Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Actually discovered many 1988 Australian Open articles I didn't post. I wish the world could agree on date conventions! This one has two more great paragraphs by Mr. Bellamy. Steffi's joy was contagious.
Tennis: Evert completes a famous victory
Friday, January 22, 1988
From REX BELLAMY, Tennis Correspondent
MELBOURNE - Steffi Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova looked surprised, even a little confused, after the women's singles semi-finals of the Australian championships yesterday. An hour or so earlier, all had reason to believe that Graf would play Navratilova in the final. Instead, she will play Evert.
Graf beat Claudia Kohde-Kilsch 6-2, 6-3 and then told us she was 'pretty sure' (a common view) that Navratilova would win the next match. But Evert won it 6-2, 7-2, whereupon Navratilova said she wanted to watch a film of the match: 'I couldn't work out what I was doing wrong.'
Evert, aged 53, had not beaten Navratilova in straight sets in a grand slam tournament since 1975. Pleased but puzzled, Evert admitted that she had not looked beyond yesterday's match: 'I hadn't thought about playing Steffi but I'll have to think about it now, because I haven't found a way to beat her.' Graf has won their last four matches in straight sets.
Having played Navratilova for the 76th time, Evert commented: 'I know how to beat her and she knows how to beat me. It's a question of executing the shots on a particular day. This was a great victory for me. It meant a lot. I won because I returned service well, passed well, won most of the baseline rallies - and because Martina missed a few volleys.'
That needs expanding. Evert's serving, anticipation, footwork and tactical variations were admirable. Her passing shots and lobs were bold and often deft. Her trainer had told her to pass down the line and she did so effectively, especially on the backhand.
Navratilova said that at first the brightness of the day bothered her. She may soon be playing in sunglasses if a suitable frame can be devised. But what really spoilt her game was the inconsistency of her first service (only 55 per cent were on target) and backhand approach shots.
Too often, she volleyed under more stress than she could tolerate. 'I had a hard time getting to the net and wasn't comfortable when I got there,' she said. But the match contained much smart, imaginative, highly skilled tennis and also had a close finish. In the second set Navratilova was twice a break up and she led 5-3. Evert, proud of the way she had bounced off the ropes, called home - in Florida - to tell her parents about it.
Graf, the first German to reach the final, plays a baseline game similar to Evert's, but faster. Yesterday Kohde-Kilsch, a competent all-court player as close to her best form as makes no difference, looked like a willow in a storm. To change the analogy, when she went to the net one thought of the Light Brigade.
Graf, range-finding, lost the first eight points but then punctuated the lunch hour with awful booming noises. A bird sang, a turbo-prop aircraft droned lazily by, and a butterfly with a death-wish fluttered across the court. None of that seemed to fit in with the thunder of Graf's tennis.
Quick, springy and supple, she skipped and bobbed about, belted the ball this way, and that, and had the time of her life. In the last rally Kohde-Kilsch played two shots that were probably going out, but Graf - at the net - played them anyway, just for the fun of it. She was airborne for her last shot: an acrobatic, flailing forehand volley packed with the boisterous joy of youth.
Jeremy Bates, who won the Wimbledon mixed title with Jo Durie became the first British player to reach the men's doubles final here since Fred Perry and Pat Hughes were runners-up in 1935. Bates and his Swedish partner, Peter Lundgren, beat Andrew Castle and Roberto Saad 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 and in two hours and 33 minutes amid the echoing emptiness of the centre court at the end of a crowded day.
Castle and Saad had played for five minutes and ten minutes the previous day. Hard and well though they laboured, yesterday's match almost inevitably assumed the nature of a swan-song. In the final Bates and Lundgren, a lively chap with a Medusa-like hairstyle, will play an American team, Rick Leach and Jim Pugh.
The men's singles semi-finals will be played today. The first concerns two Swedes: Stefan Edberg, champion in the past two years, and Mats Wilander, champion for the two preceding years. Wilander has won four of its six matches with Edberg on the kind of surface in use here and, moreover, looks in better form.
But even Anders Jarryd, another Swede concedes that the champion is likely to emerge from the other half. Ivan Lendl, who has won his last 31 matches on hard courts, plays Pat Cash, who beat him on grass at Melbourne and Wimbledon last year. Lendl won their five other matches. Like Wilander, neither has lost a set here. Each is playing like a superman.
Lendl prefers to attack from the baseline, Cash from the forecourt. The superb courts of Flinders Park give such contrasting styles of play an even chance, as we were reminded during the Evert-Navratilova match.
It could be a straw in the wind that Cash is living at home between matches, just as Lendl does while dominating the United States championships. So far, Cash has also been more consistent with his first service. But I have lost interest in backing anybody to beat Lendl.