitations to selected tournaments to join an "elite" ITF-sanctioned tour.
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post #2885 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Poor CBS. The Connors-Krickstein match hasn't even been played yet, so they can't haul it out to fill the time.

Graf Gains Final
Friday, September 9, 1988
BILL HALLS, Gannett News Service

NEW YORK - In a bizarre series of events that had U.S. Open officials wiping egg off their faces and CBS-Sports executives wringing their hands in dispair, Steffi Graf waltzed into the women's final at the U.S. Open without striking a tennis ball Saturday - and left her only one victory away from achieving the sport's first Grand Slam in 18 years.

In swift order, two of the three featured center court matches were wiped out.

Chris Evert, confined to her hotel room with a stomach disorder, was forced to default her scheduled semifinal with Graf, and Rick Leach, a member of one of the teams in the men's doubles final, was hospitalized with a similar illness.

That placed the West German girl in Saturday's final opposite Gabriella Sabatini of Argentina, who defeated Zina Garrison of Houston 6-4, 7-5.

"It would have been important for me to play Chris," Graf said. "She has the kind of game where you have to concentrate. I wanted to play pretty badly, and I was thinking about how to play her."

Graf was ill when she played and lost to Martina Navratilova in last year's final. "I practiced for an hour or so today but that's not the same as a match. But I feel fine."

The Grand Slam is made up of championships in the Australian and French Opens, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The last player to achieve the feat was Australia's Margaret Court in 1970.

Graf has remained remarkably calm during the two weeks here, breezing past five opponents.

"If you get this close, you should want to do it," she said. "I can't achieve much more in tennis."

Evert has won 18 Grand Slam tournaments, including six U.S. Open titles.

"I'm disappointed," the American said in a prepared statement. "I was really looking forward to playing Steffi and being part of her Grand Slam bid. I could have gone out there with no pressure, hit out and really have given it a shot against Steffi.

"But my body feels like it's been through a war. Every muscle and joint aches."

Leach of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Jim Pugh of Palos Verdes, Calif., were scheduled to play Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal of Spain. The Spaniards wound up splitting $95,333 first-place money.

Leach became ill Thursday night and was hospitalized Friday morning, suffering from vomiting and a fever. His temperature was at 103 degrees.

Dr. Gary Wadler, the tournament physician, said Evert was confined to her hotel room and Leach was taken to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration. He said her temperature was 101.

Evert first noticed her symptoms about 8 p.m. Wednesday after reaching the semis with a straight-set victory over Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria.

According to Dr. Wadler, both players were suffering from acute gastro-enteritis.

"Basically, it is vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, fever, nausea, something I'm sure we have all had at one point or another," he said.

"Chris is improving but, clearly, she is not in a position to play tennis."

Tournament Director Michael Burns replaced the featured matches with a couple involving senior players, which CBS-Sports showed, along with some reruns. Tom Gullikson beat Hank Pfister in a senior men's invitational semifinal. This was followed by a couple of doubles matches involving such former stars as Virginia Wade, Wendy Turnbull, Dick Stockton and Jaime Fillol.

There were 19,083 tickets sold for Friday's matches, and 18,852 fans showed up.

Tennis records disclose only one other default of this magnitude in a Grand Slam event. In 1931, Sidney B. Wood won the Wimbledon final by default over Francis X. Shields, who was injured, reportedly with a severely sprained ankle. Both were Americans.
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post #2886 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2013, 11:54 AM
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And poor Steffi, the tournament finally begins for her -- and the opponent calls in sick.

The Columbus Dispatch
Saturday, September 10, 1988
Zan Hale, Dispatch Sports Reporter

Call it a Stef infection.

Chris Evert is down and out of the U.S. Open tennis championship because of a stomach virus. She withdrew yesterday morning, several hours before her scheduled semifinal match with Steffi Graf.

The only thing that stands between Graf and the Grand Slam is Gabriela Sabatini, who defeated Zina Garrison 6-4, 7-5 yesterday.

Evert, who has won the Open six times, most recently in 1982, became ill about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

"I was really looking forward to playing Steffi and being part of her Grand Slam bid," Evert said in a statement because she was too sick to leave her hotel. "I could have gone out there with no pressure, hit out and really have given it a shot against Steffi. It's the first time in 18 years of Grand Slams that I've had to default."

The tournament physician, Dr. Gary Wadler, said, "We call it a gastroenteritis, but basically, it is vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, fever, nausea - something I'm sure we have all had at one point or another."

Evert had a temperature of 101 degrees when she decided to withdraw.

Graf seemed sincerely disappointed.

"I was ready to play Chris. I wanted to play her badly," said Graf, who practiced for one hour in place of the match.

"I think it would be important for me to have to play Chris because she has the type of game that gives me a hard time. I have to be concentrated. So I think it would have been good for me to have a match."

Sabatini, 18, is the only player to beat Graf, 19, in 1988. Sabatini won two of their three meetings this year, in Boca Raton, Fla., and Amelia Island, Fla.

"Well, this is for sure a different thing," Graf said. "This time it's a Grand Slam final. It's, maybe, one of the most important matches of my life."

A Graf victory will put her in elite company. Only four others have won the four major tennis championships - the Australian, French and U.S. opens and Wimbledon - in the same year: Don Budge (1938), Maureen Connolly (1953), Rod Laver (1962 and '69) and Margaret Court (1970).

THE U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam that Graf hasn't won. She lost to Martina Navratilova in the '87 final.

"Sure, it is important, this tournament," Graf said. "To achieve it (the Grand Slam) that early would be great. Playing is more important. I enjoy it. I will try to do my best.

"When you are that close, you want to do it. I can't achieve much more in tennis, so it would be great, but we'll see."

Sabatini, ranked fourth, said she is confident she can stop Graf.

"It's more mental when I play Steffi," Sabatini said. "If I go in to win and do the best I can, I'll have a good chance. My game is good and I'm playing very well."

Yesterday against Garrison, ranked 12th, Sabatini had trouble with her serve, but compensated with pinpoint passing shots. Garrison, who upset Navratilova in the quarterfinals, served for the second set, but Sabatini broke her serve and won the final four games.

With Evert and Navratilova out, it's the first time since 1974 one or the other has not been in the final.

RICK LEACH, who was scheduled to play for the men's doubles title with Jim Pugh, also became ill with a similar virus. Leach was taken from the National Tennis Center to a nearby hospital to receive fluids intravenously.

That gave Spain its first doubles champions when Sergio Casals and Emilio Sanchez won in a walkover.

Sanchez said he was disappointed he didn't get to play. "But in a few years, people will not remember how we won," he said.

Ann Grossman of Grove City won her quarterfinal match in the junior girls, defeating Erica O'Neill of New Jersey 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
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Graf One Win From Slam After Ailing Evert Defaults
September 10, 1988
Diane Pucin
The Philadelphia Inquirer

NEW YORK For Steffi Graf, nothing is as important as tennis. And today the 19-year-old West German plays the most important tennis match of her life.

She will meet Argentina's Gabriela Sabatini in the women's singles final of the U.S. Open, and a victory would make her the fifth player to accomplish a Grand Slam and the first since Margaret Court won the titles of Wimbledon, France, Australia and the United States in 1970.

Graf's match will be after the Mats Wilander-Darren Cahill men's semifinal, and it will precede the Ivan Lendl-Andre Agassi men's semifinal.

Yesterday, Chris Evert withdrew from her scheduled semifinal against Graf because of a stomach virus, while Sabatini beat Zina Garrison, 6-4, 7-5, in the other semi.

According to tournament doctor Gary Wadler, Evert became ill at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday, running a fever of 101 degrees and vomiting. The final decision that she would not play came at 10 a.m. yesterday.

"She and I both decided that it would not be in Chris' best interests to try and play today," Wadler said.

In a prepared statement, Evert said: "I'm disappointed. (The illness) came so suddenly after my match on Wednesday. I was really looking forward to playing Steffi and being part of her Grand Slam bid. I could have gone out there with no pressure, hit out and really given it a shot. But my body feels like it's been through a war. Every muscle and joint aches. Physically, I couldn't go out and play."

When the tournament started, only Martina Navratilova, seeded second, and Sabatini, seeded fifth, generally were given chances of stopping Graf's Slam bid - Navratilova because she has won four Opens, including the last two, and Sabatini because she is the only woman to beat Graf this year.

But Graf is riding a 34-match winning streak, including yesterday's forfeit. And in her two weeks at the National Tennis Center, she has seemed oblivious to all distractions and has swept through the draw without the loss of a set.

She has put aside all questions about the Grand Slam with a polite "I am only thinking of my next match." When her father, Peter, made public complaints about a new ranking system that is scheduled to go into affect next year and threatened to pull his daughter off the women's tour, Graf merely shrugged and said she would discuss the matter after the tournament.

How, wondered some, could her own father bring up a subject that might distract her at such an important time? Perhaps because the father knows his daughter knows so well. When it comes to tennis, Steffi Graf can't be distracted.

Graf, who has beaten Evert in their last six meetings, each time in straight sets, did not see Evert's withdrawal from their semifinal as a blessing.

"It would have been very beneficial for me to play Chris," she said after a 1-hour, 20-minute practice session. "Chris' game is sometimes harder for me, and that would be good for me."

Sabatini might have been grasping at straws, but she, too, said she felt that Graf would be hurt by not having played a match yesterday.

"Yes," she said, "I think that will be worse for her."

Even Garrison, no longer a part of the proceedings, said Graf would suffer from her day off.

"At this level of pro tennis, it is very difficult to have two days off before a big final," Garrison said, noting that Graf last played on Wednesday. "It won't be good for Graf."

More troublesome for Graf than the extra day off could be Sabatini's style.

Virtually every groundstroke Sabatini hits - forehand, backhand, lob - she hits with topspin.

"Sometimes, when she gets in trouble," Garrison said, "she'll undercut a shot. But not very often."

"She gives you a ball you don't see very much," Graf said. "The spin can make it difficult to play."

It was during the women's spring swing through Florida that Sabatini scored two victories over Graf. The first was on a hard court in Boca Raton, a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 win in the final of the Virginia Slims of Florida tournament. Two weeks later, Sabatini beat Graf on clay in the final of the Amelia Island event, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

"I think it was mostly mental," Sabatini said. "For the first time, I went into a match against Steffi thinking I could win. I had improved my serve and my backhand, and I felt I was ready to win."

Graf had a different explanation for her losses.

"I had been away from home for a long time," she said. "I was not concentrating on my tennis, to be honest. I wanted to go home. I did not play very well."

The two have played only once since, in the semifinals of the French Open in June. Before that match, Graf had said it might set the tone for her future meetings with Sabatini. She had said she didn't want Sabatini to feel she was her equal.

Graf won, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Still, Sabatini, 18, appears to be the only woman on the tour who can consistently challenge Graf. Besides hitting with heavy topspin, which is not often seen on the women's tour, Sabatini isn't wedded to the baseline, and at 5 feet, 8 inches and 135 pounds, she is strong enough to play a creditable serve-and-volley game.

"Gabby has all the shots," Graf said yesterday. "She has improved very much her backhand and her serve. I will enjoy playing her."

Graf enjoys playing anyone who can challenge her. After one of her perfunctory Open victories last week, she said, a bit wistfully: "I am wishing for a little tougher time. Now I must practice instead."

"The key will be mental," Sabatini said. "To beat Steffi, you have to believe you will win. I believe that."


The first men's semifinal has the potential to be a mismatch, the second to be a classic.

Wilander, the No. 2 seed, hasn't played a seeded player in the tournament. And, in Cahill, he will be meeting the lowest-ranked man (No. 52) to reach the semis since the Association of Tennis Professionals began issuing its computer rankings in 1973.

In the 18-year-old Agassi, Lendl will be facing a player with a forehand as powerful as his own. Both Lendl, the three-time defending champion, and Agassi prefer the baseline, so theirs could be a long match

Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal of Spain won the men's doubles title yesterday when Rick Leach and Jim Pugh had to withdraw. According to doctors, Leach was suffering from the same kind of virus that felled Evert.
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post #2888 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2013, 10:28 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Since the match did take place on September 10, 1988, I'll post one today. I do love Steffi's playfully dry response to Don Budge's confidence that she would do it.

Grand Slam For Graf
Saturday, September 10, 1988
BILL HALLS, Gannett News Service

NEW YORK - Steffi Graf didn't play her best tennis Saturday, but it was good enough to win the sport's first Grand Slam in 18 years and solidify her position as the new queen of women's tennis.

Graf, the 19-year-old West German prodigy defeated teen rival Gabriela Sabatini, an 18-year-old Argentine star, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 before more than 20,000 fans at the National Tennis Center and a worldwide television audience.

"I'm very thrilled, very happy," Graf said.

She said she couldn't describe her true feelings in more detail because it will take a while to sink in.

Only four other players, two of them women, have accomplished the feat - victories in the Australian and French opens, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same calendar year - in the past 50 years. The last was Margaret Court of Australian who won it in 1970.

American Don Budge, on hand to congratulate Graf, was the first to win the Grand Slam in 1938. America's Maureen "Little Mo" Connolly was only 18 when she won the first women's slam in 1953. Then Australian Rod Laver won it twice in 1962 and 1969.

On match point, Graf drilled a blistering backhand, handcuffing Sabatini, her longtime doubles partner. Graf clinched her right fist in a rare emotional outburst, shook hands with Sabatini and then raced to the stands to embrace first her coach, Pavel Slozil, and then her father, Peter.

At the formal presentation, under flags of the four Grand Slam nations, Graf was presented with the Open trophy, a gleaming silver cup, and a gold bracelet with four diamonds, symbolizing victories in the world's four major tennis championships. She also won $275,000 in prize money.

Graf later said Budge told her, "I knew it all the way!"

"He knew more than I did," Graf said.
"He said he was happy for me and said he thinks I'll do it a couple of more times."

Graf began her quest by defeating Chris Evert in the Australian Open final in January. A victory over Natalia Zvereva of the USSR followed in the French Open. Former No. 1 Martina Navratilova was Graf's victim at Wimbledon.

Navratilova and Sabatini were the only players to win a set against Graf in the four tournaments.

Graf handcuffed Sabatini with a forehand drive to win the first set. But the Argentine girl came back to win the second set when Graf's shots began sailing long in the humid, windy weather and Sabatini's topspin rockets began to hit the lines.

Graf took total command in the final set as Sabatini began to tire. She broke Sabatini in the second and sixth game to win the last set easily.

"I got tired at the end of the second set," Sabatini said. "I was a little slow, late getting to the balls. I tried my best. She (Graf) was nervous but handled it very well. I think it's great she won the slam. Not too many people have won the Grand Slam."

Graf, always in excellent shape, had a walkover in the semifinals when Evert, suffering from a stomach disorder, had to default. Sabatini beat American Zina Garrison in the other semifinal, a tough three-set match.

"I really wanted to play," Graf said. "I felt it was an important match. I wasn't nervous but I wanted to get it over. I've finally done it. There's no more pressure on me. There were a lot of expectations. People said the only way I'd lose is if I broke my leg.

"Gabby played very well in the second set. It was very windy and I was just trying to keep the ball in play. I was afraid to hit it sometimes and I missed some easy shots. In the third set I thought, `She's tired,' but Gabby always looks like that and, suddenly, she hits an ace and comes back.

"It would have been nicer if I had played the semis with Chris. I would have had a better feeling now. But Gabby was tough to beat."

Sabatini is the only player to beat Graf this year. Graf won two matches in Florida in March.

She breezed through the Open draw, playing only two matches that lasted more than an hour and losing only one set.

"I didn't have many tough matches," Graf said. "But I think winning the last two tournaments were more important than the first two. I'll remember Wimbledon because of the way I won in the final (against Navratilova), and the last two weeks here were tough because of all the Grand Slam talk."
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post #2889 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 12:59 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Sheesh, when Mr. Zeigler gives the numeric recap of Steffi's march through the majors, it makes Shriver's jibe about the pigeons Peter would line up for Steffi extra laughable.

That the crowd was indifferent, if not a little hostile (to both of them) was a shame, and probably contributed to Steffi's "restrained" response (more on just how restrained it really was later). While the match wasn't an overall classic for all time, it has a couple of big handfuls of jaw-dropping points, by any era's standard. I remember saying "Glory hallelujah!" at the forehand that ends the point at 3-1, 15-15 in the first set. Gaby has hit, cross court, one of her heavy topspin shots that kicked like a shotgun recoil. The ball lands deep and pushes Steffi way back behind the baseline. And I guess Steffi decides she doesn't want to retreat any further, so she jumps up to meet the ball, hard to tell how high from the camera angle, but probably 8 to 12 inches. She is about 7 feet behind the baseline and aligned with the center of the doubles alley. She still hits the ball at shoulder height, even with the jump. The ball still has a lot of topspin on it. Gaby is in a neutral position near the center line of the court. Steffi Graf hits that ball for a clean winner down the sideline -- and it wasn't even as hard as she could hit it. The crowd does applaud, and on reasonable quality audio tracks, you can also hear a "whoooaa-ooh" murmur from the people closer to court level, who were probably the only people who could really see how Steffi took a ball that was still maybe 6 and a half feet high in the air and kicking like a mule and going cross court, and turned it into a down the line winner that bounced maybe knee high and was gone in a fraction of a second. To this day, you rarely see people hit clean winners from that far behind the baseline. To this day, you rarely see people hit clean winners against that kind of topspin (and a shout out to Gaby for being able to hit it without the benefit of Luxilon). But Steffi Graf, standing in the intersection of two high risk plays, not only makes the shot, but makes it look routine.

When someone is playing "dilige et quod vis fac" tennis, it should be acknowledged by the spectators at the end with more than a golf clap.

Grand Slam easy for Graf - Beats Sabatini in Open final
The San Diego Union
Sunday, September 11, 1988
Mark Zeigler, Staff Writer

Think about it for a moment.

Steffi Graf won the Australian Open in January. She won the French Open in June. She won Wimbledon in July. And yesterday, she won the U.S Open.

In tennis, that's called a Grand Slam, and only two other women have achieved it.

Graf is a teen-ager for nine more months.

Graf's 34th straight victory, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 decision over Gabriela Sabatini yesterday, made her the fifth person and third woman to take tennis' four major tournaments in the same calendar year. San Diego's Maureen Connolly did it in 1953, just days past her 18th birthday. Australian Margaret Court did it in 1970, Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and '69.

"I'm very happy to have the talk over about the Grand Slam," said the West German. "That's a nice relief. Now I've done it, and there's no more pressure on me. There's nothing else that you can tell me that I have to do."

Graf made the Slam her own personal joke this year, rolling through the four majors efficiently, fearlessly, flawlessly. It was tennis' version of Mike Tyson. She was 27-0 in matches, 54-2 in sets, 335-99 in games. Close, it wasn't.

But when it was over, Graf seemed so, well, underwhelmed. The operative adjective at the National Tennis Center's Louis Armstrong Stadium: anticlimatic.

When Sabatini could reach but not return Graf's volley at match point, the blonde from Bruhl looked more like she had won at Newport, R.I., than New York. She hopped once, shook hands and jogged to the opposite corner, where she hugged her father and coach. After she received the Open trophy, a lavish silver cup, Graf had to pose for photographers twice because her first tour with the trophy lacked length and emotion.

Through it all, the applause from the 19,500 was something out of a golf tournament.

Nearly an hour later, Graf was asked to describe what it felt like to be a "Grand Slam girl."

"I don't think you can expect me to give the right answer right now," replied Graf, who earned $275,000 from the $4.3 million purse. "You'll have to give me some time."

Sabatini knew how she felt, and didn't mind saying: "I got very, very tired."

But don't cry for her, Argentina. The fifth-seeded Sabatini at least gave No. 1 seed Graf a match, which is more than her previous six opponents this week can say. Graf won her first five matches in straight sets, only once taking longer than an hour and only once losing her serve. She won her sixth match without playing it -- third-seeded Chris Evert defaulted from Friday's semifinals when the stomach flu imprisoned her in her Manhattan hotel room.

Sabatini, 18, is 2-13 lifetime against her doubles partner but is responsible for both blemishes on Graf's 60-2 singles record this year. Her forehand is unorthodox -- she hits it off her back foot and spins the ball like few others -- and often unbelievably accurate. And it took Graf, master of the 45-minute match, 19 minutes short of two hours to dismantle it.

Sabatini's troubles were with her backhand. The statistics computer credited her with 31 unforced errors, 20 on the backhand side. Sabatini didn't control the stroke until the second set, and accordingly broke Graf's serve twice.

"In the second set," Graf said, "she started to hit some good shots, and I wasn't so tough. In the third set, I think she just got tired."

Wilted might be a better word. Graf won 15 of the set's 18 points to make it 3-0 with Sabatini serving at 0-40. Argentina's first woman in a Grand Slam final salvaged the fourth game, but was broken at 15 in the sixth. It was 5-1, and Graf smelled blood.

Graf was glad, in her words, "to finish it." She admitted being nervous during the match, a malady that usually does not afflict her. She also admitted she was playing far from her best.

Added her father, the impetuous Peter: "I think Steffi played not her best tennis today. I was very concerned with this. Normally, she is not nervous on the court."

The wind, which drove both players to more conservative games, also could be faulted. It blew steadily from west to east, its only redeeming value being that it prevented planes at adjacent La Guardia airport from taking off over the National Tennis Center. "When I had to play with the wind at my back," Graf said, "I just tried to keep it in play. I was afraid to hit it."

It wasn't long ago that Graf was never afraid to give her now-legendary forehand full throttle, even if it had the consistency of East Coast weather.

"I saw her in 1984," said Billie Jean King, on hand yesterday for some television commentary and senior doubles. "She was hitting the fence with her forehand, and everyone was saying, 'Ah, she'll never be any good.' But I said, 'Did you see those feet and how she moved them? Pretty soon, that forehand that keeps going out is going to land an inch inside the line.'

"I've been saying for four years that she will be an all-time great."

If she isn't already.
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post #2890 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 03:11 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

OK, it's time to get Steffi's reaction to winning right. Because many of the articles either misrepresent what happened or flat out get things wrong. Lisa Dillman makes it sound like Steffi spent time at her chair toweling off in a ho-hum manner. What really happened: After shaking hands with the umpire, Steffi, smiling, grabs a towel and immediately begins to run over to Pavel Slozil, who is on the court, throwing his hat in the air. They don't just "greet" each other -- they hug, Steffi rests her head on his shoulder. Then she immediately goes over to her father, who also hugs her and gestures for her to step over the barricade. He's saying something to her, she's waving to other people. Then she turns to go, is even being pulled away by the security, surrounded by cameramen and photographers, but Heidi has finally made her way to the sideline, so Steffi pushes back through everybody to get a kiss from her and another hug from Peter. This is a little bit more than "acknowledge" connotes.

The biggest part of the problem with the post match sequence is the CBS camera work and/or the director's decisions and the media being out of control on court. If they wanted to show whatever emotion there was, they might have just possibly wanted to film Steffi's front side. Because, you know, the backs of people's heads tend not to be too expressive. But that's what we get: the back of Steffi's head and shirt. Even the people who are facing the camera (Pavel and Peter) are mostly blocked from view by this strange fascination with the back of Steffi's head and shirt.

And then by the time Steffi has reached her family, the crush of media and security prevent just about anything from happening. She has to wade through that sea of photographers just to take three steps back to kiss her mother. There is absolutely no way she could jump for joy or raise her hands high without bopping someone. The walk back the players' chairs is just a jostled blur of cameras and shirts and hair even when you watch it in slow motion. No chance to linger, because the laughably outnumbered security guards are trying to get her out of there. It's a classic New York Rush Hour feeling, but not very physically or psychologically conducive to celebrating.

That said, I myself am glad Steffi didn't do anything staged for the cameras or jump around, flailing and whooping like trailer trash that just won the pick-4 lottery. Although her narrowly averted giggling fit during Tony Trabert's introduction is priceless (more on that later, too).

Graf's Reaction to Slam Is Not Exactly Grand
September 11, 1988
The Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK What 19-year-old Steffi Graf of West Germany accomplished Saturday, winning the Grand Slam with her 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina in the U.S. Open, ranks with the top athletic accomplishments of this decade.

Her Grand Slam is right there with the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Soviet Union in 1980, Carl Lewis getting four Olympic gold medals in 1984 and the Lakers winning back-to-back NBA championships.

Those three events brought forth a reaction that was almost as memorable as the accomplishment itself. So how did Graf react to her epic accomplishment, when she became only the fifth person to win the Grand Slam, and the first since 1970?

What everyone got was a non-reaction. Graf barely clenched her fist, shook hands with Sabatini and walked over to her chair at courtside to towel off.

Moments later, she went to the other side of the court to greet her father, Peter, and her coach, Pavel Slozil. Graf started to walk away, but her father called her back, and she returned to the stands to acknowledge her mother, Heidi.

Anticlimax was the theme of the day. Maybe you can chalk it up to stoicism. Boris Becker showed some joy after winning Wimbledon at 17. Stefan Edberg sank to his knees at this year's Wimbledon. Even Bjorn Borg emoted.

Graf's iciness on the court was downright chilly. Edberg at Wimbledon looked bubbly by comparison.

Afterward, Graf said she didn't know how she felt about the Grand Slam. However, she did have a sense of relief to get it over with, as if the Slam were a bothersome fly that had been following her all year.

"I don't think you can expect me to give the right answer right now about it," she said. "I've just finished the match. I need some time to think about it a little. . . . I'm very happy all the talk about the Grand Slam is over. That's a nice relief. Now I've done it and there's no more pressure on me. There's nothing else you can tell me that I have to do."

Well, actually, Steffi, there is one thing.

Can you do it again next year?

"I don't know. We'll see," she said.

Graf joined Don Budge, Rod Laver, the late Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court as the only winners of the Slam. Those four, and now Graf, won the Slam by winning the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same calendar year. Graf lost only two sets in all four events.

For her part, Sabatini didn't have much to say about the significant occasion. She said she played well in the second set and, well, not so well in the third.

"I think it gave me more motivation," Sabatini said about being the last player to try to stop Graf's quest for a Slam.

"I didn't feel any pressure. I think she had pressure on her."

It showed in the second set, especially. Graf started missing big with her powerful forehand, and Sabatini's driving topspin off both sides kept Graf pinned behind the baseline. The key to the second set was at 1-1, when Graf had Sabatini down love-30 on her own serve, but Sabatini came back to hold. Graf had looked in control in the previous game after Sabatini blew three break-point opportunities.

Then, up 2-1, Sabatini used her momentum to break Graf at 15 in the very next game. They stayed on serve until the seventh game when Graf broke to cut the lead to 4-3. But Sabatini, playing strongly, responded with another service break and held to win it, 6-3.

"I was playing well technically in the first set," Graf said. "I wasn't giving her chances to go for winners. She started hitting some good shots in the second set, I wasn't so tough. The third set, she got tired."

What else is new?

The rap on Sabatini is that she wilts when the going gets tough in the third set. That's why her three-set victory over Graf last spring at Amelia Island, Fla., was so surprising. However, Sabatini, spent from the effort, had nothing left against Martina Navratilova in the final there.

"I don't understand why Sabatini keeps getting tired," said Billie Jean King. "I mean, she's 18. She has all the shots and she certainly has the game to bother Graf. I think she needs to get checked out. I feel sorry for Sabatini."

There was some solace for the runner-up. She was the first female player from her country to reach a Grand Slam final. Moreover, Sabatini is the only person to beat Graf in 1988; in fact, she beat her twice.

Oh well, that cuts Graf's record to 60-2 this year. Her winning streak is 34 as she heads to Seoul later this week for the Olympics.

Since Graf hasn't had time to savor this Grand Slam, it isn't obvious where she places the Olympics on the scale of priorities, either.

"Well, this tournament is over now," she said. "It was wearing me down a little. I'm happy to go there, but maybe the timing isn't the best, right after the U.S. Open."

She won't be worn out from celebrating. The Graf contingent planned to celebrate the Slam by hopping on a plane back home to West Germany on Saturday night.

And if Peter Graf has his way, he'll probably talk about what she did wrong against Sabatini. In the midst of a group of reporters, he kept going back to how his daughter continuously played Sabatini's better side, the backhand.

"I don't know why she kept going backhand, backhand, backhand," he said. "She needed to play the forehand as well as the backhand. Not always the backhand. . . . But this helps much, because she played not very good, but she still won.

"Even though she won the wrong way. Going to that backhand."

There you have it.
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post #2891 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 04:13 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

And let me tell you, that bracelet looks like a handcuff!!!!! "Here put this on. You will be forever shackled to this moment." -- "Gee, thaaanks." -- "It is made of gold and has four diamonds in it." -- "I don't see how that makes it any better." -- "You know, you are a weird kid. Most people would be thrilled to be a prisoner of success." -- "Where is the exit?"

There are also a surprising number of articles that mistake Steffi's final shot for being a forehand. Just because the ball is hit so hard that it deflects Gaby's racket backward doesn't mean it was automatically a forehand. It's one of those flick-of-the-wrist, where-is-the-pace-coming-from? backhands that baffled so many people.

And you only need to watch how much of Gaby's physical effort is not going into the ball to understand why she often tired out. She hits so many balls falling backward while her left arm and even her head are often swinging every which way, and then she has to gather herself together again to run after the next ball. Over the course of a match that is hugely draining. Especially her serve features a lot of physical effort that isn't making it to the ball. In this matter, Steffi and Gaby were total opposites.

And I wonder if Steffi noticed that Gaby's usually strong backhand was in fact misfiring that day and adjusted the strategy to take advantage of it, or whether Gaby's backhand misfired because Steffi decided, perhaps obstinately, that she was going to play it so much.

The Miami Herald
Sunday, September 11, 1988
JIM MARTZ, Herald Sports Writer

The most exclusive club in tennis finally added a new member Saturday.

To join, a player must win the four major championships -- Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. -- on four surfaces in four countries. In one calendar year.

Only four had qualified. Now there are five.

Steffi Graf completed the qualifications in style, defeating Gabriela Sabatini, the only player to beat her this year, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, to win her first U.S. Open title and the first Grand Slam since 1970.

After achieving tennis immortality before 21,462 spectators, including former President Jimmy Carter, Graf walked off the court as if she had won the United Jersey Bank Classic. There were no shrieks, no racket-tossing. The 19-year-old West German set down her racket, wiped herself off with a towel and ran to hug her parents in the stands.

"Sometimes you get embarrassed in celebrating," said Billie Jean King, who won nine Grand Slam tournaments but never the Grand Slam.

Graf, who earlier this year said she didn't know who had won the last Grand Slam, said, "It's hard to describe my feelings. I'm happy that all the talk about the Grand Slam is over. That's a nice relief.

"Now I've done it and there's no more pressure on me. There's nothing else you can tell me that I have to do."

The Graf Slam occurred on the 50th anniversary of the first Grand Slam, by Don Budge, and the 35th anniversary of the first by a woman, Maureen Connolly. Rod Laver joined the elite club in 1962 as an amateur and in 1969 as a pro. Margaret Court was admitted in 1970.

Graf said the tournament was more of a mental than physical strain. She eased through five unheralded players, then had a walkover Friday in the semifinals when Chris Evert withdrew because of a severe stomach virus.

"There were a lot of expectations," Graf said. "Everybody was saying, 'She's going to do it.' Comments all the time. It's a hard thing to get through."

Her father, Peter Graf, said he tried to ease the pressure off the court. "We never spoke about the Grand Slam -- not even in my language," he said.

At the trophy presentation, which featured the flags of Australila, France, England and the United States, Graf received a $275,000 winner's check, a silver trophy and a gold bracelet with four diamonds symbolizing the four Grand Slam tournaments.

The International Tennis Federation gave a $1 million bonus to Martina Navratilova for winning four Grand Slam tournaments in a row in 1983-84. She eventually won six in a row, but not four in a calendar year.

The ITF no longer offers the bonus, but Graf's bank account won't suffer. She has won $1,284,961 this year and $3,194,273 in her career.

Graf had to make it the old-fashioned way -- earn it -- against Sabatini, who won $137,500. Since the 1986 French Open, Graf has lost only six matches -- four to Martina Navratilova, a quarterfinal loser to Zina Garrison, and two to Sabatini last spring in Florida.

"She didn't play very good, but she won," said her father. "And she won the wrong way. She kept hitting to Gaby's backhand, backhand, backhand."

True, but Sabatini made 20 backhand errors to Graf's 11. Graf, considered to have the best forehand in the women's game, nailed 14 forehand winners (Sabatini had one) but committed 21 forehand errors (Sabatini had eight).

Sabatini tried to pin Graf behind the baseline with her looping topspin shots, specifically trying to chase Graf into the far left corner to neutralize the forehand. But Sabatini, whose conditioning has improved but still doesn't equal Graf's, ran out of steam.

"I got very, very tired at the end of the second set," said Sabatini, an 18-year-old Argentine who lives on Key Biscayne. "I think I was very slow and getting late to the ball. I tried to do my best, but my legs were too tired. And she started hitting the ball much harder. She moved me because she knew I was tired."

Said King: "I thought the first game was the most important game of the match. Steffi was very nervous. Sabatini had 0-30 against Graf's serve but couldn't put it to her."

Graf held and rolled to a 3-1 lead with a service break in the fourth game. Sabatini broke back in the fifth game but dropped serve in the eighth. Graf served out the set, saving a break point.

Sabatini broke twice in the second set but couldn't keep the pressure on in the third. At championship point (for the record, at 3:16 p.m.), Graf hit a forehand [sic] passing shot that glanced off the racket of a lunging Sabatini.

"In the first set, I wasn't giving her many chances," Graf said. "In the second set, she started to hit good shots. It's always a challenge playing her. You're always a little uncertain."

Graf said she played tentatively because "it was windy and I couldn't really go for my shots as well as I would. Then she gave me trouble in the second set playing hard to my backhand and I made easy mistakes."

It could be argued that Graf's Grand Slam was harder to achieve than the others'. When they won, three tournaments were played on grass and the French Open was on clay.

Graf did it on a smorgasbord of surfaces. She won on a rubberized Rebound Ace hard court in the Australian Open, the slow red clay of Roland Garros Stadium in the French Open, the fast grass at Wimbledon, and the DecoTurf II hard court (slower [sic] than Rebound Ace) at the National Tennis Center.

She won against a variety of challengers -- Evert in Australia, Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union in France, Navratilova at Wimbledon and Sabatini. And she lost only two sets in 28 matches in the four tournaments.

Fittingly, Budge attended the awards ceremony.

"He said he knew it all the time," Graf said. "That's nice. He was happy I did it and he hopes I do it a couple of more times."

Graf flew home Saturday night to West Germany for a few days' rest. Then it's off to the Olympics at Seoul, South Korea, where tennis will be a medal sport for the first time in 64 years. Obviously, she can be the first player to win a Grand Slam and a gold medal.

"I'm happy to go there but maybe the timing isn't best, right after the U.S. Open," she said.
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post #2892 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 08:16 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

I'm not sure why so many in the media expected Steffi to turn into some kind of geyser of words or a showboat of emotional hyperbole. A big reason why she managed to pull this off is her sense of perspective and self-control.

That, and some bodacious drop shots, even some played before Gaby got "tired" (they likely played a role in getting Gaby tired). She hits a forehand drop shot on set point #3 in the first set that comes out of nowhere. Another one I remember was in the first game of the third set, the point at 40-15. Gaby takes a crack at Steffi's second serve, it's about the hardest, flattest ball she's hit in the match. It lands pretty deep, close to the sideline -- but somehow Steffi is just there in one step and hits this flippant, undercut forehand drop shot. It's almost like she's saying, "Please, please, hit it harder. It is fun for me to take all your pace off the ball."

Sunday, September 11, 1988
The Philadelphia Inquirer

It was a relatively easy backhand passing shot, one that Steffi Graf has hit for a winner thousands of times in her young career.

But this one was different. It was historic. It was game, set, U.S. Open and Grand Slam for Graf, a 19-year-old West German with a tennis game of steel and the nerves to match.

Graf beat Gabriela Sabatini, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, Saturday to win her first U.S. Open title and in the process became the third woman, and only the fifth player to win tennis' four major titles - the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open - in the same calendar year.

As the stoic Graf watched her winning shot skip by Sabatini, there was little outward emotion. She strode off the Stadium Court, sat down, toweled off and had to be reminded to get up and greet her jubilant coach, Pavel Slozil, and her father, Peter, who first handed his daughter a sawed-off racket at age 4.

Mo Connolly won the Grand Slam in 1953 and Margaret Court in 1970, but neither dominated as Graf has done this season.

She breezed through the four slam events by winning 54 sets, while dropping only two. Only Martina Navratilova, at Wimbledon, and Sabatini Saturday prevented perfection.

She overcame her toughest competition at the toughest times. Graf beat the supreme baseliner, 33-year-old Chris Evert, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3), in the final of the Australian Open; she defeated 31-year-old Navratilova, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, at Wimbledon, and she dispatched the young Russian, Natalia Zvereva, 6-0, 6-0, in the final of the French Open.

Perhaps it was just youth, but Graf seemed unable to grasp the importance of her victory Saturday.

"Please give me some time," she said. "I have just won a very big tournament and it is too soon to say what this means to me."

Wearing a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans at the postmatch news conference, Graf seemed more eager to catch an evening flight home to Bruhl, West Germany, than to celebrate her Grand Slam title.

"Right now, this is more of a relief than anything," she said. "Now, maybe there will be no more questions about the Grand Slam."

Right now, there can be no question at all as to who is the best women's tennis player. Graf's forehand is a feared weapon on the circuit, but her game is by no means one-dimensional, as she proved Saturday.

With a tricky wind kicking up on the court and carrying some of her forehand shots astray, Graf compensated by using delicate backhand drop shots that caught Sabatini off guard.

"That is something I had not seen much from Steffi," said Sabatini, the first Argentine woman to play in a Grand Slam final. "She hit that shot at all the important points."

The first set was what everyone has come to expect of Graf. She got the first service break in the fourth game on a passing shot, but Sabatini showed some fight by breaking right back.

The set was determined in the eighth game when Sabatini missed an approach shot on break point to trail, 5-3.

With Graf serving for the set, Sabatini earned a break point on a perfectly placed lob, but followed it with a missed service return and a forehand that sailed long.

In the second set, Sabatini lifted the level of her game and had break points in every game, converting in the fourth and eighth games.

As the only player to have beaten Graf this year, Sabatini can bother Graf with her heavy topspin shots and a willingness to serve and volley at times. This was the tactic she used in the second set.

But the effort obviously tired her out.

"I was feeling a little tired, I think," Sabatini said. "I am not as strong as Steffi yet and that was important in the third set."

Graf quickly took a 3-0 lead in the final set, and when one of those drop shots helped her to a 4-1 lead, the match was virtually over.

"I played very well in the first set," Graf said, "but not so well in the second and better in the third. It was not my best tennis."

But it is that drive for perfection that makes Graf special. And some of it comes from her father.

Graf, after her victory, was congratulated by Don Budge, the first Grand Slam winner in 1938.

When Graf later met her father, he asked: "Why did you keep hitting to Gabby's backhand? You know she has a strong backhand."

Even after a Grand Slam year, there's always room for improvement.
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post #2893 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 08:18 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Steffi did have a close encounter with the giggles during the trophy ceremony. There are some moments that have general humor value. Like when Trabert is introducing them to the crowd, Steffi is smiling, off some place else in her mind, not paying attention to anything going on, and Gaby looks likes she's flunking a test. Just that juxtaposition is funny. And when they hand Gaby the microphone and she looks like she's thinking "What am I supposed to say? And how do I say it in English?" They really should let the Suits do the talking if the player doesn't want to make a speech.

The best part is when Trabert begins with "Steffi, 1953 was Mo Connolly..." We once again get a bad case of Back Of The Head Syndrome with the camera work. It would have been nice to see Trabert's expression along with Steffi's, because Steffi the Stoic is very close to coming down with the giggles at this moment. She really has to fight it when Trabert verbally bobbles "nineteen steventy" -- Steffi grins and gives a little shake of her head, and then a little nod when he corrects it. But I think she feels laughter would be out of place, so she looks down and tries to get a grip, which is easy once he says "1988, Steffi Graf" because now she's embarrassed. But I'm sure she would have been criticized even worse for giggling during the Big Occasion.

(BTW, when she wipes the corner of her eye just after that bit, and you can see the black bruise on the nail of her middle finger.)

Just Call Her `Steffi Slam' - Unflappable Graf Beats Sabatini in U.S. Open Final
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Sunday, September 11, 1988

NEW YORK - So now Steffi Graf belongs to the ages, on loan from a little town outside the West German Black Forest. She defeated the topspin wizard Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 Saturday to win the U.S. Open women's tennis title, becoming only the fifth player of all time to win the cherished Grand Slam.

On "slam point," Graf rifled a backhand from the net that deflected off the racket of the lunging Sabatini. In the afternoon glow of Louis Armstrong Stadium, Graf reacted to her 34th consecutive victory calmly, as if she'd just won Cincinnati or maybe Mahwah, N.J.

She quickly toweled off and then, with cameramen swarming her path and waiting for something spontaneous to occur, she finally broke across the court to hug her Czechoslovakian coach, Pavel Slozil, then dashed to the grandstand, where she kissed and embraced her father, Peter, ever her protector.

As Graf, just 19, was handed her $275,000 victory check to push her yearly earnings above $1.3 million and her career earnings to $3.2 million, the first Grand Slammer of exactly a half-century ago, Don Budge, whispered into her ear, "I knew it all the time. And you will do it several times more, too."

The focused player known in West Germany simply as Numer Eins (Number One) graciously blushed. And why not? Graf won 54 of 56 sets in Grand Slam matches this year, a percentage bettered only by Maureen "Little Mo" Connolly, who posted a 42-1 set record during her Grand Slam achievement of 1953. So blush away.

Soon thereafter, Graf told the media members who had followed her every move for the past two weeks as though she were some magical Pied Piper, "I'm very glad to have the talk about the Grand Slam over, finally. Now there's nothing else you can tell me that I have to do."

One reporter howled from the back, "What about next year, Steffi?"

Graf rolled her eyes. Life's tough when you're a mythic figure at the age of a college sophomore. Graf smiled and said, "Oh, I just don't know. We'll have to wait and see."

Above all else, this should be the everlasting memory of Graf's final Slam victory: On a day when she was beatable, she could not be beaten.

Her dominance proved, Graf now joins Budge (1938), Connolly (1953), Rod Laver (1962, 1969) and Margaret Court (1970) as the only players ever to win the four Grand Slam events in the same year - Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. Opens.

Graf had been downright mesmerizing in winning the finals of the first three links of the Grand Slam. In Australia she defeated Chris Evert in straight sets 6-1, 7-6. In the French Open she treated Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union like a bug on a windshield 6-0, 6-0. At Wimbledon she rallied from a 5-7, 0-2 deficit against Martina Navratilova to win 12 of the last 13 games.

On Saturday, Graf's human frailties were evident. Sabatini is the only woman to have defeated Graf in 1988, and she has done it twice (making her 2-13 lifetime against Graf). Yet after Saturday's final, Sabatini, 18, said, "I think I got very tired at the end of the second set. . . . She started hitting the ball much harder in the third set, started moving me around. I think she knew I was tired."

Throughout this tournament, one got the distinct impression that nothing would sidetrack the stoic Graf. Not Zina, Martina nor Argentina.

"Her mentality," Sabatini admitted of Graf, "is perfect."

Graf committed an uncommon 17 forehand errors during the first two sets, in large part, she said, because she was trying to outguess the swirling winds. She broke Sabatini's service with several precise forehand shots to take a 5-3 first-set lead, then held serve to win the set.

But Sabatini's topspin majesty began to affect Graf in the second set. Graf missed several forehands to allow Sabatini to break her serve and take a 5-3 lead. When Graf approached the net late in the next game, trailing 30-40, Sabatini nailed a cross-court forehand to win the set 6-3.

The crowd stood and gave Sabatini a well-deserved underdog's ovation. Then she faded into the background.

Graf's subsequent forehands seemed guided by radar. Sabatini won the first point of the third set with a forehand approach shot, then lost the next nine points. Within 10 minutes, she trailed 3-0 and the match and Grand Slam were, for all intents, over.

"I thought she was tired," Graf said about the outset of the third set. "But she always looks that way, then she hits an ace."

Graf becomes the third-youngest woman ever to win the U.S. Open title: American Tracy Austin (1979) was just 16 years, eight months old and Connolly was just 16 years, 11 months when she won her first Open, in 1951.

"There is a big difference between Steffi and the others," said Sabatini, Graf's doubles partner. "I think I am getting there. We are going to be rivals in the future."

An Argentine radio reporter asked Sabatini, the first Argentine since 1979 men's champ Guillermo Vilas to reach the U.S. Open finals, if she had a message for her countrymen. "Tell them," she said, "I am sorry."

Surely, Sabatini has nothing to apologize for. She won 10 games, as many as Graf's four previous opponents combined. She even lasted one hour, 41 minutes, a Graf eternity.

Graf has won nine titles in 1988, best on the tour, and her two-year record is 135-4. Perhaps the last time a West German teenager did something so utterly remarkable was a year and a half or so ago and his name was Mathias Rust. A teenage pilot, Rust landed his plane in the Soviet Red Square and the world giggled.

As of late Saturday, however, Graf was still too stunned to giggle. "I think today I really felt it was an important match. I wasn't nervous, I just wanted to play to finish it," she said. "There were a lot of expectations. People said `She'll do it unless she breaks her leg.' I heard those comments. It was very difficult."

In the end, it was very remarkable, too.
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post #2894 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 08:19 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Times Union
Albany, NY
Sunday, September 11, 1988
Buzz Gray

Steffi Graf walked up the line ready to serve and looked down the court at history. Waiting for her was the first Grand Slam point anybody has faced in 18 years.

When she won it, to defeat Gabriela Sabatini at the U.S. Open, Graf became branded for life. If she lives to be 100, she'll never escape Saturday's rare achievement or the identity that goes with it.

"Don't ask me now how I feel," Graf said. "It will take a couple of days to sink in."

But for fans and followers of the game, Graf immediately moved alongside the greats of tennis. Only two other women and two men had won the four major tournaments in a single year.

The championships of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open have always been both prestigious and elusive.

How fitting that the first person to win the Slam in a single year, Don Budge of the United States, was one of the first to congratulate Graf.

"He told me he thought I would win it (Slam) all along," Graf said about Budge, who won his four exactly 50 years ago. "He thinks I'm going to win a couple of more, too."

At only 19, Graf certainly has the time, talent and temperament. She dropped only two of 56 sets during her cruise through the Slam.

Is she the greatest woman of all time?

Not yet. In fact, Graf still must take a back seat to Maureen Connolly of the United States. Connolly was the first woman to win the Slam when she did it in 1953. Not only was Connolly younger than Graf by three months, she dropped just one set in the four tournaments.

It was Connolly who seemed destined to be the greatest of all time because of her youth and overwhelming dominance.

But her career and then her life came to tragic ends.

Less than a year after winning her Grand Slam, Connolly fell off her horse and broke her right leg, severing all the muscles in her calf. Her tennis was over. So was her life 14 years later when she died of cancer.

Graf was born the Saturday before Connolly died. Some see significance in that. Graf doesn't know.

"Please don't ask me to compare myself with others right now," Graf said before flying back to her home in West Germany. "I need some quiet days."

The comparisons are just beginning, however. Graf has already been asked countless questions about Margaret Court of Australia. She was the last person, and only other woman beside Graf and Connolly, to win a Slam in a single year. That was 1970.

Court was truly an outstanding player, but she never dominated like Graf. In fact, she was fortunate to win Wimbledon in her Slam year, outlasting Billie Jean King in the final, 14-12, 11-9. They didn't play tie-breakers in those days.

They have since Martina Navratilvoa came along. And perhaps the hardest controversy involving women's Slams involves Navratilova.

She won the last three majors of 1983 and the first three of 1984, giving her six Slam titles in a row. But while she held all four Slam titles consecutively, she didn't hold them in a calendar year.

"You can believe what you like," Graf said. "I believe they (Slam titles) should all come in the same year." Graf refuses to be drawn into an argument whether Navratilova should receive more recognition for her sterling strength of six straight Slams.

Navratilova joins a list of dominant women players who somehow let the Slam elude them in a single year. Consider that Chris Evert and King won each of the Slam events several times, but never all four in the smae year. Two obscure women players, Doris Hart and Shirley Fry, also have won each of the majors, but never in the same year.

The only other man beside Budge to win a Slam in a single year was Rod Laver of Australia. And he did it twice, in 1962 and 1969.

Jimmy Connors of the U.S. looked like a shoe-in for winning the Slam in 1974. He breezed through the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open, but was barred from the French Open that year because he had played team tennis.

Others, like Lew Hoad in 1956, won the first three majors, but failed in the fourth one. Hoad was beaten in the final at Forest Hills by Ken Rosewall.

The fact is, only four men and seven women have won all four majors in their careers. And now, thanks to Graf, five persons have done it a single year.

Graf is quite capable of doing it again next year. Only two women (Navratilova and Sabatini) have beaten her in the past 26 months. Back-to- back Slams, eight majors in a row, would have been unthinkable not long ago. Now it's a good possibility.

"There's Steffi and then there's the rest of us," Sabatini said. "Not many could have done it. Her mentality is perfect."

So is her tennis.
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post #2895 of 5766 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2013, 08:19 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Sports of The Times; A Champion For All Seasons
George Vecsey
September 11, 1988
New York Times

She began it in the blazing sunlight of Melbourne in January and continued it in the swirling red dust of Paris in springtime and extended it again in the sweet early summer of Wimbledon.

Yesterday in the late-summer mugginess of Flushing Meadows, Steffi Graf completed the Grand Slam - capital letters and all, the old-fashioned way, four in one calendar year - by beating her doubles partner, Gabriela Sabatini, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, in the United States Open.

The match was spotty, and Graf seemed tentative for the first time in her long chase. She admitted later that she had felt the weight of ''a lot of expectations.''

'' 'Only if she breaks her leg,' you hear it all the time,'' she said.

One can only speculate if Martina Navratilova - who once won six straight majors over two years, and still believes she, too, won a Grand Slam - would have found a way to keep Graf from a traditional Grand Slam. But Navratilova fell to Zina Garrison in the quarterfinals.

And one can only wonder whether, with her sense of her own place in history, Chris Evert could have derailed Graf if Evert had not defaulted from the semifinals because of a virus.

That Graf prevailed over four different leading opponents - Evert in Australia, Natalya Zvereva in France, Navratilova at Wimbledon and Sabatini here - further honors the teen-ager and her uncomplicated will to win. She kept her pace from season to season, from continent to continent.

Graf also has avoided the injuries and late-adolescent crises that truncated the careers of her predecessors, Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger. And her Grand Slam is also a tribute to her maturity and endurance and her family stability as well as her skill. To her credit, she rushed to her father, Peter, and her coach, Pavel Slozil, as soon as her final volley handcuffed Sabatini.

Four major tournaments in one calendar year. It was hard when the travel was by steamship or lumbering propeller planes and it is still hard when millionaire tennis stars take the Concorde.

Going into yesterday, only four other tennis players had ever won the four major tournaments in the same calendar year. Not only that, but next week in Seoul, Graf will go for the first Olympic gold medal in tennis in 64 years.

Forget for a moment whether millionaires with world championships like Wimbledon, Davis Cup and Federation Cup should even be allowed into the Olympics. Graf's advisers had already coined a name for a Grand Slam plus Olympic gold medal: the Golden Grand Slam.

Four in one year. Those have been the conditions for over 50 years - at first a challenge, now a tradition. Don Budge - who told Graf yesterday that she might win the Grand Slam a time or two more - was the first in 1938. Maureen Connolly did it at 18 in 1953. Rod Laver did it twice, in 1962 and 1969. And Margaret Court did it in 1970.

The tradition of the Grand Slam goes back five years earlier when Jack Crawford of Australia was going for his fourth major title in 1933. John Kieran, the sports columnist of The New York Times, wrote, ''If Crawford wins, that would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts, doubled and vulnerable.''

Crawford faltered at Forest Hills, and a grand slam was forgotten until Budge started winning majors. In July of 1937 he won at Wimbledon. In September of 1937 he won at Forest Hills. In January of 1938 he won in Australia. And in May of 1938 he won in Paris.

At that time, nobody claimed Budge had won a grand slam. But then he won at Wimbledon and in late September he beat his doubles partner, Gene Mako, in the final at Forest Hills.

That was a Grand Slam. People wrote it, people said it, people accepted it, put capital letters on it. Seven other players have won four straight majors over two years, but nobody tried to change the definition of Grand Slam until Martina Navratilova rolled up 74 straight matches in 1983-84, a superb accomplishment all its own.

The genteel amateur poverty of Don Budge and Little Mo Connolly were long gone by then. Martina rode the Concorde back to the States after a crushing fourth-round loss to Kathy Horvath in the 1983 French Open, and then she started winning. The 1983 Wimbledon. The 1983 United States Open. The 1983 Australian, then being played in December. The 1984 French. The 1984 Wimbledon. The 1984 United States Open. Six straight Grand Slam championships. But was it a Grand Slam?

''I am just trying to figure out how you can win six in a row and not win the Grand Slam,'' Navratilova has said. ''I find that pretty amazing.''

She took her cue from assorted sponsors, promoters, publicists and agents in this ever-shifting nouveau-riche world of tennis.

Even the International Tennis Federation, which should have more respect for history, ruled in 1982 that winning any four straight majors constituted a Grand Slam - and offered a $1 million bonus for it. How could Navratilova disagree when the I.T.F. handed her the bucks?

But many tennis people, and most writers, and probably most fans, too, did not accept the new rules, and the I.T.F. has dropped the gimmick.

In December 1984, Navratilova went for the traditional Grand Slam on the grass at historic Kooyong, but was upset by lanky Helena Sukova, the daughter of the late Vera Sukova, who had been Navratilova's coach back in Czechoslovakia. Evert then beat Sukova in the final.

That bitter upset by Sukova only demonstrates how hard it is to complete a Grand Slam. Yet Graf's poise and forehand carried her through yesterday. As hard as it was for Graf to approach a Grand Slam, it is even harder for the men. Competition is so much greater, accentuating the difference between surfaces.

Ivan Lendl has never won on grass at Wimbledon. No Swedish player has ever won in the din of the United States Open. John McEnroe has never won on the red clay at Roland Garros. And some of the top men do not bother to go to Australia.

So much money, so many distractions, so much stress. Four major tournaments in a row is a feat by itself. Six in a row is marvelous. But four in one calendar year is a Grand Slam. Has been for 50 years. Still is.
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