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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

WINLESS STREAK TO 30 AFTER LOSS TO SUKOVA
The Palm Beach Post
Saturday, March 5, 1994
VICKI MICHAELIS

For several months, Gabriela Sabatini has had the wanderlust of the twenty-somethings. She has been to London and Los Angeles, to Montreal and Melbourne, always searching.

Searching for a title.

By the time she arrived for the Virginia Slims of Florida this week as the No. 3 seed, she had played 29 consecutive tournaments without winning a championship. At the Delray Beach Tennis Center Friday, fifth-seeded Helena Sukova pushed her another mile, and over a milestone.

Sabatini's winless streak hit 30 with a 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal loss to Sukova. Once again, her headstrong spirit hit a bump on what has become a long road.

``I just need that turning point to get that confidence back again,'' said Sabatini, who got her last title at the 1992 Italian Open. ``It's a little disappointing to lose every time. It's not enough.''

Sukova's win sets up a rematch of her 1993 U.S. Open final against top seed Steffi Graf, who beat No. 7 Sabine Hack 6-2, 6-1 to reach today's semifinals. In the other semifinal, No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will play No. 14 Chanda Rubin.

Rubin advanced with a 6-4, 6-0 upset of No. 9 Natalia Medvedeva and Sanchez Vicario with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 16 Stephanie Rottier.

Rubin wore down Medvedeva in the first set by firing forehands to the corners and passing shots at sharp angles. In the second set, Medvedeva saw most of them go by.

``Her mobility might be a little bit suspect,'' Rubin said.

Medvedeva played seven sets of tennis Thursday - the last set of a rain-delayed doubles match, followed by a three-set singles and a three-set doubles match.

``I was feeling good this (Friday) morning. The only thing - my back was very stiff,'' said Medvedeva, who hit just five winners in the second set, two of them on serves.

Asked if she gave up in the second set, she said: ``I didn't give up until probably 4-0 because I was still trying to do the best I could. The last two games, I was kind of like, `OK, that's it. It's over.' ''

Rubin's victory moves her into her third semifinal this year, the fourth of her career. The 18-year-old from Lafayette, La., reached her first final in her most recent tournament, losing to Natalia Zvereva at the Virginia Slims of Chicago.

She has played Sanchez Vicario once before, losing 6-0, 6-1 at last year's U.S. Open.

``I have to be ready to stay out there every point,'' said Rubin, whose tendency to rush for winners contrasts Sanchez Vicario's long-rally style. ``I have to get my mind-set that I have to be there every point.''

Sukova, who at 6-foot-2 stands statuesque at the service line and looms large at the net, made almost every point of her win over Sabatini a display of the experience she has gained in her 11 years on the tour.

She used well-placed serves and inspired passing shots, as well as high-pressure serve-and-volley and topspin lobs, to send Sabatini to Key Biscayne to prepare for next week's Lipton Championships.

``I was surprised at the way she played,'' Sabatini said. ``She can play that tough, but today she maintained that level very well. She can slow down. I was waiting for that moment to come, but it never came.''

Sukova, who is 5-11 lifetime in matches against Sabatini, hadn't beaten the fifth-ranked player since the 1988 Virginia Slims of Chicago. She had lost to her 10 times since.

``It was that many? Ooh . . . you shouldn't have told me that,'' Sukova said. ``I guess it's good that I beat her this time.''

The win gives Sukova her best result since she lost to Graf 6-3, 6-3 at the U.S. Open. Since then, she has been fighting injury (pulled ligaments in her right knee) and a slide in confidence. In four tournaments this year, Sukova hadn't advanced past the round of 16, dropping her ranking a spot to No. 18.

Graf has a 20-1 advantage in matches against Sukova, winning 20 straight after losing their the first in 1983 at Brisbane.

``Even though she comes a lot to the net, I still like her game. She isn't that aggressive, doesn't put it away,'' Graf said. ``I still have my chances during the point to take initiative.''
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post #3182 of 6247 (permalink) Old Feb 5th, 2014, 05:26 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

As a historical aside, retired pros Wendy Turnbull and Wendy Overton are slated to play a doubles exhibition 8-game pro set against one Venus Williams, aged 13, and her younger sister Serena, aged 12. Turnbull and other "knowledgeable tennis people" expect the "tennis smarts" of the two Wendys to win through in the more cerebral game of doubles. Cough, cough. Tune in two days from now to find out the result!

For a change, Steffi is thus far not second on the fastest serves list. She is third with 103 mph behind Big Bad Brenda with 114 and Sukova with 105.

VIRGINIA SLIMS AT A GLANCE
The Palm Beach Post
Saturday, March 5, 1994
COMPILED BY VICKI MICHAELIS

WHERE: Delray Beach Tennis Center.

WHEN: Through Sunday.

TICKETS: $20 for today's semifinals and $25 for Sunday's final. Call (305) 491-7115 for ticket information.

DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 95 south to Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Exit east to N.W. 1st Avenue. Make a left and the main entrance is on the left.

MATCH OF THE DAY

FIFTH-SEEDED Helena Sukova used two service breaks and a near-perfect game to upset No. 3 seed Gabriela Sabatini 6-4, 6-4.

LOBS

``IT'S not that bad what I said, but it's not that good what I said.'' - Steffi Graf , on what she yelled to the chair umpire in the last game of the first set of her 6-2, 6-1 win over Sabine Hack.

``I HAVE the shots. Almost everyone out here has the shots. So it's all mental.'' - Chanda Rubin.

``I HAD chances. But I missed those little shots here and there, those little volleys up at the net. Those shots make all the difference.'' - Gabriela Sabatini.

MATCH FACTS

GRAF, in her 6-2, 6-1 win over Hack, won 12 consecutive points - the last two of the first set and the first 10 of the second set. . . . Graf hit 26 winners; Hack hit four. . . . Sukova broke Sabatini's serve in the fifth game of the first set on a forehand error by Sabatini and in the seventh game of the second set on another forehand error. Those were the only two of seven break-point opportunities that Sukova converted.

PASSING SHOTS

IN the middle of Graf's match, her 20th without dropping a set this year, someone in the crowd shouted ``Monica (Seles), please come back!'' . . . Sabatini's exit took away the anticipation of a semifinal showdown with Graf. The two have met twice in the finals of the Florida Slims (1988 and 1991), with Sabatini winning both times. . . . Arantxa Sanchez Vicario has been without her loyal traveling companions, mother Marisa and Yorkshire terrier Roland. The two were scheduled to arrive Friday.

Singles

Quarterfinals

Steffi Graf (1), Germany, def. Sabine Hack (7), Germany, 6-2, 6-1; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (2), Spain, def. Stephanie Rottier (16), Netherlands, 6-3, 6-2; Chanda Rubin (14), Lafayette, La., def. Natalia Medvedeva (9), Ukraine, 6-4, 6-0; Helena Sukova, (5), Czech Republic, def. Gabriela Sabatini, (3), Argentina, 6-4, 6-4.

Doubles

Quarterfinals

Jana Novotna, Czech Republic, and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1), Spain, def. Jill Hetherington, Canada, and Shaun Stafford (7), Gainesville, 6-4, 6-2.

Amanda Coetzer, South Africa, and Ines Gorrochategui (4), Argentina, def. Elena Likhovtseva, Kazakhstan, and Radka Zrubakova, Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3.

Manon Bollegraf, Netherlands, and Helena Sukova, Czech Republic (2), def. Yayuk Basuki, Indonesia, and Nana Miyagi, Japan, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Lori McNeil, Houston, and Rennae Stubbs, Australia (3), def. Nicole Arendt, Gainesville, and Maja Muric, Croatia, 6-4, 6-2.

TODAY'S SEMIFINALS

NO. 1 Steffi Graf vs. No. 5 Helena Sukova

NO. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario vs. No. 14 Chanda Rubin
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Steffi also weighed on the scheduling of the semis. "It doesn't make any sense other than selling tickets," Graf said. "It's not a good idea." The tournament organizers/promoters were trying to squeeze one more ticket session out of the fans to the possible disadvantage of one of the finalists, thus adding to the general cynicism of the time.

GRAF, SANCHEZ VICARIO IN FINAL
The Palm Beach Post
Sunday, March 6, 1994
VICKI MICHAELIS

Helena Sukova's last serve hit the net and popped up - not high enough to clear the tape, not good enough to keep Sukova in for another point against the No. 1 player in the world.

With a double fault, Sukova finished her 7-5, 6-4 loss to Steffi Graf in the semifinals of the Virginia Slims of Florida Saturday.

``That's a fitting end,'' Graf's coach, Heinz Gunthardt, said as he rose from his seat.

Graf is a hurdle Sukova can't clear. Of their 22 matchups, Graf has won the last 21, including last year's U.S. Open championship.

On Saturday Sukova's serve-and-volley, nearly impeccable throughout her week at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, was not good enough. Her confidence, climbing as she advanced further than in any tournament she has played this year, was not high enough.

But Graf, who this year has won 21 consecutive matches without dropping a set, admitted the fifth-seeded Sukova challenged her more than anyone else has this year.

``Yes, she definitely did that,'' Graf said. ``No doubt about it. It's the best for quite some time.''

Graf, the tournament's top seed, will play in her eighth Florida Slims final against No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario starting at 2 p.m. today. The two also met in last year's final, with Graf winning 6-4, 6-3.

Sanchez Vicario won her semifinal 6-2, 6-3 over No. 14 seed Chanda Rubin, showing her grit by running out almost every power-packed shot Rubin let fly, corner to corner, base line to net.

In the fifth game of the first set, after she lunged for a forehand approach to the corner and sliced it back down the line for a winner, Sanchez Vicario did her own form of an end-zone dance, bouncing a ball high off her head and flashing a smile.

In between the fast-footed gets, she unloaded swerving drop shots, spinning lobs and hair-splitting passing shots.

``She's a player who uses everything,'' said Rubin, who has played in two semifinals and a final already this year. Rubin's ranking, at No. 69 to begin the year, will be at 26 when the new list comes out Monday.

Sukova also used everything in her first set against Graf - from 100-mph aces to stab volleys to line-drive passing shots. Of all those, the volleys worked the best, allowing her to hold off three set points at 5-4 and to keep Graf guessing.

``There are not a lot of those players around (who serve-and-volley), and it makes it more difficult to play them suddenly,'' Graf said.

In the first game of the second set, Sukova seemed resigned to another loss. She held back behind the base line, ineffectively countering Graf's aggressiveness with weak passing shots and predictable ground strokes.

``I had better opportunities to get a better score for myself at the end of the game,'' Sukova said.

She volleyed to a break in the third game, only to give Graf the break back in the next game on a double fault. She had eight double faults in all, with the last one putting a blunt cap on the emotion. Graf couldn't even muster a smile.

``I wasn't all that thrilled,'' Graf said. ``It was like, `Should I smile now or not?' ''

If she's smiling at the end of her match against Sanchez Vicario today, it will be because she has won her third consecutive title at the Virginia Slims of Florida, and her fifth overall.

If instead Sanchez Vicario is beaming, she will be the saving grace for women's tennis and saving face for herself. She will, at least momentarily, have crossed the gulf between No. 1 and No. 2 and she will avenge a 6-0, 6-2 loss to Graf in this year's Australian Open final.

``It's a different surface and a completely different tournament,'' said Sanchez Vicario, who until this tournament has been off the tour since the loss.

She added: ``She played unbelievable that day. I don't think she can play as good as that day.''

VIRGINIA SLIMS AT A GLANCE

WHERE: Delray Beach Tennis Center.

WHEN: Today.

TICKETS: $25 for today's final. Call (305) 491-7115 for ticket information.

DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 95 south to Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Exit east to N.W. 1st Avenue. Make a left and the main entrance is on the left.

MATCH OF THE DAY

NO. 5 SEED Helena Sukova unleashed a serve-and-volley attack against top seed Steffi Graf that kept Graf at bay during the first set of Graf's 7-5, 6-4 win. Graf called it her toughest challenge so far this year.

LOBS

``YESTERDAY.'' - Helena Sukova, on when she last played serve-and-volley as well as she did Saturday.

``THAT WOULD be just terrible, right?'' - Chanda Rubin, on how she'd like to be labeled the next great American female tennis player.

``ANY TOURNAMENT that has the best players playing is needed right now.'' - Steffi Graf .

MATCH FACTS

SUKOVA approached the net 50 times against Graf, hitting 13 volley winners. Graf hit fewer winners overall than Sukova, 24 to Sukova's 30, but Sukova had 33 unforced errors to Graf's 17. . . . No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario converted just four of 15 break-point opportunities against Rubin in her 6-2, 6-3 win over the 14th seed.

PASSING SHOTS

SANCHEZ VICARIO played the 6 p.m. semifinal Saturday, followed by a doubles match. The scheduling gave Graf a few more hours' rest before today's final. ``I don't think it's very fair, but you can't do anything about it,'' Sanchez Vicario said. . . . Boca Raton's Colleen Brennan, 23, will sing the national anthem before the final today for the third consecutive year. But don't look for the blonde who sang last year. Brennan will be in full costume, including a brown wig, for her lead part in Cabaret at the Delray Beach Playhouse. She's hoping she doesn't lose one of her dancing shoes when she rushes out of the stadium to make it to the 2:30 p.m. matinee.

RESULTS

Singles

No. 1 Steffi Graf d. No. 5 Helena Sukova 7-5, 6-4; No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario d. No. 14 Chanda Rubin 6-2, 6-3.

Doubles

No. 2 Manon Bollegraf-Helena Sukova d. No. 4 Amanda Coetzer-Ines Gorrochategui 6-2, 4-6, 6-1; No. 1 Jana Novotna-Arantxa Sanchez Vicario d. No. 3 Lori McNeil-Rennae Stubbs 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 6-1.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf advances to Slims final; Rubin falls to Sanchez Vicario
The Advocate
Baton Rouge, LA
Sunday, March 6, 1994
Associated Press

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Steffi Graf advanced to the finals of the $400,000 Virginia Slims of Florida on Saturday with a surprisingly close 7-5, 6-4 victory over Helena Sukova.

Graf, the top seed and world's No. 1 player, has not lost a match (21-0) or set (42-0) this year. She has won 25 consecutive matches overall and 11 of the last 12 tournaments she's entered.

"That's the best challenge for a long time," Graf said. "I was able to do the right thing when I needed to, I was patient."

Graf's next challenge comes in Sunday's final against the world's second-ranked player, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who beat Chanda Rubin of Lafayette, La., 6-2, 6-3.

Graf holds a 22-5 edge over Sanchez Vicario. Graf won their last meeting, 6-0, 6-2, at the Australian Open final. In the past 10 years, the top-ranked players have played 29 times with the top player winning 20.

Graf, who hasn't had to play a tiebreaker since a tournament at Leipzig, Germany, last September, has won her last 21 matches against Sukova. Her only loss came in 1983 at a tournament in Brisbane, Australia, when Graf was 13.

At 6-foot-2, Sukova, one of the game's best serve-and-net rushers, pressured Graf's strong forehand with 100-mph serves and penetrating volleys.

"I didn't step in very well and she was able to read my forehands," said Graf, the two-time defending champion who has won four Florida Slims titles overall. "She volleyed extremely good and rarely missed one."

Every time Sukova, the fifth seed, achieved a break to lead, Graf answered back with one of her own.

"I played okay, but I served awful," Graf said. "I'm happy that the match is over now, but overall I'm not thrilled."

Rubin, 18, whose rank has risen from a year-ending 69 to the mid 20s in the less than three months, had no answers for Sanchez Vicario's array of drop shots, lobs, and crosscourt passing shots.

"She's a real fighter," said Rubin, who has made two semifinals and a final in four tournaments this year. "Anytime I remotely got her on the ropes, she would throw up a high lob. She's a smart player."

Sanchez Vicario, like Graf, has not lost a set this week, and is hoping for better results than last year's final, when she lost to the two-time defending champion, 6-4, 6-3.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

NEXT TEST FOR GRAF IS SANCHEZ VICARIO
The Miami Herald
Sunday, March 6, 1994
ANDRE CHRISTOPHER

Helena Sukova provoked comments from Steffi Graf not often heard these days.

"She surprised me with how well she served and volleyed," Graf said.

"She read very well where I was hitting it," Graf would say later.

And still later Graf said of her semifinal meeting with Sukova in the $400,000 Virginia Slims of Florida, "It was close."

. . . But no cigar, as the saying goes.

Graf, in what she conceded was her toughest match in quite a while, beat Sukova, the No. 5 seed, 7-5, 6-4, Saturday at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.

It was Graf's 21st straight victory over Sukova and 21st straight victory of the year. Entering today's final, Graf has won 25 matches and 43 sets in a row.

Graf, the two-time defending champion, will face Arantxa Sanchez Vicario today at 2 p.m. (SportsChannel, live) in a rematch of last year's final. Sanchez Vicario, the No. 2 seed, beat 14th-seeded Chanda Rubin, 6-2, 6-3.

"I played her a lot better than last time," said Rubin, who lost to Sanchez Vicario, 6-0, 6-1, at the U.S. Open last year. "I'm just waiting for the right time. Maybe it will take 10 more times and I can do everything I want to do."

Sanchez Vicario beat Graf only once in their first 11 matches. Even now, almost six years after their first meeting, Graf has a 22-5 career record against Sanchez Vicario.

Graf and Sanchez Vicario have met in 16 tournament finals, and Graf is 13-3. Graf and Sanchez Vicario last played in the final of the Australian Open, where Graf won easily.

"She played unbelieveably that day," Sanchez Vicario said. "I have never seen her play as good as she did that day.

"I'll play my game and try to be more aggressive and see what happens."

Sanchez Vicario is one of only two people to defeat Graf in a tournament final since Monica Seles was stabbed in April. Conchita Martinez beat Graf at the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia in November. Sanchez Vicario beat Graf at the Citizen Cup, the tournament during which Seles was stabbed, and at The Lipton Championships.

And, perhaps in Sanchez Vicario's favor, Graf was not particularly satisfied with Saturday's performance. As Sukova double-faulted on match point, all Graf could think was: "It's over."

"I'm happy it's over now," Graf said. "But I wasn't all that thrilled. I was thinking, 'Should I smile?' "

Whatever thrill Graf may have had was taken away by her poor serving (52 percent first serves in) and Sukova's play.

Serving at 4-5 in the first set, Sukova came from love-40 down and won the next four points in a row with beautiful serve and volley play. She won the game on her second game point.

"She played very well in the first set," Graf said. "She surprised me with how well she served and volleyed. Her volleys were really good in the first set."

Even in the second set, Sukova was fighting off balls drilled right at her with crisp volleys and hitting most of the angles.

Sukova won the point 31 of 50 times she approached the net, 10 of 15 in the second set.

"I'm happy with the way I was playing," Sukova said. "I had great chances. I had an opportunity to get an even better score."

Sukova entered the tournament completely perplexed. Her practices had been good, but her confidence was down because she had been unable to transfer that play into matches . . . until this week.

"I have some confidence," she said, "but it's better to stay on the ground."

After all, Sukova, who got 60 percent of her first serves in, could have served better. In that one semifinal match, she doubled her double faults total for the week. She had seven in three matches leading up to the semifinals and eight in the semifinal.

"I served four double faults in the first game of my doubles match and we still won the game," said Sukova, who with partner Manon Bollegraf beat Amanda Coetzer and Ines Gorrochategui, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, to advance to today's doubles final.

Bollegraf and Sukova, the No. 2 seeds, will play the top-seeded team of Jana Novotna and Sanchez Vicario in the final.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf Takes On Sanchez In Final
March 6, 1994
CHARLES BRICKER
Sun-Sentinel

DELRAY BEACH — It's Steffi Graf vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario today for the Virginia Slims of Florida title, but the big winner already is crowned.

It's Chanda Rubin, who lost to Sanchez Vicario 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday but who left a promising trail of smoke behind most of the shots she hit.

Rubin, 18, daughter of a Lafayette, La., judge, had a huge tournament, defeating Iva Majoli, Clare Wood, No. 4 seeded Amanda Coetzer and No. 9 Natalia Medvedeva to make the semis.

Rubin started the year ranked 69. She will be No. 26 when the new rankings come out Monday.

Her go-for-broke game produced a whopping 41 unforced errors. But she also had 17 winners. Against Arantxa The Retrieval Machine, that's a ton.

Any calls to anoint her the next great American hope, along with her good pal, Lindsay Davenport, are richly deserved and, if they do come, Rubin says it won't be a psychological burden.

"I can deal with it. I don't worry about outside pressures," she said.

Rubin will be in the stands today watching 2nd-seeded Arantxa take on No. 1 Graf for the 28th time, then she moves on to Miami on Monday to prepare for the Lipton Championships.

Graf made it to the final by gutting out her toughest match this year, 7-5, 6-4 over No. 5 Helena Sukova.

Sukova had leads in both sets but, though she played brilliant serve-and-volley tennis most of the time, her streakiness led to her demise.

She would hit three scintillating shots in a row, then, mystifyingly, slap three shots in a row out of bounds.

In the final game, she served two double faults, including one on match point that kicked off the net cord into the alley.

"I didn't have any really exciting thoughts at that point. Just that it's over," said Graf, relieved.

"I served awful," she conceded. "I was not very happy with my serve."

Sukova is one of the few players on tour who serve-and-volley or attack the net at every opportunity, and it left Graf a little flat on her ground strokes, too.

There was no chance to sit on the baseline and use long rallies to get sharp, as there will be today with Sanchez Vicario.

Graf either was going to pass well or Sukova was going to dominate the net.

And for much of the first set, Sukova did some excellent guesswork.

"She anticipated where I was going to go on my passing shots," Graf said.

But Graf played well enough to forge a lead and the tall Czech finally cracked at 6-5, 30-all.

She hit an easy backhand volley wide, then left a volley short enough to give Graf time to get to it and tee off.

Graf drove it past Sukova's backhand down the line for the set.

The second set was not nearly as artistic and was marked by Sukova's continued up and down play.

At 4-4 and 30-all, she stroked two returns in a row over the baseline.

Serving at 4-5, she opened with a double fault, then watched Graf pass her with a forehand crosscourt.

Back she came with a passing shot and a 100-mile-an-hour service winner. But there was no consistency.

At deuce, she tried to come in behind a 79-mile-an-hour second serve and Graf easily passed her. Sukova then gift-wrapped the match with the double fault.

Graf's record for the year is 21-0. She is 42-0 in sets. She has won 25 straight matches, dating back to 1993 and is going for her fifth consecutive title and 12th in her past 13 tournaments.

Rubin will be able to pick up some valuable tips from the stands. Like learning when to go for the big gulp and when to just keep yourself in the point.

She had one spectacular backhand crosscourt that she hit shoulder-high crosscourt for a winner under Sanchez Vicario's groping racket.

"I know," said her coach, Ashley Rhoney. "I wish she wouldn't try to hit those."

So skilled and talented is Rubin that it's easy to forget she is only eight months out of high school and has been able to practice full time only since June.

"I'm learning every time I go out there," she said. "Arantxa is a fighter. When she'd get in trouble, she'd throw up one of those lobs. You don't see many players able to do that. But I still moved her around a lot."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf's victory not so easy
St. Petersburg Times
Sunday, March 6, 1994
DARRELL FRY

In this age of Monica-less tennis, Saturday was probably about as close as you will get to seeing Steffi Graf on the wrong side of the score.

She was swearing in German, serving "awful'' and ripping herself afterwards. Of course, she also was securing her place in today's Virginia Slims of Florida final, beating Helena Sukova 7-5, 6-4 for the 21st straight time, seemingly in spite of herself.

In the 2 p.m. championship match today, the top-seeded Graf faces second seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who abruptly ended the dream run of 18-year-old Chanda Rubin 6-2, 6-3 in the other semifinal.

It is Graf's third consecutive trip to the final at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, but she wasn't exactly popping open champagne bottles Saturday.

"It was like should I smile now or not,'' she said. "I wasn't all that thrilled."

Neither was fifth-seeded Sukova, who was milepost No. 25 in Graf's unimpeded streak of consecutive match wins. A victory today will give the German her fifth title in a row and her 12th in her past 13 tournaments.

Considering that, it would have been quite an accomplishment if Sukova merely had won a set off Graf. Actually winning? Sukova hasn't done that since Graf was a 13-year-old rookie in 1983.

Say this for Sukova, though, she won nearly twice as many games (9) as any of Graf's three previous opponents here. In fact, Graf called it the most strenuous match she's had lately. It certainly topped Sukova's 6-3, 6-3 loss to Graf in last year's U.S. Open final.

Give Sukova credit, because unlike in previous encounters, she squeezed Graf early and often. She came out serving flames and followed with more heat at the net.

Graf spent a lot of time on her heels, startled by the 100-plus mph serves and well-angled volleys that at one juncture forced her to try a two-handed backhand.

"I was surprised at how strong she served and volleyed. She hardly missed one (volley),'' Graf said. "She knew right where I was hitting my passing shots.''

Trouble was, Sukova's aura of invincibility wore off as the match progressed. At set-point in the opening set, Sukova looked as stiff as a statue as Graf slapped a backhand by the 6-foot-2 Czech.

By the end of the second set, Sukova looked average. On match-point, she doubled-faulted, her eighth of the day.

After pushing her way to the net 35 times in the first set, Sukova only could get there 15 times in the second to win 10 points, which wasn't enough to derail Graf.

Against Sanchez Vicario, the 14th-seeded Rubin played the classic role of the overzealous kid trying to take out a tour heavyweight with one roundhouse right. Like the experienced, wise veteran she is, Sanchez Vicario wasn't fazed by Rubin's heavy swings, and merely let her over-eager opponent punch herself out of the tournament.

Rubin, who will climb to about No. 25 in the world rankings after starting the year 69th, can brag to her friends back home in Louisiana about the 17 winners she tagged off the second-ranked player in the world. But it's the 41 unforced errors that put Sanchez Vicario in the final.

"I know she is going to go for her shots. That's the way she plays,'' said Sanchez Vicario, who is 5-22 against Graf. "You just have to be patient because the harder you hit the ball, the harder she's going to hit it back.''

With two of the WTA Tour's biggest stars, Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, out indefinitely, Graf said the women's circuit could use a No. 1 versus No. 2 clash.

"I think any tournament that has the best players is needed right now,'' said Graf, who whipped Sanchez Vicario 6-0, 6-2 two months ago in the Australian Open final and 6-4, 6-3 here a year ago. "Of course, having No. 1 against No. 2 is good.''

Sampras struggles but defeats Edberg

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Top-seeded Pete Sampras struggled for the first time this week before beating No. 3 Stefan Edberg of Sweden 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in a semifinal match of the Champions Cup.

Sampras, ranked No. 1 in the world, will meet 10th-seeded Petr Korda of the Czech Republic in today's final at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort. Korda advanced by beating unseeded Aaron Krickstein 6-4, 6-4.

Sampras last faced Korda in November, when he lost to the Czech player in five sets. Sampras has a 7-4 record against Korda, who is ranked 14th in the world.

Sampras and Edberg have an almost identical style of serve-and-volley play, and their match, which lasted 1 hour and 55 minutes, came down to Edberg's missing two volleys in the final game.

Sampras, a Tampa resident, took a 4-1 lead in winning the first set, but Edberg used a service break in the sixth game of the second set to even the match.

Both players held serve through the first nine games of the final set before Sampras broke Edberg's service to win the match.

Korda broke service in the third game of each set against Krickstein - the only breaks of their 66-minute match.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf, Sanchez Vicario reach Slims final
The Tampa Tribune
Sunday, March 6, 1994
H.A. BRANHAM, Tribune Staff Writer

DELRAY BEACH -- Monica is out and Martina is taking the week off. Gabriela left Friday. Jennifer? Back home in Tampa.

Today, the Virginia Slims of Florida offers the best final possible, given those constraints.

And according to the women's world rankings, it's absolutely, positively the best matchup, period: No. 1 Steffi Graf vs. No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

They meet today at 2, at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, playing for an $80,000 share of the $400,000 total purse -- and attention.

Attendance is down at this year's Slims. So far, the total of approximately 55,000 is way off the pace of last year's record 81,000. This follows last week's Evert Cup final in Indian Wells, Calif., where Graf's 6-0, 6-4 win against Amanda Coetzer drew 6,791, with approximately the same number of empty seats.

In Saturday's semifinals Graf defeated Helena Sukova 7-5, 6-4 and Sanchez Vicario dismissed 18-year-old Chanda Rubin 6-2, 6-3.

Graf approved of both.

"I think that in any tournament that has the best players playing, it's needed right now [to have them meet]," Graf said.

"Obviously having No. 1 and No. 2 is necessary [for interest]. I think it will do good."

Graf defeated the fifth-seeded Sukova for the 21st consecutive time. Graf -- 20-0 this season without dropping a set, 25-0 overall -- simply played steadier, while displaying her usual power. Sukova had almost twice as many unforced errors, 33-17; Graf double-faulted once, to Sukova's crippling eight. The fifth double came in the final game of the first set. The last came on match point.

Sukova blamed her service problems on the sun, plus the fact that she "was serving pretty [hard] on both first and second serves, so that happens. Sometimes you double fault. Unfortunately it was on match point."

Sanchez Vicario used variety in thwarting Rubin's game that is short on dimension but long on power. Sanchez Vicario sliced, lobbed, retrieved. She even tossed in a few 100 mph serves.

"Every time I even remotely had her in trouble she threw up a high lob, and not too many players will do that" said Rubin, the 14th seed who advanced to 26th in the world by reaching the semifinals.

"I moved the ball well," Sanchez Vicario said. "And I had very good concentration. That's why I won."

Now she faces Graf, who she lost to in this year's Australian Open final 6-0, 6-2. Graf holds a 22-5 career edge, dating to 1988.

"I definitely learned something in the Australian Open for this final," Sanchez Vicario said.

"This will be a completely different situation -- every match is different -- but I will definitely be aggressive. That's the only way to beat her."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Steffi's rooting interest in the Miami Heat was something amusing for the South Florida sports writers. Here was Steffi the Dominator yelling and groaning over a team that, at the time, could be described as the Jana Novotna of the NBA. Steffi also endured some teasing about her choice of seats at the Heat games: sitting at the halfcourt line, about 25 rows up. "Those are the best seats," she said when asked if she couldn't get better seats. "I can see the whole court that way."

GRAF HAS FAITH IN HEAT
Sun-Sentinel
Sunday, March 6, 1994
CHARLES BRICKER

Big-time Heat fan Steffi Graf did not make Saturday night's game but figured Miami could win without her. "It's Philly. They can beat them. Give me a break," Graf teased when asked why she wasn't going... One of the surprising sights in the Graf-Sukova match was Graf hitting a two-handed backhand late in the second set. "She pushed me out quite a bit on that side of the court," said Graf, who hit the ball into the net... Despite losing to Sanchez, Chanda Rubin will crack the top 30, probably at No. 26, with her Delray Beach performance. She came in at No. 34... Sukova, No. 18 entering the tournament, won't move because she was too many points behind No. 17 Zina Garrison-Jackson.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

And every time I hear/read certain tennis "experts" criticize Steffi's game as rooted to the baseline, couldn't hit a backhand, no finesse or touch, mindless bashing, I can't help but wonder what player they were watching (or playing, in some instances). The totality of her game and talent was dazzling. The reason why she won so much across all surfaces, across all game types, across so many generations is because she could beat the opponent seven different ways.

GRAF REIGNS AS 5-TIME CHAMP - SANCHEZ LETS 2ND SET SLIP AWAY
Sun-Sentinel
Monday, March 7, 1994
CHARLES BRICKER, Staff Writer

The magic elixir was in the Steffi Graf reservoir, deep down there where she keeps only the special stuff.

The stuff she hauls out only on desperate occasions.

Score: 4-5, 15-40, Graf serving at double set point against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in Sunday's Virginia Slims of Florida title match.

It was amazing. One minute Sanchez Vicario was looking at split sets and some nifty momentum.

The next minute, she was walking off the court, head down in dejection, wondering how this one got away.

The bottom line was 6-3, 7-5 - Graf's fifth Virginia Slims of Florida title and third in a row.

Of all the matches these two warriors have played, and this was the eighth in a row in a final, this might have been the most ignominious defeat for the little Spaniard.

From 15-40 in the 10th game, Graf won seven straight points and finished the match by winning 12 of the last 15.

"I realized she had two set points and I just wanted to concentrate on my serve, which I did very well," Graf said.

"I wanted to be aggressive. I came in on a slice backhand and won a point and then played the next few very well. But the first thing was, get the service in."

The victory, Graf's 26th in a row, produced her 83rd career title (fifth in a row) and left her in a whimsical mood.

"I'm happy to give you this check for $80,000," said Ed Sherman, who represents Infiniti motor cars, the sponsor.

"How can it be a pleasure to give away $80,000?" she cracked.

Later, Sanchez Vicario was asked how she could give away so many points after being in command of the second set.

"Maybe I was a little bit unlucky," she replied. Then again, maybe she just isn't good enough.

It started with that great, low slice deep to Sanchez Vicario's backhand corner. With Graf bearing down on the net, Sanchez Vicario stroked it wide for 30-40.

Graf then poured in a 94-mph service winner that took the game to deuce and left Sanchez Vicario pointing skyward and pleading, "Only one."

That's all she wanted. Just one point.

She didn't get it. Graf got the ad with a serve-and-volley and Sanchez Vicario kissed the crucial game goodbye with a wide forehand.

Graf broke in the next game with a shot only the great ones can hit. At 30-40, Sanchez Vicario sent a penetrating, deep slice to Graf's backhand side and came to the net behind it.

Graf could only half-volley the shot from just inside the baseline. It was that good.

She exploded a ball that barely cleared the net. Sanchez Vicario expected it to come back, but not this fast. Caught by surprise, she slipped off her feet at the net trying to handle it.

Graf was now one game from the match and, from 30-15, she slammed a 100-mph service winner down the center line and backed it up with a service into the forehand corner that Sanchez Vicario golfed off her frame five feet over the baseline.

These losses to Graf apparently are wearing on her usually even temper.

Early in the first set, when she was spraying forehands everywhere but on the court, she flipped her racket about 25 feet in the air in disgust.

In the second set, she pounded her frame against the hardcourt in frustration.

"If you want to beat Steffi, you have to go for the shot," she said correctly.

She didn't in the first set and Graf won 17 of 20 first-serve points.

She did in the second set and things got tighter, but only until Graf got to crunch time.

With Monica Seles somewhere out there, waiting for the right moment to return to tennis, Graf has laid waste to the women's tour.

She is 61-1 dating to mid-1993. She has won 11 of the past 12 tournaments she has entered. She hasn't lost a set this year or been taken to a tiebreak.

Who can beat you, she was asked.

"Arantxa," she replied. "She's always somebody who can beat me."

Indeed, Sanchez Vicario has won two of those past eight finals against Steffi - at Lipton a year ago and on clay at the Citizen's Cup in Germany a month later.

And there is Helena Sukova, whose serve-and-volley game forces Graf to hit sharp passing shots.

But she beat both on consecutive days to win at Delray Beach.

Neither match was easy, but Graf always had something down there in that reservoir. And it's beginning to look like a well that will never run dry.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Give Arantxa major credit for realizing that just retrieving and junk-balling was not a reliable way to win against Steffi and adding an aggressive aspect to her game, just as she added more of a net game in 1993. But as you can see, that aggression comes at the price of errors.

Arantxa would, of course, be the one who ended Steffi's winning streak.

STREAKING GRAF WINS SLIMS TITLE
The Miami Herald
Monday, March 7, 1994
ANDRE CHRISTOPHER

Better get ready to send the tennis record books back to the publishers. Steffi Graf is warming up for a rewrite.

Four years after winning 66 consecutive matches, the second-longest streak in the modern era of women's tennis, Graf is more than a third of the way to topping that. Monica Seles stopped Graf last time, leaving her nine matches short of breaking Martina Navratilova's record.

But Seles hasn't been around lately. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario has. But Sanchez Vicario isn't doing much to stop this streak, which reached 26 matches Sunday.

As has happened in the past three tournament finals they have played, Graf beat Sanchez Vicario. This time it was 6-3, 7-5 for her fifth straight tournament title at the Virginia Slims of Florida in Delray Beach.

Winning has become so routine for Graf even Sanchez Vicario could not help but joke about losing to her Sunday.

"I would like to congratulate Steffi," Sanchez Vicario told the Stadium Court crowd of 7,143. Then with a helpless sigh she said, "She beat me again."

There are two differences, though, in this Graf streak and the one she had four years ago. This one is still going, with few apparent challengers.

"There are always a few players out there who can beat me," Graf conceded, naming Jana Novotna, Helena Sukova and Sanchez Vicario.

Another thing about this streak, however, is Graf also has won 45 sets in a row dating back to Nov. 28, 1993, and the final of the Virginia Slims Championship at Madison Square Garden. The best Graf could do during her 66-match winning streak was win 15 consecutive sets.

For the last few days at the Virginia Slims of Florida, the media kidded Graf about coming close to losing the streak because she is tired of answering the question. But she acknowledged Sunday that winning 45 sets in a row is quite an accomplishment.

"It is very difficult," said Graf, who won $80,000 with her third straight Virginia Slims of Florida title, her fifth overall. "It maybe doesn't seem that difficult to me right now. These last couple of days have been more difficult."

Sanchez Vicario was two points away from taking the second set from Graf. They were the first set points anyone has had against Graf since Sanchez Vicario took a set from her at the Slims Championship. Sanchez Vicario was even on the verge of breaking Graf's serve to do it.

But serving at 4-5, 15-40, Graf forced an error with a slice backhand moving away from Sanchez Vicario to get to 30-40. Graf then served a 93 mile-per-hour service winner to Sanchez Vicario's backhand.

"I realized she had two set points," Graf said. "I just wanted to concentrate on my serve. I did that very well. The other thing was I wanted to be aggressive. I did that right."

Sanchez Vicario won only three points the rest of the match.

"You have to be very aggressive and take all the chances if you want to beat her," said Sanchez Vicario, who lost to Graf, 6-0, 6-2, in their last meeting, the Australian Open final. "If you give her one chance, she will beat you. She's playing that confident right now."

Sanchez Vicario came back to win the doubles title with Jana Novotna. They beat Manon Bollegraf and Helena Sukova, 6-2, 6-0.

Asked if Graf is the most dominating player on the WTA TOUR, Sanchez Vicario said, "I don't think she dominates. Confidence is what she has right now. She's playing very well right now and she knows that. That's why she's winning a lot of tournaments.

"You can break that. But you have to play your best."

So, alluding to The Lipton Championships, where Sanchez Vicario is the two-time defending champion, Sanchez Vicario left the crowd with this:

"Next week is my week."

But Graf got her there too. "I don't know what tournament you're talking about," Graf joked. "There is no tournament next week."

The Lipton starts Friday.

SLIMS FINAL
Statistics for the 6-3, 7-5 victory by Steffi Graf (G) over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (S V) in the Virginia Slims final:

Category G SV

1st-serve pct. 66 69

Double faults 1 1

Aces 3 2

Points 71 53

Unforced err. 19 32

Winners 23 22

Time: 1:25.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Said Wendy Turnbull after losing the doubles exhibition to the Williams sisters, "They played extremely well. I didn't expect them to have such a great understanding of doubles." I love it when the Evertilova sidekicks get side-kicked!

IT'S DRAMATIC, BUT, OF COURSE, GRAF WINS
The Palm Beach Post
Monday, March 7, 1994
VICKI MICHAELIS

Top seed Steffi Graf was only one game into her 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the Virginia Slims of Florida final Sunday when the champagne corks started flying.

One popped onto the court after Graf allowed Sanchez Vicario just one point in her first service game. But a short while later, the championship celebration appeared to have been premature.

Graf's victory at the Delray Beach Tennis Center wasn't certain until late in the second set, after she saved two set points with a rare display of strong serve-and-volley punctuated by an even rarer display of fist-pumping reaction.

She followed a 102-mph serve with a backhand slice volley to save the first set point, then served a 93-mph winner to save the next. She ended the game, and tied the set at five games apiece, on another 102-mph serve coupled with a forehand volley.

Graf won eight of the final 11 points, ending the match on three consecutive service winners for her fifth Florida Slims title and $80,000.

Let the champagne flow. Graf's straight-set win streak still stands and begs to be counted.

The top-ranked women's tennis player now has won 22 matches without losing a set. That's 45 straight sets, counting the last one of her three-set victory over Sanchez Vicario in the Virginia Slims Championships in November.

``It's better than a losing streak,'' said Graf, before quickly downplaying its significance.

``If I don't want to lose a set or match, then I wouldn't be playing tournaments,'' she said. ``I'm not out there thinking about whether I will win or lose.''

Sanchez Vicario intensified her play after a groggy first set and challenged through most of the second to give Graf as close a brush with losing a set as she's had all year. Before coming to Delray Beach, Graf had won three tournaments without having played more than 10 games in any set.

Twice before the final here, opponents played Graf to 7-5 sets - Marianne Werdel in the second round and Helena Sukova in the semifinals - but neither had even one set point against Graf, let alone two.

``She's always someone who can beat me,'' Graf said of Sanchez Vicario.

But through the first seven games of the first set, Sanchez Vicario won just four points off Graf's serve. She hit three winners and had eight unforced errors.

``If you want to beat her, you know you have to go for the shots,'' Sanchez Vicario said. ``Sometimes you go for too much and the ball goes really long.''

In the eighth game, Sanchez Vicario hit three winners - two forehands down the line and a forehand volley - and even forced Graf on the last point of the game to run around her backhand during a grinding ground stroke rally.

``I think at that point she realized she needed to change things around before the second set,'' Graf said.

To start the second set, Graf broke Sanchez Vicario's serve at love but Sanchez Vicario broke back in the next game when Graf netted a backhand. The two stayed on serve through the 10th game, when Sanchez Vicario set up her double-set point with two volleys and a backhand cross-court off a let.

After Sanchez Vicario relinquished the two set points, she raised her index finger to the sky and shouted ``Only one!''

``One lucky shot,'' Sanchez Vicario said later. ``I just needed one and probably everything could change.''

Graf's streak could end. The questions about how predictable women's tennis has become could end, at least for a moment. Sanchez Vicario could improve her record against Graf, which with the loss is 5-23.

When asked if Graf is dominating the women's tour right now, Sanchez Vicario said: ``I don't think she's dominant, but I think confidence is the word for her right now. I think I can break that but I have to play my best.

``I think she can be beaten.''

NOTEWORTHY: Sanchez Vicario also played in the doubles final Sunday, paired with Jana Novotna. The top-seeded team, they beat second-seeded Manon Bollegraf and Helena Sukova 6-2, 6-0. . . . In the exhibition match held an hour before the singles final, Venus and Serena Williams won seven games against former pros Wendy Turnbull and Wendy Overton, who won five.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

And Steffi is getting noticeably more curt in her answers to the Monica's return questions.

22-0 GRAF DEFEATS SANCHEZ VICARIO
The Star-Ledger
Newark, NJ
Monday, March 7, 1994
Associated Press

Steffi Graf, yet to lose a set this year, defeated Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-3, 7-5, yesterday to win the Virginia Slims of Florida for the third straight year.

Graf, the world's No. 1 woman player since Monica Seles was stabbed last April, is 22-0 this year and has won 45 straight sets since winning the Virginia Slims Championship against Sanchez Vicario in November.

The German star has won 26 consecutive matches, still 48 behind Martina Navratilova's record, and 40 from her longest streak of 66, which was snapped by Sanchez Vicario in the 1989 French Open final [sic].

"It's better than a losing streak," Graf said after accepting the $80,000 first prize, giving her $624,065 for the year. "I've been in that situation before. I go out on the court and never think of those things." After exchanging breaks early in the second set, the level of play soared. Sanchez Vicario, charging the net, held two set points at 4-5, the first against Graf this year.

"I wanted to concentrate on my serve which I did very well," said Graf, who won 81 percent of her first serves. "And staying agressive, which I did right, too."

Graf, who has been able to turn on her game like a light switch all week, followed up a dipping second serve with a penetrating backhand slice approach that the Spaniard pulled wide.

She saved the second set point with 93-mph service winner, and took 12 of the last 15 points to punctuate her fifth Florida Slims title and 83rd career title overall. Graf has won all four tournaments she's entered this year, five in a row and 12 of her last 13.

"I don't think she's dominant," said Sanchez Vicario, who is 5-23 lifetime against Graf. "Confidence is the word I would use right now. I think I could break that, but I have to play my best. I think she can be beaten."

Said Graf: "Probably everybody needs (Seles) back. I think that's what everybody needs so I wouldn't have to answer that question anymore."

Sanchez Vicario appeared rushed at the start of the match and was spraying forehands all over the Delray Beach Tennis Center to trail, 1-4. But a strong Spanish contingent, waving flags and screaming "Vamos," helped lift her game; she ripped three crosscourt groundstroke winners in a row to pull to 3-5.

Graf, known for her cannon forehand, demonstrated she too has a touch game, placing a delicately angled backhand drop shot on set point.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf just keeps going and going
St. Petersburg Times
March 7, 1994
DARRELL FRY

The Deutschland Express made its final stop in this beach town Sunday, then pulled out for its next scheduled destination, Key Biscayne, about 60 miles south.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was the last of five passengers to get off at this junction, carrying the baggage of a 6-3, 7-5 loss. The speeding train that is Steffi Graf logged a third straight Virginia Slims of Florida title and a 26th consecutive match win in front of 7,733 onlookers.

During the streak, the top-seeded Graf has won five consecutive titles and 45 straight sets. She hasn't played a tiebreaker since a tournament in Germany in late September.

Her post-match interviews have been reduced to Graf critiquing Graf.

"If I had to criticize anything it would be my concentration," Graf said of the final that lasted 1 hour, 25 minutes. "Sometimes I'm losing it during the match."

Graf even admitted that she wants former top-ranked pro Monica Seles to return soon from the stabbing that has sidelined her since last April. "I think that's what everybody needs," she said.

Despite being turned away by Graf in the Slims final for the second straight year at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, Sanchez Vicario didn't hang her head after this one. She came as close as anyone to bumping off Graf, and even had two set points at 5-4 in the second set. Later, Sanchez Vicario teammed with Jana Novotna to win the Slims doubles crown 6-2, 6-0 over Helena Sukova and Manon Bollegraf.

"I can be very proud of myself today," said the second-seeded Spaniard, who took home $44,000.

Proud because she squandered those two set points - one on a piercing Graf approach shot and the other on a service winner - through no fault of her own.

"She served really well," Sanchez Vicario said. "I kept making good points, but it wasn't enough. Maybe I was a little unlucky."

For sure, she wasn't afraid. Her 22 winners were just one less than Graf's.

"If you want to beat her, you have to go for your shots," Sanchez Vicario said.

Her heightened aggression, though, came at a price: 21 of her 32 unforced errors were committed in the second set.

Graf didn't make it any easier, either. She cracked 103 mph serves and ran off 11 consecutive points on her service games in the second set. On match point, she ripped a passing shot that brought Sanchez Vicario to her knees.

"I think she realized I wasn't making that many mistakes with her playing safe and she had to do something else, to take more risks," Graf said.

Only after it was over and the $80,000 winner's check was tightly in her hands did Graf reveal that she had second thoughts about adding this stop.

Graf was asked at the last minute to play a tournament the week before, putting her in the middle of a 28-day stretch that allows just four days off.

"I wanted to play here because this is home," said Graf, who has a residence in nearby Boca Raton.

While it didn't seem to matter this past week, Graf said her crowded schedule could do what no opponent has been capable of doing in 26 matches since the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia in early November, her last loss. "If you keep playing tournament after tournament, it gets more difficult" to maintain the winning streak, she said.

Everybody gets another shot at Graf and the streak beginning Friday at the Lipton Championships. As the defending champion, Sanchez Vicario is eager for another shot at Graf, who has beaten her twice this year and 23 times in their 28 career meetings.

Marvel if you like at Graf's numbers, but Sanchez Vicario isn't intimidated.

"I don't think dominant is the word; confident is what she is right now," Sanchez Vicario said. "And you can break that."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf downs Vicario to claim Slims title
The Tampa Tribune
Monday, March 7, 1994
H.A. BRANHAM, Tribune Staff Writer

DELRAY BEACH -- Steffi's streaks continue.

The WTA Tour still is Steffi Graf 's personal playground. Sunday at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, her 6-3 7-5 defeat of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the Virginia Slims of Florida final created the following counts:

* Twenty-six consecutive victories, 22 this year;

* Forty-five consecutive sets, 44 this year;

* Five consecutive tournament titles, four this year.

* A third consecutive Slims of Florida title and fifth overall;

* Four consecutive victories against Sanchez Vicario -- who she also defeated in last year's Slims final -- making their head-to-head record 23-5 in Graf's favor.

Afterward, as has become custom, Graf was asked, almost immediately, not about what happened, but what didn't happen -- a final against Monica Seles, who still is recovering from last year's stabbing.

She dealt with the issue as she does opponents these days: polite but to the point, with a slight stare.

"I probably do [need her to return]," Graf said. "I think that's what everyone needs. Then I won't have to answer that question anymore."

Graf -- ranked No. 1 in the world since last June -- also had answers for No. 2 Sanchez Vicario, who came close to forcing a three-setter and ending at least one Graf streak. It would have delighted most of the 7,143 in attendance; Sanchez was clearly the favorite.

In the second set, serving at 4-5, Graf wriggled free from two set points. At 15-40, a deep backhand approach forced a Sanchez error. At 30-40, a 93-mph serve caused a netted backhand return. Graf got to 5-5 when Sanchez knocked a forehand long.

"She had two good serves," Sanchez said. "I had two set points, and maybe was a little bit unlucky."

Graf broke Sanchez in the 11th game, on her third break point, with a crosscourt backhand too low for Sanchez to handle. Graf served out the match, if you want to call it that; four consecutive Sanchez errors ended things.

Sanchez promised an attacking style and delivered, coming to the net on 27 points, winning 17, producing 22 winners overall.

That was her solace, 32 unforced errors her penance.

"I did the right thing," she said. "I think you have to be very aggressive and take all your chances to beat her. If you want to beat her you have to go for the shots."

"I did not think about losing a set or losing the match, if I thought like that I shouldn't be out there playing," Graf said.

Sanchez Vicario came back after the singles final to win the doubles final with Jana Novotna, 6-2, 6-0 against Helena Sukova and Manon Bollegraf.

Sanchez -- who got $32,000 for being singles runner-up -- and Novotna split $24,000.

Sampras gets past Korda in Champions Cup final

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Pete Sampras of Tampa, fighting off his opponent's strong serve, rallied Sunday to beat Petr Korda 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and win the $1.72 million Champions Cup.

Sampras, ranked No. 1 in the world, regrouped after dropping the first and third sets to win in 3 hours, 9 minutes.

"He was hitting big serves," Sampras said. "He was basically beating me, but he played a couple of loose games. It was a good comeback. Not one of my greatest, but it's definitely up there."

Sampras had 23 aces to nine for Korda, with one ace clocked at 125 mph.

Sampras won $245,000, and Korda earned $129,000.

Information from Tribune wire services was used in compiling this report.
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