Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2 - Page 196 - TennisForum.com
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post #2926 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 11:30 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

You know what, I ve never watched the Olympics final But I will.
Thanking you again Amy for all the articles !!!

Already read the one"THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 6 : AFTER THE SLAM : Graf Has Place in History, No Place Just for Herself" from the Los Angeles Times, but still worth reading it again.
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post #2927 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 12:08 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Recall that the vote included a decrease in the points awarded at the Slams, yet now the points are back to the same. And the compromise for ending the play-down rule? There is no more "down" to play! The $200K and $250K tournaments now award the same points (at least to the winner) as the $300K tournaments! Wow, if I were a tournament director who had made the effort to raise a $300K purse, I might be a little bit irked about that. It would have been less ridiculous to reinstate the play-down rule with a few more stipulations about when it can be invoked, despite the unanimous vote.

TENNIS; 'Fairer' ranking system lures Graf back to Slims '89 tour
USA TODAY
Friday, September 23, 1988
Doug Smith

Steffi Graf, the No. 1 player in the world, has reconsidered her decision not to commit to play 11 tournaments on next year's Virginia Slims tour, Phil de Picciotto of Advantage International, the firm that represents Graf, said Thursday.

Graf's reversal comes two weeks after Graf's father, Peter, said he opposed the Women's International Tennis Association (WITA) decision to change the computer ranking system and that his daughter would not commit to next year's tour.

The new computer system, effective next January, eliminates the "play down rule,'' which had allowed top players to maintain their average when competing in tournaments awarding points lower than their overall average.

"Advantage met with the WITA Council and there was a lot of support for finding a way to make the computer system fairer,'' said de Picciotto.

Despite the compromise in the distribution of computer points, Graf, whose computer average is 316, will lose points in any event she plays except the grand slam events, which are worth 350.

"I think we have a good solution to the problem,'' said Ana Leaird, a WITA spokeswoman. "We came up with a compromise that makes the top ranked players and the lower ranked players happy.''

Lendl needs rest

Ivan Lendl, No. 2 player in the world, had his sore right shoulder examined Tuesday by Los Angeles physician Dr. Frank Jobe. ``Dr. Jobe confirmed again that Ivan has a problem with his shoulder and he told him to rest it for awhile to see if it improves,'' said Jennifer Proud, Lendl's spokeswoman.

TEXT OF GRAPHIC:

WITA computer ranking system

The change in points awarded on the women's tour.

1988 1989

winner winner

Grand Slam event 350 350

Two-week events 200 240

$300,000 180 200

$250,000 160 200

$200,000 140 200

$150,000 120 150

Source: Women's International Tennis Association
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post #2928 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 12:10 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Poor Leila's last name was misspelled in like every other appearance throughout these articles. I think I fixed them all.

Graf overcomes shaky start, shoots for `Golden Slam'
Daily Breeze
Friday, September 23, 1988
Associated Press

SEOUL -- Steffi Graf launched her bid for tennis' first "Golden Slam" by overcoming a shaky start to beat Leila Meskhi of the Soviet Union 7-5, 6-1 Thursday (Friday in Seoul) in the second round of the women's Olympic tournament.

Graf, who completed the Grand Slam at the U.S. Open earlier this month and is favored to add the gold medal in Seoul, took 66 minutes to wear down Meskhi after receiving a first-round bye.

Joining Graf in the last 16 were Pam Shriver of the United States and Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union.

Shriver, the No. 4 seed, beat Jill Hetherington of Canada, 6-2, 6-3. Zvereva, seeded No. 6., outlasted Australia's Anne Minter 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Also through was No. 10 seed Katarina Maleeva of Bulgaria, who beat Gisele Miro, 7-5, 6-1.

Graf, who has had to deal with constant media attention since her arrival in Seoul eight days ago, had more than a few problems in her first match, against an opponent ranked 35th in the world.

Meskhi won the first five points, courtesy of five straight Graf errors, and put as much pressure as she could on the West German's backhand.

Occasionally, Meskhi switched her attack to Graf's normally impenetrable forehand, and drew several mistakes from that side too.

In the end, however, she was worn down by the 19-year-old West German's punishing groundstrokes, running out of stamina as Graf ripped through the last six games.

Graf said winning the gold medal would be as important as any of her four individual Grand Slam tournament titles but not as great an achievement as having all four at the same time.

She said she could not think in terms of a "Golden Slam."

"I have achieved enough this year. I don't feel any pressure," she said. "The one has nothing to do with the other. If it works out, it would be nice."

One of the biggest tennis shockers of the year was pulled off Thursday when 25-year-old Kim Bong-soo of South Korea upset fourth-seeded Henri Leconte of France 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Joining Kim in the final 16 will be all three American entrants, Tim Mayotte, Brad Gilbert and Robert Seguso. All of them won in four sets Thursday, Mayotte against Italy's Diego Nargiso, Gilbert against Andrei Chersakov of the Soviet Union and Seguso against Australia's Darren Cahill, who was seeded ninth.

Anders Jarryd of Sweden, Jacob Hlasek of Switzerland, Amos Mansdorf of Israel and Martin Jaite of Argentina were among the seeded players from other countries to advance.
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post #2929 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 12:12 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

I can just imagine it:

Steffi: "One thing doesn't have anything to do with the other thing."

Peter Graf, de Picciotto, the ITF, and the IOC [in unison]: "Be quiet, kid!"

Steffi: "But--"

Peter Graf, de Picciotto, the ITF, and the IOC [in unison]: "Why don't you go practice?"

Steffi: "Fine." [Storms off, muttering under her breath.]

The ITF [to Peter Graf and de Picciotto]: "What would improve her mood?"

Peter Graf: "Tickets to the men's 100 meters might help."

Peter Graf, de Picciotto, and the ITF look at the IOC. The IOC nods.

Graf Finds Laser-Guided Form
USA TODAY
Friday, September 23, 1988
JIM TERHUNE, Gannett News Service

SEOUL - Was that a nuclear weapon out there on center court, or was it a tennis player?

Steffi Graf's the name, right-handed laser's her game.

Leila Meskhi knew that. She didn't know what to do about it. She would "try to find a weakness and take advantage." She would "have a strategy, but the trick is to be able to use it."

Well, the funny thing was that some of the 20-year-old Soviet's stuff worked Friday in the Olympic tennis venue. The girl who stunned Pam Shriver in the U.S. Open earlier this month made the world's finest female player work for a 7-5 first set victory and got the first game of the second.

Then the winner of all four Grand Slam tournaments this year hit semi-stride and cannonballed her way to a 6-1 decision.

Graf was easily the most stirring performer, male or female, of the early rounds.

The crowd sighed as forehands and volleys sizzled into Meskhi's court, challenging the naked eye to pick them up.

Graf's passing shots rocketed by Meskhi while she was standing on the baseline.

But this was the 19-year-old West German's first match in Seoul, and often her machine gun turned into a blunderbuss - one ball blundering into the net, the next busting over the baseline.

"She was playing a very good match," Graf said. "I watched her beat Shriver in the Open and saw she had a very good backhand. She had already played a match here, and that helps.

"It took me time to adjust. The (hard) court felt like it was really going into my legs and back. But I played the second set at a higher level, and she couldn't do anything."

Graf, with five aces to Meskhi's none, won 66 points, but Meskhi won 50.

And Meskhi, ranked No. 35 in the world, crackled many backhand drives down the line for winners that probably reminded Graf of Graf.

Graf won the U.S. Open three weeks ago. She said went home for three days, didn't sleep much and was tired when she arrived here with the time difference.

"In the beginning it's been difficult," she said.

She also indicated that winning a second Olympics (she took the 1984 title at age 15 when tennis was a demonstration sport) would not be as spectacular as the Grand Slam events.

Asked if she were going for a "Golden Slam," she smiled and said, "You're amazing. I won the Grand Slams and I'm trying to play as well as possible and win the gold. But one thing doesn't have anything to do with the other thing.

"This women's field has the standard of a Grand Slam (eight of top nine ranked players are here), but I wouldn't include it as high as the Slam."

Also on Friday, the United States maintained its clean slate. Shriver and Zina Garrison opened with victories to move into the round of 16, Shriver whipped Canada's Jill Hetherington, 6-1, 6-4, and Garrison eliminated Mexico's Claudia Hernandez, 6-1, 6-4. No. 2 seed Chris Evert plays Saturday.

Ken Flach and Robert Seguso, the world's top-ranked doubles team, opened with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 decision over the Indonesian pair of Wailan Walalangi and Suharyadi.
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post #2930 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Olympics '88 - Graf gains easy victory over Soviet
Houston Chronicle
Friday, SEPTEMBER 23, 1988
Reuters News Service

SEOUL, South Korea - Grand Slam winner Steffi Graf made a slow start in the Olympic tennis tournament today before turning up the power to score a 7-5, 6-1 win over Leila Meskhi of the Soviet Union.

Graf repeatedly netted shots off her forehand during the first set and failed to capitalize on a break point in the seventh game when a backhand also went too low.

Like many players before her, Graf blamed some of her hesitancy on the balls.

"She had a chance to have a match before and I didn't,'' Graf said of Meskhi, who beat Czechoslovak Regina Rajchrtova in the first round. "To get used to the balls is not that easy.

"In the second set I was playing a little bit higher and she couldn't do anything.''

Like the other 11 seeds, gold medal favorite and world No. 1 Graf, who has lost only twice this year, was given a bye into the second round of the singles tournament.

Graf, 19, finally nailed the first set after breaking Meskhi for 6-5 on the center court.

She broke Meskhi, ranked 35th in the world, three times in the second set and when challenged with a breakpoint against her at 3-1 coolly produced an ace to keep herself on top.

Graf became the first person in 18 years to win the Grand Slam: the Australian, French, and U.S. opens plus Wimbledon in the same year. She is trying to become the first person ever to win the Slam and a gold medal, nicknamed the "Golden Grand Slam.''

"I have achieved enough this year,'' she said. "I won the Grand Slam and I am trying here to win the gold, but ... I have to put the one thing out of my mind and concentrate on the other. But it would be nice if it worked.''

Graf admitted to a mental letdown after completing the Slam and said she was "very tired'' when she arrived in Seoul, but feels stronger after several days of rest.

With Meskhi gone - following the early exit of both the Soviet Union's men players Andrei Chesnokov, the eighth seed, and Andrei Cherkasov - Russian hopes of a medal in the singles rest entirely with the 17-year-old Natalia Zvereva.

Sixth seed Zvereva, on course for a quarter-final clash with Argentina's Gabriela Sabatini, ousted Australia's Anne Minter 6-4 3-6 6-1 in a match which settled into a monotonous pattern of service breaks and long baseline rallies.

The Minsk girl, losing finalist at the French Open this year, clinched the match on a double fault by Minter.

"The plan for us (the Soviet women) was to win a bronze medal and I think we can do it,'' Zvereva said.

Graf's scheduled opponent for the final, American Chris Evert, and five other seeds play their first matches on the Seoul Olympic Park's hardcourts on Saturday.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

TURNBULL ALONE AFTER MINTER MISSES VOLLEYS
CRAIG GABRIEL
September 23, 1988
Sydney Morning Herald

SEOUL, Friday: Only one Australian singles player, Wendy Turnbull, is left in the Olympic tennis competition.

Anne Minter was beaten yesterday by sixth-seeded Natalia Zvereva, of the Soviet Union, 6-4 3-6 6-1.

It was anyone's match for two sets as Minter and Zvereva matched it stroke for stroke from the back court with drives that were hit hard and deep.

The Australian drilled the ball from side to side and tried to keep Zvereva on the run, but she retrieved some great returns.

The Soviet teenager is known for her drop shot but resisted the high-risk stroke, especially when she noticed Minter was returning the ball for a winner almost every time.

"I missed a few easy volleys and that made me lose a bit of confidence,"Minter said. "I should have come to the net a bit more but I was pleased with my ground strokes."

The momentum swung to Minter after she won the second set but then it turned once more early in the third set when she allowed break points to slip though her racquet strings.

They were three vital unforced errors and instead of the set being 2-2 it was 3-1 to the Soviet and that allowed Zvereva, who was begining to tire, to get a second wind, gain confidence and play much better.

Minter had played Zvereva once before at the Virginia Slims of Florida tournament in February last year and won in three sets. Since then the Soviet teenager has grown about 8cm, reached three major finals, including the French Open, and beaten Martina Navratilova twice.

"I would like to win a gold medal more than Wimbledon because this is the most important tournament for me," Zvereva said.

"For me it is even more important than the French, Wimbledon and US Opens. Here I play for my country and the USSR team."

After Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini, Zvereva is the hottest player on the women's circuit. But her coach, Olga Morozova, a Wimbledon and French Open finalist in 1974, suggested that the teenager had to get stronger mentally and physically before really challenging them.

"She hits a lot harder now but she still moonballs a lot," Minter said. "I think she has matured in her game and she has got a lot more confidence."

Graf, the grand slam champion, opened her quest for a gold medal and is trying to achieve something that has never been done before - win what is being termed a "golden slam".

"I won the grand slam and I am trying to play as well as possible here and maybe win the gold," she said.

"The one thing doesn't have to do with the other. I have done the one thing. Now I am concentrating on the other. If it works, that would be nice."

Graf is a hot favourite to win the gold medal, but the teenager says she does not feel any pressure because "I have achieved enough this year".

The West German was pressed in the first set by yet another up- and-coming Soviet player, Leila Meshki, who defeated Pam Shriver in the US Open two weeks ago.

Once "Fraulein Forehand" began to swing into her merciless stroke, and the Korean crowd gasped at its power, the match was virtually over and Graf closed it out 7-5 6-1.

"She played a good match at the beginning and I wasn't nervous," Graf said. "It took me some time to get used to the conditions. This is a bit different to other tournaments but when you go out on court it's just the same."

Turnbull plays her second-round match today against Tine Scheur-Larsen, of Denmark. They have played once before, about three years ago in the Federation Cup, and Turnbull won.

"I know Tine really well," Turnbull said. "I don't mind playing her and I am sure she doesn't mind playing me."

Quote of the day from Ion Tiriac, Boris Becker's manager: "The only amateurs in these Olympics are the tennis players." (The tennis players had to give up rights to all endorsement income to play here).
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post #2932 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 12:37 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by djul14 View Post
You know what, I ve never watched the Olympics final But I will.
Like the 1988 USO final, it has some really fun points. Gaby actually wins a point with a between the legs shot. Steffi doesn't care much, because she made Gaby run like a kilometer just to win that one point.
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post #2933 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 02:10 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by djul14 View Post
You know what, I ve never watched the Olympics final But I will.
Thanking you again Amy for all the articles !!!

Already read the one"THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 6 : AFTER THE SLAM : Graf Has Place in History, No Place Just for Herself" from the Los Angeles Times, but still worth reading it again.
Try to watch that Olympics final if you can. I thot there were some nice rallies. Some of Steffi's forehands were simply breathtaking to watch too.
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post #2934 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 24th, 2013, 03:29 AM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Yes, there were some great points. Gabriela tried to fight but Steffi was on a higher level that day, and her physical superiority was evident. Sabatini resisted in the end IIRC, and it was fun to watch.

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post #2935 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 24th, 2013, 12:10 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

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Originally Posted by gabybackhand View Post
Yes, there were some great points. Gabriela tried to fight but Steffi was on a higher level that day, and her physical superiority was evident. Sabatini resisted in the end IIRC, and it was fun to watch.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzJwT95SO5Y

The 4-3 game has the between the legs shot. I also love the 30-40 point, and the look Steffi gives Gaby when she's ready to serve the next point and Gaby is still walking around.
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post #2936 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 24th, 2013, 12:15 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Good for Kitty Godfree for making a return trip to the Olympics 64 years later! LMAO at Steffi wanting some time to get away from it all at the sensory overload chaos known as the Olympics.

OLYMPICS '88 - Seoul Summer Games - Tennis back where it belongs, ex-medalist says
Houston Chronicle
Saturday, SEPTEMBER 24, 1988
HARRY SHATTUCK, Staff

SEOUL, South Korea - Not since 1924, when a dispute arose at the Paris Games, has tennis been played as a medal sport in the Olympics.

And Kitty Godfree of Great Britain, a medalist in the 1920 and 1924 Games, has traveled to Seoul to celebrate the sport's return.

She is 92 years old.

"But I still ride my bicycle every day,'' Godfree says. "It's awfully good exercise, especially for the limbs.''

In Godfree's era, no medal ceremonies were scheduled to honor winners. "You received your medal by post,'' she says. "There was a lot of applause, and that's all that mattered. Everybody was jolly well pleased that you won, and that was that.''

Asked how tennis has changed in the 64 years between Olympics appearances, Godfree says professionalism "has changed the game completely. By that, I don't mean that the hitting of the ball is different. Or the rally. A forehand drive is still a forehand drive, and they were wonderfully played by Suzanne Lenglen back in the '20s.

"But today they've got much better racquets. The balls seem to be better. And, of course, they have the opportunity of earning a lot of money which enables them to have everything of the best, like a coach and trainer and anything else they need.''

Should tennis remain in the Games?

"My feelings are it never should have been taken out of the Olympics,'' Godfree says. "I think it was a muddle that need not have happened in Paris.''

Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, top seed in the men's singles, may beg to differ with Godfree in one respect.

"I might as well admit it, but these are the worst balls we play with in tennis,'' Edberg says of the Korean-made tennis balls utilized here.

"You can hit two shots the same way, and one goes out and the other hits the line. I find that very difficult. They are heavy and inconsistent.''

Unlike Edberg, American Pam Shriver has delighted fans and the media here with her upbeat approach to the Olympics.

"The courts here are so beautiful because they have so much space and they have no commercial messages, no banners at the back,'' Shriver says. "It's easy to focus.''

Shriver, who tired of walking but doesn't want to rely on buses, says she bought a bicycle to move about the area. She has watched swimming and gymnastics, and Shriver admits to sneaking into the latter without a ticket.

One problem, however, has developed with the bicycle.

"Andy Mill borrowed it and had a crash,'' Shriver says, referring to U.S. teammate Chris Evert's husband. "I think I want to take the bike home. But I may have to let Andy play bumper bike with it.''

Shriver says she enjoys visiting with South Korean fans. "When the Koreans want your autograph, they let you know,'' Shriver says. "They're pretty aggressive. I think all Koreans would be serve-and-volleyers if they played tennis.''

At the Athletes Village, Shriver says, "Most of the athletes below me are in track and field. I'm hoping some of their speed comes through the floor, and suddenly I'll find myself agile and quick on the court.''

Shriver and Houstonian Zina Garrison easily won first-round matches in women's singles. Evert was to make her Olympic debut Saturday.

In men's singles, the American team received a bad break in the draw in that teammates Brad Gilbert and Robert Seguso were pitted against each other in the third round late tonight.

"It cut down on my scouting work, that's for sure,'' U.S. team captain Tom Gorman said.

Women's Grand Slam winner Steffi Graf of West Germany, who breezed through her opening match, scoffed at attempts by her agents to bill these Olympics as a Golden Grand Slam.

"I won the Grand Slam, and I'm trying here to play as well as possible,'' Graf says. "But the one doesn't have anything to do with the other.''

Graf, whose U.S. Open triumph only two weeks ago in New York completed her sweep of the American, French, Australian and British Wimbledon championships, says she is not at a physical peak for these Games.

"From the States, I went home for three days and didn't get much sleep, with a lot going on,'' Graf says. "So I came here and I was really tired. I wanted to have some time to get away. But it's the Olympics, so that is impossible.''

Graf opened up with a 7-5, 6-1 victory Friday over Leila Meskhi of the Soviet Union.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The story of her life: Saddled with a diminutive of her name and a catch phrase for the achievement for which she is best known, both of which she doesn't like.

One of the anecdotes floating around about her practice with the track team was that she held her own pretty well.

ATHLETIC GRAF HAD OLYMPIC DREAMS AS A RUNNER
Sun-Sentinel
Saturday, September 24, 1988
News/Sun-Sentinel wire services

SEOUL, South Korea -- If life had turned out differently, Steffi Graf might be competing on the track in Seoul, instead of on the tennis court.

Although the queen of women's tennis looks like she was born into the sport every time she hits the ball, she thinks she might also have made it as a runner.

''I certainly have the eagerness and if I would have had the chance two years ago, I might have done it,'' she said. ''I think I would have gone for the 800 meters.''

She declined to say what her personal best was for the distance, although she is reported to have been among the three fastest in West Germany a year ago.

''Let's just say I am not bad for a tennis player,'' Graf said.

Graf certainly needed to be quick on her feet as she launched her bid for the ''Golden Slam,'' trying to add a gold medal to the Grand Slam of tennis she won two weeks ago with a victory at the U.S. Open.

She had an edgy start, making an uncharacteristic number of errors on both her forehand and backhand before putting away Leila Meskhi of the Soviet Union 7-5, 6-1 in the second round Friday.

Graf's performance against Meskhi, ranked 35th in the world, was not up to her usual standard. She had problems with her timing and did not get into stride until the second set.

''I've been pretty tired,'' Graf said. ''I only had three days between the U.S Open and coming to Seoul and it took me awhile to adjust.''

Graf, who won the demonstration event in Los Angeles four years ago, said she was glad tennis has returned to the Games.

''To me, it's as important as the four Grand Slam tournaments but not as important as holding them all at the same time,'' she said.

Talk of the being the first person to win the Golden Slam annoys her.

''One thing has nothing to do with the other,'' she said. ''I don't like the term 'Golden Slam.' ''

The United States also did well Friday as Ken Flach and Robert Seguso won their first-round doubles match in straight sets, and Pam Shriver and Zina Garrison posted second-round women's singles victories.

Garrison, who beat Martina Navratilova on her way to the U.S Open semifinals, said she already pictured herself as a medalist. All losing semifinalists in the tournament gain bronze medals.

''I know where I'm going to put it, above the fireplace at home in Houston,'' Garrison said. ''But finding a place for it is the easy part. Now I've got to win it.''
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

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Originally Posted by Ms. Anthropic View Post
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzJwT95SO5Y

The 4-3 game has the between the legs shot. I also love the 30-40 point, and the look Steffi gives Gaby when she's ready to serve the next point and Gaby is still walking around.
How I miss Steffi and Gaby! I wish Gaby had won more majors (not the ones that Steffi won though)
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post #2939 of 6247 (permalink) Old Sep 24th, 2013, 10:10 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

I personally would have like Gaby to win more majors whatever the player who actually won them, even Steffi! Sorry, being the Steffi forum, but anyway coming from a Graf fan, to say that about Sabatini is a great compliment and speaks of how Gaby is liked by most tennis fans, nice.

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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Just a brief mention of Steffi getting to go to the men's 100 meters (and they are still asking her who she thinks will win even ten minutes before the race). An article loaded with unintentional alarm bells and foreshadowing about Johnson and his methods, but also important in the Zeitgeist of the 1988 Olympics because I think when they caught Johnson and some of the other "amateur" athletes, many pundits and athletes who were irate about the presence of the tennis professionals realized that "amateurs" were capable of violating the spirit of the Games in worse ways than openly earning money playing sports.

JOHNSON SMASHED LEWIS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR RACE
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Sunday, September 25, 1988
Bill Millsaps

Even in repose, Ben Johnson's eyes are agate-hard and feral. His smiles are rare and fleeting. He always seems wary.

In the starting block, he takes his mark like a pit bull in an attack stance. He gives all the outward signs of a man ready to explode.

Here yesterday, in what should have been the best foot race of the 24th Summer Olympics, Johnson blew up a great field in the final of the 100 meters.

The 26-year-old Canadian ran the distance in 9.79 seconds and broke the world record of 9.83 he had established 13 months ago in Rome. He won easily over Carl Lewis, who set an American record running a 9.92, and Linford Christie of Great Britain, who set a British and European record by running a 9.97.

Usually, Johnson wins his races by firing out of the blocks much faster than anyone else. This time, he got away, by electronic measurement, only .04 ahead of Lewis, but by the 30-meter mark, he was in command.

"I eased up over the last three or four meters or I would have run a 9.75," said Johnson, rubbing it in a little.

He does not like Lewis, a 27-year-old who is his major challenger on the international sprint scene.

Lewis has lost seven of his last eight races against Johnson, and in his postrace press conference, Lewis tried to convince listeners that failing to become the first man to repeat as Olympic 100-meter gold medalist really didn't hurt.

"It wasn't my best start," he said, "but after that, it was a pretty good race for me. I'm pleased with my performance. I was able to set the American record, and I'm pleased with the way I ran my race."

Lewis' only reference to Johnson was a brief, "He ran a great race," but he quickly added, "I'm pleased with my time."

Lewis also said the outcome would not affect his efforts in the long jump, 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relay, events in which he also won gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. "The party," he said, "has just begun."

Lewis kept insisting, "I did the best I could do. The Olympics is about performance and doing the best you can. I was pleased I ran the best I could."

Six weeks ago, Lewis' best was enough to beat Johnson over 100 meters in a meet in Zurich. Johnson insisted after the race that he had been hampered by a left hamstring injury.

This time around, there were obviously no physical problems for Johnson. "I was lucky that the Olympic 100 meters was late in September so I could come back and get ready for this race," he said.

There had been some doubt in the 24 hours leading up to the final that Johnson was ready mentally. He had done a couple of strange things in heats -- such as let slower sprinters catch him in the last 15 to 20 meters. He did not break 10 seconds in any of the three races that qualified him for the final.

Lewis, meanwhile, had gotten faster in his heats, running 9.99 and 9.97 in his last two qualifying rounds.

Still, there was the feeling that Johnson had been sandbagging. The word had gotten around that, in workouts, Johnson had been running watch-breaking times.

Tennis star Steffi Graf rushed into Olympic Stadium 10 minutes before the 100- meter final and asked an American newspaperman how she might find her way to her seat. He told her, then asked her to make a choice in the 100.

"I hope it's Lewis," she said, "but I think it's going to be Johnson."

It was . . . smashingly.

The only thing Johnson did slowly this day was provide a urine specimen for the required drug test. He was in doping control, where he drank three post-race beers, for two hours before coming to a press conference nearly 2 1/2 hours after the race.

Johnson said he was not concerned about Lewis' qualifying times. "I think that Carl was just trying to impress me," he said.

"This was my moment. This is the moment that I've waited for the last four years." In 1984 in Los Angeles, Johnson was the bronze medalist in the 100- meter final.

Now that he has won the gold, new financial vistas may open to Johnson. The Canadian magazine, MacLean's, estimated recently that if Johnson were to win the 100 meters in Seoul, it might be worth as much as $10 million to him over the next five years.

He is almost certainly Canada's richest and (now that the Edmonton Oilers have traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings) most famous athlete.

Johnson already has a number of endorsement arrangements, but he is not likely to become a television spokesman for any product or service. He speaks almost as fast as he runs, and he occasionally has a slight stutter.

As long as he can run this fast, it won't matter. His speed has enabled him to accumulate enough money to build a $750,000, six-bedroom house in a Toronto suburb. He has on order a $245,000 Ferrari Testarossa. And he now has a firm grasp on the title, "The World's Fastest Man."

In his postrace elation, Johnson said he thought his record might last "for 50, maybe 100 years." It's more likely it will last only until Johnson breaks it again.
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