Looking back at it now, the psychology of this match is amusing (if you're a Grafan
). Gaby is clearly annoyed at being made to play in such conditions; Steffi's attitude is "This kind of thing happens to me all the time."
GRAF, RAIN DEFEAT SABATINI
The Miami Herald
Saturday, March 20, 1993
Steffi Graf 's victory over Gabriela Sabatini in the semifinals of the Lipton Championships on Friday might have been one of the longest women's matches imaginable, and yet the easiest match Graf has ever had against Sabatini.
From start to finish, the match took about 4 hours 45 minutes thanks to rain.
"It was a long wait," Graf said. "We came on court six times."
But all Sabatini has to show for it is two games. Graf won 6-0, 6-2.
"She played great, one of the best matches I've seen from her," said Sabatini, who has an apartment on Key Biscayne.
In fact, in the 34 matches Graf and Sabatini have played, Graf has never beaten Sabatini as soundly as she did Friday on Stadium Court of the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.
The match took one hour and eight minutes. The 23-minute first set (23 minutes in actual playing time) was the fourth-quickest Graf has had in the tournament.
Her quickest set was the second of her 6-1, 6-0 victory over Nicole Arendt of Gainesville in the third round. It took 19 minutes.
"Under the circumstances, with the strong winds, I don't know how it could have been much better," Graf said.
Graf, winner of the Lipton in 1987 and 1988, will face Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in today's 1 p.m. final (live, Channels 10, 25). Sanchez Vicario had almost as easy a time as Graf did in her semifinal match, a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Kimiko Date of Japan.
"From the beginning, I thought I had to be aggressive and go for it," Sanchez Vicario said. "That's what I did."
The final pairing gives Sanchez Vicario a chance to avenge her 6-4, 6-3 loss to Graf two weeks ago in the final of the Virginia Slims of Florida at Delray Beach. Graf won with relative ease there when Sanchez Vicario strained her left hamstring.
But few matches between two of the top-ranked players in the world (Graf at No. 2 and Sabatini at No. 5) will be as easy as Friday's was for Graf. Sanchez Vicario, ranked No. 4, actually played a quicker match, beating Date in 56 minutes. But Date is ranked No. 26.
"The whole match through," Graf said, "I was aggressive. I came in on important points and just tried to keep the ball in play."
Until Friday, Sabatini had an eight-match winning streak against Graf in Florida, going back to the 1988 Virginia Slims. The streak includes three-set victories the past two years at the Lipton.
In their past nine matches anywhere, Graf has only won twice, both times at Wimbledon.
"It was important to me that I played the matches before strongly," said Graf, who has lost 12 games the entire tournament. "I knew Gaby was gutsy. She likes to come in and get you out of rhythm. But I didn't think about it (the streak)."
It would be nice for Sabatini if the weather could be blamed for her poor showing against Graf. Their match should have begun at about 1:15 p.m., just 15 minutes behind schedule. But two minutes before they were to start, rain began to fall and they were taken off the court.
The rain stopped. Graf and Sabatini came back. The rain came again. Then it stopped. Graf and Sabatini came back. The rain came again.
"It's hard to go out there and stop, then come back and stop," Sabatini said. "That has never happened to me. Sometimes I've had to stop once, twice at the most."
But six times? For the length of the Sabatini-Graf match, that works out to stopping every 11 minutes 20 seconds.
"Obviously it didn't affect her," Sabatini said of Graf. "It really never happened to me, losing that way with that score."
A side affect of Graf's victory is that she has moved ahead of Monica Seles to No. 1 in the Kraft Point Standings for the first time since November 1990. She does not, however, supplant Seles as No. 1 woman in the world.
If Graf is No. 1 in the point standings when the 1993 Kraft Tour year ends, she will receive a $650,000 [sic] bonus.