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.