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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Graf puts away Zvereva
Houston Chronicle
Thursday, March 23, 1995
STEVEN WINE, Associated Press

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Steffi Graf, who has yet to lose a set this year, barely kept her streak intact against Natasha Zvereva in Wednesday's quarterfinals at the Lipton Championships.

Graf won 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) and will play Jana Novotna in the semifinals today.

Zvereva delighted the crowd with playful body English -- head tilted, knees together or hips askew -- following some of her best shots, but she didn't save any of them for the end.

In the tiebreaker, Zvereva led 5-4 with the momentum and two serves coming. Graf then took the final three points, closing the match on a service winner to improve to 12-0 in 1995.

"If I would be angry about this match, I'd be a fool," said Zvereva, 0-15 against Graf. "It was an extremely great experience for me."

Also advancing were No. 5 seed Gabriela Sabatini and No. 7 Kimiko Date, who will meet in today's other semifinal.

Andre Agassi will meet Magnus Larsson in one men's semifinal Friday. Agassi, seeded second, beat No. 8 Wayne Ferreira 6-2, 6-4. Larsson, one of three Swedes still in the men's draw, swept Jaime Yzaga 6-0, 6-3.

The other men's quarterfinals are today.

Date won 6-1, 7-5 against unseeded Californian Marianne Werdel Witmeyer, who eliminated top-ranked Arantxa Sanchez Vicario on Monday.

Novotna, the No. 3 seed, edged Anke Huber 7-6 (7-4), 6-4. Sabatini was a 6-1, 6-3 winner against Australian Rachel McQuillan, the lowest-ranked player remaining at No. 88.

Graf's match took 94 minutes, more than twice as long as her previous victory. She made 34 unforced errors, many on shots she normally hits for a winner.

"It was a difficult match," she said. "Her game doesn't really match mine, and she doesn't really give you a rhythm."

Nonetheless, Graf remained unbeaten against Zvereva.

"By the end of my tennis career," Zvereva said, "maybe I'll win."

Seles eyes return

As speculation builds that Monica Seles will return to tennis this spring, the WTA Tour is faced with the issue of where she should be ranked and seeded.

"The million-dollar question," said Marianne Werdel Witmeyer, vice president of the players association.

Seles was the best player on the women's tour when she left after being stabbed by a deranged Steffi Graf fan nearly two years ago.

"It is common consensus among players and the tour that we will definitely do our best to accommodate her coming back," Werdel Witmeyer said Wednesday at the Lipton Championships, a tournament Seles won twice. "Everybody wants it to be as easy for her as possible coming back after what she has been through."

That doesn't answer the million-dollar question, though. It's a volatile subject, in part because the players were criticized when they decided against freezing her No. 1 ranking following her injury.

Seles' father said this week that she was disappointed by the decision. He also said his 21-year-old daughter is practicing in Sarasota, Fla., and will return to the tour, but doesn't know when.

Anne Person Worcester, chief executive officer for the WTA Tour, said Seles probably would receive a special ranking or seeding upon her return. Werdel Witmeyer said the tour wouldn't require Seles to play qualifying matches or face a top seed in the first round.

Players are divided on the question of accommodating Seles, winner of eight Grand Slams.

"On one side, it is fair to give her a good seed," Gabriela Sabatini said, "and then on the other side, she has been away for a long time, so after so many years, probably it is not fair to give it to her."

Graf said she personally had no objection to ranking Seles in a tie for No. 1 with the current top-ranked player, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

"I am not the No. 1 right now," Graf said with a smile. "So I have no problem. ...

"It is going to be a very difficult decision ... to give her a No. 1 ranking. I think people would probably have a problem with that."

Everyone agrees, however, that Seles' return would be good for a game missing many top women stars at Lipton.

Third-ranked Mary Pierce and fourth-ranked Conchita Martinez, who dislike the windy Key Biscayne weather, skipped the tournament. So did Jennifer Capriati and even 14-year-old prodigy Venus Williams, both Floridians.

"It hurts a lot," tour veteran Zina Garrison Jackson said. "We need as many people here as possible to help support tennis."

For a sport struggling to rebuild its popularity, Seles could provide a big boost, wherever she might be ranked.

"It would be great for her to go on the court and to see her play," Graf said. "That would be extraordinary. I hope that will happen."
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post #3302 of 6247 (permalink) Old Feb 28th, 2014, 03:52 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Imagine how much longer the match would have taken if Steffi stopped to strut or gloat after each one of her 39 winners...

The Star-Ledger
Newark, NJ
Thursday, March 23, 1995

KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. - One day she plays a match she described as "near perfect." A day later Steffi Graf has to struggle more than just a little to win.

It wasn't unexpected. Natasha Zvereva has that effect sometimes when she faces Graf.

Yesterday was one of those days when Zvereva's variations of pace gave Graf fits and her body gyrations after winning shots secured an emotional bond with most of the 11,042 fans at the tennis center in Crandon Park.

But, in the end, the No. 2-seeded Graf prevailed in a 95-minute, straight-setter, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), over the No. 6 Zvereva, moving the favorite into the women's semifinals for the ninth straight time at the $4.1 million Lipton Championships.

The triumph, hardly impressive in Graf's eyes ("I was quite off") kept a few streaks intact. Graf is now 15-0 against Zvereva. And Lipton's only three-time champion is still unbeaten in 1995, holding a 12-0 match record, and is also unblemished in sets, winning all 24 played.

Saturday's title round looks more and more like another Graf-Gabriela Sabatini finale since the Argentine star, the fifth seed, easily gained the final four with a 61-minute 6-1, 6-3 victory over unseeded Rachel McQuillan. It was downhill all the way after the Aussie player was broken in the first game by a perfectly executed lob.

Before there's a Graf-Sabatini faceoff, No. 3 Jana Novotna and No. 7 Kimiko Date hope to have a say. They also had quarterfinal successes without the loss of a set, Novotna rallying from 1-3 in each set and beating No. 8 Anke Huber of Germany, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, and Date taking a 6-1, 7-5 decision over unseeded Marianne Werdel Witmeyer, conqueror of No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Today's women's semis find Novotna battling Graf and Date going against Sabatini. Graf leads her Czech opponent, 22-3; Sabatini is 4-1 against Japan's No. 1 player.

There was action on the men's side with popular Andre Agassi, the No. 2 seed, and No. 12 Magnus Larsson of Sweden, charging into tomorrow's semifinals with a pair of blowouts.

Agassi, serving well to go along with his outstanding counterpunching talent, neutralized the heavy hitting of No. 8 Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, 6-2, 6-4, in 73 minutes at night before 12,800. In a day quarterfinal that lasted only 57 minutes, Larsson won the first nine games enroute to a 6-0, 6-3 thrashing of No. 30 Jaime Yzaga of Peru.

Agassi was more than pleased with his effort.

"Tonight was a great sign," he said. "Wayne (Ferreira) came out on all cylinders, and to take him this way shows how well I'm playing."

The men's quarterfinals wrap up today with No. 1 Pete Sampras, seeking to become the first to win three straight Lipton titles, going against No. 10 Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine and Mats Wilander facing Jonas Bjorkman in a battle of unseeded Swedes.

Graf had her problems with Zvereva here in last year's final. She had opened the 1994 season by winning 54 straight sets before dropping one to Zvereva. The 25-year-old German star bounced back for a 5-6, 6-1, 6-2 decision.

Yesterday Zvereva again proved a real pain for Graf, recording two service breaks in each set. The underdog was on serve before Graf broke in the final game of the opeing set and she had a chance to serve it out at 5-4 in the second-set tie-breaker.

Graf met both challenges without wavering. Her noted forehand, off base more than usual, was back on target by forcing errors at those critical stages. She got a miscue to take the first set and was the recipient of successive errors against her forehand shots to reach the only match point she needed.

Earlier, Zvereva, the women's tour's noted free spirit, did one of her famous struts upon breaking back to 4-5 in the first set. Graf handled that one well. She came back to win the set with a break in the 10th game after the 23-year-old Belarussian had earned two game points at 40-15.

The big fun, for the players and the fans, came in the first game of the second set. Zvereva, who hits a two-fisted backhand, abandoned that stroke and reached out for a scorching, one-handed winner that leveled the score at 30-30.

Zvereva went into some spontaneous gyrations that had the fans roaring. Graf applauded, but she had the perfect retort. The defending champion reared back and ripped a 102-mph ace.

Then the usually-serious Graf surprised everybody with an uncharacteristic double-pumping motion with her shoulders before breaking into a huge grin.

"She hadn't upset me, she had hit an incredible shot and I applauded, too," recalled Graf. "I had some fun."

Graf held for 1-0, but Zvereva would prove a pesky opponent before the long set was over. They traded breaks in the fifth and sixth games, Graf rallying to 3-3. Zvereva did a Jerry Lewis walk after daintily playing a drop volley in the seventh, a game that saw Graf fight off four break points.

Zvereva again broke ahead, this time in the ninth game when she whipped a return winner off a weak 69-mph second serve delivery. Graf broke back to 5-5, leaping to club a backhand volley winner.

They finally held in the 11th and 12th games to set up the tiebreaker. Seven mini breaks followed with Graf, trailing 4-5, getting the final two and then coming up with a service point to close it out.

What a difference a day makes in the stats. Tuesday Graf crushed Judith Wiesner, 6-0, 6-1, making 26 winners to only seven unforced errors. Against Zvereva, she was far more human, 34 unforced errors to 39 winners.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Classic genre mismatch makes for good comedy.

March 23, 1995

MIAMI — Natasha Zvereva kept her shirt on this time.

That revealing episode at the Australian Open, where she lifted up her top to reveal (horrors!) a sweat bra, is not to be repeated, she has been told.

So she went to Plan B on Wednesday against Steffi Graf, which consisted, in order, of jiggling her shoulders with a little dance, walking like one of the zombies in Night of the Living Dead and strutting with her mouth wide open.

The lady has been watching a few NBA games.

All these shenanigans occurred after big points, and none bigger than a smouldering one-handed backhand down the line in the first game of the second set, which really set her off.

The crowd loved it. But on the next point, Steffi aced her, puffed out her chest and gave a double-fisted gesture of her own.

To tell you the truth, Graf isn't very good at this sort of thing. But everyone got the point.

The Champ isn't taking this stuff from anyone.

It was a great day for Graf, who didn't have anywhere near her best stuff but managed to defeat Zvereva 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to go into the semifinals today against Jana Novotna. She didn't play great tennis. At times, she played horrible tennis.

But if there is one thing about Graf that separates her from everyone else on the tour, it's her resourcefulness. She has so many weapons, so many ways of changing her style of play that if one thing isn't working, she can go in another direction.

Graf doesn't just have a Plan B, but a Plan C and Plan D.

Zvereva had a great game plan of her own. Attack Graf's second serve. Come in behind shots deep to the backhand corner and make Graf hit passing shots with her backhand ground strokes.

It wouldn't have worked if Graf had hit half the shots she usually hits. But she had a whopping 17 unforced errors in the first set and another 17 in the second.

Nevertheless, she persevered. With her first serve failing her, she slowed her second but got better location, making it more difficult for Zvereva to attack off the return. She came to the net more. She mixed speeds.

And still she trailed 4-5 with Zvereva serving for the second set.

This was crunch time for Graf. She moved to the service line to knock off a lob to go up love-30. And at 15-40 she drove Natasha deep to the backhand side with a low, well paced ground stroke, then came forward to slam a backhand volley at the net to tie the set.

Into the tiebreak they went and, at 5-5, Graf suddenly found her forehand down the line from the backhand court.

With Zvereva bearing down on the net, Steffi lined a groundie just inside the line for a 6-5 lead and finished the match with an ace that landed on the sideline, 3 inches up from the service line. She couldn't have found a better spot for the ball if she had walked up and dropped it there.

It was, as Natasha is well aware, the 15th consecutive loss to Steffi without a victory. "Hopefully, by the end of my tennis career maybe I will win. I hope," she said.

Said Graf: "I was quite a bit off. Her game doesn't really match mine and she doesn't really give you a rhythm. She played slow. She played some faster ones and she didn't give me the timing and then I think I didn't move as well and just made too many unforced errors."

As for the new Steffi Strut ... forget it. "That is not me," she said. She's leaving that to Zvereva, where it belongs.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Palm Beach Post
Thursday, March 23, 1995
CHARLES ELMORE, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Natasha Zvereva had Steffi Graf smiling and, after one backhand winner, applauding. She even had Graf mocking Zvereva's two-fisted, stomach-crunching primal victory gesture to celebrate winning points.

The only thing Zvereva, the No. 6 seed from Belarus, couldn't get second-seeded Graf to do Wednesday was lose a set for the first time in 1995. Graf prevailed in a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) quarterfinal match at the Lipton Championships, but not before the world's No. 2 player was pushed further than she has been all year.

"Every time we meet, basically she plays two ways: extremely well, or well," said Zvereva, who has never beaten Graf in 15 meetings. "She never plays 'under well.' "

Those pretty much seem to be the options at Steffi Graf short-order grill this year - well-done and extra well-done. The only thing rare Wednesday was the 34 unforced errors Graf committed. But the fact remains Graf is 12-0 for the year and steaming into the semifinals in quest of her fourth Lipton title.

Graf's win sets up a semifinal meeting with No. 3 seed Jana Novotna, against whom Graf has a 22-3 record, at 7 tonight.

But hold on: There is another familiar name rolling through the other side of the draw. Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina and Key Biscayne dominated unseeded Rachel McQuillan of Australia 6-1, 6-3 Wednesday.

Sabatini, the No. 5 seed, meets No. 7 seed Kimiko Date at 1 p.m.

Sabatini's chances to reach the final look good. She has beaten Date in four of their five career meetings, including the last four straight, ending with a 7-5, 6-2 victory in the second round at Sydney this year.

"I think this (hard-surface) court is good for me because the bounce is high and I can play my topspin and change the pace," Sabatini said. "She (Date) likes (fast) pace and I am going to have to mix it a lot."

The only weak spot for Sabatini may be her serve. Though it didn't cost her in Wednesday's outcome, Sabatini struck one ace against nine double faults. At one point, she missed five serves in a row.

"Today was not as good as yesterday or the last few days," Sabatini said of her serve. "I lost a little of my concentration at some points, but I was still able to be in control of the match."

Nine double faults probably won't cut it against Graf, who doesn't need much of an opening to exploit.

Trailing 5-4 in a second-set tiebreaker against Zvereva, Graf snapped back with a convincing display of power: Forehand cross court winner. Forehand passing shot. Ace serve in the corner of the box, 92 miles per hour.

It was a strong finish to a shaky second set, in which Graf had her serve broken twice. It would have been three times if Zvereva had not failed to capitalize on four break points after leading 40-love with the game score 4-3.

The most memorable exchange may have come in the first game of the second set. Zvereva hit a one-handed backhand winner that Graf applauded. Zvereva balled both fists in a triumphal stance. On the next point, Graf served an ace and imitated the gesture.

"Definitely, I would say I had some fun after that point," Graf said.
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The Miami Herald
Thursday, March 23, 1995
MERI-JO BORZILLERI, Herald Sports Writer

Natasha Zvereva walked off stadium court to the biggest cheers of the day Wednesday at the Lipton Championships.

She had executed her game plan well against an error-prone Steffi Graf in her quarterfinal match.

Zvereva, the sixth seed, had befuddled the world's No. 2- ranked female player.

She threw everything at Graf: spins, net rushes, sharply angled crosscourt forehands, even a one-handed backhand winner in the second set that Graf applauded, later calling it "an incredible shot."

And still Zvereva lost. The score: 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

"If I was angry about (losing) this match, I would be a fool, really," said Zvereva, who last faced Graf in 1994's Lipton final -- a three-set loss. "I believe I did a pretty good job. I had my own tactics and they worked out pretty well."

The women's field was pared from eight to four Wednesday: Kimiko Date, the seventh seed, ended American Marianne Werdel Witmeyer's unseeded run with a 6-1, 7-5 victory and plays Gabriela Sabatini today.

Sabatini defeated Rachel McQuillan, 6-1, 6-3. Graf will play No. 3 seed Jana Novotna in the other semifinal.

Novotna beat Anke Huber, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, to set up a rematch of the memorable 1993 Wimbledon final between Novotna and Graf.

In men's quarterfinal action, Andre Agassi answered Wayne Ferreira's rockets with more of his own, winning 6-4, 6-2, in the evening match.

"Wayne came out firing on all cylinders," said Agassi, who lost seven games -- the most he has in one match all tournament so far. "He was serving big, hitting big off the ground. (My) being able to control the match like that just kind of shows you what level I was playing at. I really felt I was hitting the ball strong and moving well."

Agassi takes today off before playing Magnus Larsson in Saturday's semifinals. Larsson beat Jaime Yzaga, 6-0, 6-3, during Wednesday's day session.

The men's semifinal field will be completed after today's matches between wild card Mats Wilander and unseeded Jonas Bjorkman, and top seed Pete Sampras against 10th seed Andrei Medvedev.

Graf's victory came like clockwork despite 34 unforced errors. It also came accompanied by an unusually low first-serve percentage (57 percent).

It came, even more uncharacteristically, with an unofficial count of three celebratory fist pumps.

"That is not me," Graf later said of the gestures.

Zvereva, on the other hand, felt right at home. Trailing 5-4 in the first set, a forehand crosscourt winner brought a Kirk Gibson-like fist-pull.

A drop-dead drop volley triggered a knock-kneed dance. In the second-set tiebreaker, Zvereva pulled to 4-3 with a sharply angled overhead, then did a short strut in slow-motion.

The only thing missing, it seemed, was the electric slide. While she lost both games, she kept her audience.

"I seem to be getting very comfortable on the show courts," Zvereva said. "It gives me an adrenaline (rush) to see a big amount of people watching me -- especially if I play good and if it is a tight match I like that."

But Graf would just as soon leave the theatrics to someone like Brooke Shields, who took a night off from playing Rizzo in the Broadway show Grease to watch boyfriend Agassi.

It was hard not to get excited about this match, the closest Graf has come to losing all year in three tournaments. She still has not dropped a set in 1995.

Meanwhile, Sabatini's game looks sharp enough to give Graf a fight should the two meet in Saturday's final.

Sabatini raced to a 5-0 first-set lead against McQuillan in a Graf-like 20 minutes. She is playing her best tennis of the year, even better than when she won the year's first tournament Sydney.

"I lost a little of my concentration at some points, but I was still able to be in control of the match," said Sabatini, who has vastly improved her serve since ending a 2 1/2-year title drought by winning the season-ending Virginia Slims Championship in November.

While Sabatini is a crowd favorite, Zvereva won fans by giving Graf a fight.

If anyone was going to upset Graf, chances are it would have been Zvereva, who knocked off Arantxa Sanchez Vicario this year while lifting her singles ranking to No. 8. She returned to the top 10 last year for the first time since 1988.

Unlike a nearly flawless quarterfinal on Wednesday, Graf looked vulnerable with the wind and an errant forehand. But an errant Graf is still a good one.

Zvereva failed to convert a crucial four break points in the seventh game of the second set, but got another chance when she broke Graf and served for the set at 5-4.

But Graf hit four winners to break back, and nailed two service winners and an ace to move ahead 6-5.

She trailed once again at 4-5 in the tiebreaker, but rallied with a forehand that caught the line, a passing shot and a service winner wide to Zvereva's backhand.

"She is always giving me a hard time," Graf said. "But then at the end, I seem to be able to make the important points."

Zvereva is now 0-15 career against Graf. She has come a long way from their first meeting at the 1988 French Open, when Graf beat her, 6-0, 6-0.

Said Zvereva: "Every time we meet, basically she either plays extremely well, or well. Hopefully by the end of my tennis career, maybe I will win."
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post #3306 of 6247 (permalink) Old Feb 28th, 2014, 04:15 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

It's pretty clear that, for all their complaints about Steffi's dominance, many of them had some fun writing about it.

Lipton remolds image for MTV generation
Several modifications have made the tournament more hip and fan-friendly

The Tampa Tribune
Thursday, March 23, 1995
H.A. BRANHAM, Tribune Staff Writer

KEY BISCAYNE -- The Lipton Championships have become the latest professional tennis tournament to dress down in hopes of picking up new fans while invigorating old ones.

This is a richer Lipton brew -- the $4.1 million purse a 24 percent increase from 1994 -- and a different one, with the event promoted as "MTV-style entertainment" with a younger/hipper/hotter theme.

And so, the past six days at Crandon Park have seen myriad attempts to remove the stodginess from the sport:

* Players enter the stadium court while a song of their choice blares through the public address system.

* Winners of stadium matches hang around to be asked questions by several fans chosen by a rover brandishing a wireless microphone.

* Two guys dressed like Beavis and Butt-head show up at courtside for a match involving Natasha Zvereva, reportedly a fan of the crude MTV cartoon dudes.

* Assorted fan-participation activities are on site, such as in-line skating, basketball and tennis skill games.

* A beach bar and a miniature Olive Garden.

Some of the tunes chosen for player introductions fit the MTV concept. Jim Courier was accompanied by Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Marianne Werdel-Witmeyer and Sheryl Crow's No. 1 hit "All I Wanna Do" went all the way to the quarterfinals. Several picked Aerosmith's "Crazy." Counting Crows and Bon Jovi also are popular.

All the gimmickry in the world, though, isn't worth much if the tennis stinks. And no one can produce a stench like Steffi Graf; although, the smell typically rises from her opponent's side.

When Graf is on, she can siphon the enthusiasm from a match in moments.
An example: her 6-1, 6-0 win earlier this week against Judith Weisner.

That match took 41 minutes. Afterward, the typically stoic Graf talked to fans and media almost as long, continuing what appears to be a concerted effort to present a more personable persona.

Conversely, nothing concocted measures up to the spontaneity of Zvereva, the free spirit of the women's tour, a player with every shot and plenty of emotion. She frequently displays it all.

Graf and Zvereva met for the 15th time Wednesday, in a quarterfinal match. Graf won for the 15th time, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

But it was Zvereva who stole the crowd.

She wiggled after one volley winner. She went knock-kneed after another, feigning surprise. A one-handed backhand winner was followed by a chest-out, double-fisted arm pumping.

That last move was contagious. Graf, after acing Zvereva, responded with a similar move.

"Definitely, I would say I had some fun [there]," said Graf, adding that such digressions won't become habit.

"That is not me," she said, "but it was at that moment."

Also Wednesday, third-seeded Jana Novotna defeated eighth-seeded Anke Huber 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 to earn a shot against Graf, set for tonight in the stadium.


* Women's semifinals: Steffi Graf (2) vs. Jana Novotna (3); Gabriela Sabatini (5) vs. Kimiko Date (7).

* Men's quarterfinals: Pete Sampras (1) vs. Andrei Medvedev (10); Mats Wilander vs. Jonas Bjorkman.
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post #3307 of 6247 (permalink) Old Mar 1st, 2014, 03:44 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Not much coverage of Graf vs. Novotna due to it being 1) a night match and 2) the other dramatic matches. I can imagine Jana thinking to herself: "On a day like today, I will not even try to take a lead and maybe it will work!" And Steffi, dangerously genre savvy as ever, saying: "I see what you're doing. Nice try, but not today."

The Star-Ledger
Newark, NJ
Friday, March 24, 1995

KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. - Pete Sampras, living up to his billing as the No. 1 player in the world, needed some brilliant shotmaking in the closing games to escape with a three-set quarterfinal victory last night in the $4.1 million Lipton Championships.

Sampras, who is seeking to become the first player to win three straight Lipton titles, blew a 4-2 lead in the second set before rallying for a 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 victory over tenth-seeded Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine and earning a standing ovation from the crowd of 13,000 at the tennis center in Crandon Park.

The 23-year-old Sampras launched some spectacular strokes as he broke back from 2-3 and 3-4 deficits in the final set. Medvedev also had a shot for a 4-1 lead with three break points in the fifth game.

"I got discouraged when I fell behind after getting off to a fast start, but the fans lifted my spirits," said Sampras, who got hit with an audible obscenity before turning the match around by winning the final three games.

"I could have easily lost this match and I told Andrei (Medvedev) at the net afterwards that he should have won."

The shot of the match was a return by Sampras, who raced from one end of the court to the other to catch up with a well-placed high volley. He skied it and a stunned Medvedev smashed the ball wide to make it 4-4. A few more distinguished retrieves in the ninth and 10th games and Sampras was home free.

Sampras has a semifinal date tonight with Jonas Bjorkman, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with a great comeback of his own. In a battle of unseeded Swedish players, Bjorkman rallied from a 2-5 deficit in the final set with three straight service breaks and defeated 30-year-old Mats Wilander, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.

The other men's semifinal pairs the quarterfinal winners Wednesday, No. 2 Andre Agassi and No. 12 Magnus Larsson of Sweden in a day clash.

Steffi Graf, the second seed, arrived in the women's final as expected, but not long-time rival Gabriela Sabatini. Instead, Graf, the defender, will be battling No. 7 Kimiko Date of Japan tomorrow for a $205,000 top prize.

Graf had early problems in a night semi against No. 3 Jana Novotna, dropping her first two service games. She won the only straight-setter on the program, topping Novotna for the 23rd time in 26 meetings, 6-2, 7-5, on a sixth match point.

A daytime audience of 11,635 witnessed an amazing semifinal collapse by the No. 5 Sabatini, who never could have envisioned a disaster that would rival the one she endured at the 1993 French Open.

Sabatini, tiring badly, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after holding a 6-1, 5-1 lead against Date, who turned it around for a shocking 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4) decision in 3:05.

Two years ago in Paris, Sabatini held a 6-1, 5-1, match point lead in the quarterfinals against Mary Joe Fernandez and lost, 1-6, 7-6, 10-8.

Sabatini, facing a net that must have appeared 10 feet high at times, committed 18 double faults - nine in each of the last two sets.

Although she was probably the only one in the stadium who felt that way, Sabatini must have had an inkling of the impending defeat that awaited her despite the overwhelming lead she forged.

"When I was ahead, 6-1, 5-1, I didn't feel very good, like I was close to winning the match," recalled the 1989 Lipton winner.

It was ironic that Date, who received treatment at courtside for a chronic shoulder problem and played in obvious pain, appeared the stronger at the end.

There was erratic play from both sides of the net - 60 percent of the shots concluding on unforced errors. Date made 79 and Sabatini 69.

Each player seemed bent on giving away the match. Date pulled even in the second set tie-breaker when Sabatini double faulted on a match point. The rash of miscues continued in the final set, which opened with seven successive service breaks and ended with an 11-point tie-breaker game that had nine mini-breaks.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The Sabatini-Date match did not help the WTA's cause. Ugly, ugly match.

The Times
Trenton, NJ
Friday, March 24, 1995
STEVEN WINE, Associated Press

All of a sudden at the Lipton Championships, a good lead is hard to hold.

Gabriela Sabatini was ahead 6-1, 5-1 - and lost.

Mats Wilander led 5-2 in the third set - and lost.

Andrei Medvedev went up 3-1 and 4-3 in the third set - and lost to top-ranked Pete Sampras.

"I told him at the net he probably should have beat me," Sampras said. "But as the matches all went today, I guess a lead wasn't a good omen."

Even Steffi Graf blew a 5-2 lead in the second set, but she regrouped to beat Jana Novotna 6-2, 7-5.

Near the end, pacing behind the baseline, Sabatini actually put her hand to her throat.

Sabatini, in a collapse almost identical to her 1993 French Open failure, double- faulted 18 times, squandered three match points and lost to ailing Kimiko Date in Thursday's semifinals.

Date, bothered by a sore shoulder that hindered her serve and forehand, nonetheless rallied to win 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4).

"When it was 5-1 (in the second set), I didn't feel very good," Sabatini said. "I was close to winning the match, but that wasn't the feeling I got."

Date likewise looked less than confident.

"I never thought of winning," she said, "until the last point."

The lead Sabatini blew was identical to her 6-1, 5-1 advantage over Mary Joe Fernandez in the quarterfinals of the 1993 French Open. Fernandez survived five match points to win 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 10-8, and Sabatini's career went into a prolonged skid thereafter.

"That match is over," she said. "I'm over it. I wasn't thinking about that."

Date's injury, a strained rotator cuff, could handicap her in the final Saturday against Graf. Date probably will be able to play, WTA Tour trainer Jill Gresley said.

The injury has bothered her for about four years, and she aggravated it earlier in the tournament.

"I always have this problem," said Date, seeded seventh. "Once I have enough rest, I can go on."

Date's 3-hour, 5-minute duel with Sabatini was far from an artistic success for either player. On a hot, sunny afternoon, the restless crowd moaned, groaned and even laughed at the poor quality of shot-making.

There were a numbing 148 unforced errors - 79 by Date and 69 by Sabatini. But the 115-pound Date stayed fresher in the 85-degree heat.

"Physically she was much better than me," Sabatini said. "That was the difference."

The fifth-seeded Sabatini's double faults all came in the final two sets. She double-faulted to lose the second-set tiebreaker, then did it again to lose the second, sixth and 10th games of the final set, giving up the lead each time.

"I had some double faults at important moments, probably being a little nervous and losing my concentration," Sabatini said.

As Sabatini fell behind in the second tiebreaker, she wandered near the baseline, looking stunned and exhausted and rubbing her throat with her right hand.

Earlier she had appeared on her way to an easy win, especially when Date called for a trainer to attend to her aching right shoulder at the end of the first set. Date clutched her shoulder almost every time she missed a serve or hit an unforced error.

She began to play better in the second game of the second set, which went to 11 deuces and took 18 minutes. Still, Sabatini won the game.

But at 5-1, playing before a partisan crowd a few blocks from her home, Sabatini began to fold.

She regrouped to lead 6-5 and then had two match points, but hit a service return long and a backhand into the net. She made three unforced errors and two double faults in the second-set tiebreaker.

Sabatini's final match point came at 5-4 in the third set, and she hit a backhand into the net. In the last tiebreaker she netted three shots from the baseline, hit a forehand long, double-faulted twice and finished with a wild forehand that landed wide to give Date the victory.

Sabatini waited 75 minutes before meeting with reporters. There was no temper tantrum in the locker room, though.

"I don't break anything," she said grimly. "I take it a little more inside."

Sampras shook off a code violation for arguing a call and rallied past Medvedev 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4. In the third set, Medvedev led 3-1 and had three break-point chances before Sampras came back.

Unseeded Swede Jonas Bjorkman celebrated his 23rd birthday by beating 30-year-old Mats Wilander 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.

In the semifinals, Sampras plays Bjorkman tonight and second-ranked Andre Agassi met No. 12 Magnus Larsson this afternoon.

Medvedev had Sampras literally backed into a corner, and the world's No. 1 player escaped.

Trailing 3-4 on break point in the final set, Sampras raced off the court to chase down an angled volley and won the point to even the score at 4-all.

"Pete did everything to get the ball back, and he deserves it," Medvedev said.

Sampras scrambled toward the stands, stretched and managed a high, deep forehand lob into the opposite corner, prompting a roar from the crowd of 13,000.

Parche caught in act

HAMBURG, Germany - Monica Seles' assailant was trying to stab her a second time before he was overwhelmed by guards, witnesses told a German court yesterday.

The testimony could prove damaging to the strategy taken in court by the defense for the assailant, Guenter Parche.

However, the judge questioned the credibility of the testimony, saying all four witnesses had given different statements when they were questioned by police after the attack at a 1993 tennis tournament.

The issue is crucial as the court tries to determine whether Parche intended to kill the tennis star or only to hurt her, as he claims, and with how much force he struck.

Parche, 40, is being retried for the stabbing that has interrupted Seles' career.

Ranked No. 1 in the world at the time, Seles has not played competitively since the attack. The half-inch deep wound healed quickly, but Seles, now 21, says she has been unable to overcome the emotional impact of the stabbing.

During the first trial in October 1993, Parche was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm. But because of what the court called his "highly abnormal personality" and diminished responsibility, he was given a suspended two-year sentence and went free.

Lawyers for Seles, who is a co-plaintiff, and the prosecution appealed, and the case was sent to a higher court.

Parche has said he plunged a kitchen knife into Seles' back with limited force because his only intention was to sideline her long enough for Steffi Graf to regain the No. 1 ranking.

Witness Manfred Groppel, a marshal at the tennis court at the time of the attack, testified that he grabbed Parche by his trousers as he raised the knife, holding it with both fists.

Groppel said he reduced the force of the blow by grabbing Parche. Groppel also said he had an impression that Parche wanted to strike Seles again.

Witnesses Mathias Holtorf and Christian Werle, who were spectators, also told the court that Parche was holding the knife with two hands and appeared to try to stab Seles a second time.

Judge Gertraut Goering reminded all three witnesses that in their statements to police after the attack, all three had said that Parche had stabbed Seles with one hand.

Karsten Malessa, who was working as a volunteer at the tournament, said a balustrade at the edge of the court had blunted Parche's blow.

The judge said she was amazed that Malessa had failed to mention such details in his statement to police in 1993.

Parche's defense lawyer, Otmar Kury, accused Seles' lawyer, Gerhard Strate, of coaching Malessa.

The trial resumes Tuesday. A verdict is expected April 3.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

So the next time you read one of the Sorority Sisters bash Steffi (or the other top players of the era) for "not reaching out to Monica," remember that they themselves could not get in touch with her.

Friday, March 24, 1995

Monica Seles is not coming back to tennis any time soon, and maybe not at all. Any notion based on recent news reports that she's ready to go back on court is greatly exaggerated.

Billie Jean King, captain of the U.S. Fed Cup team, talked to Seles on the telephone Wednesday night and came away with three distinct conclusions.

"She doesn't know if she will ever play again. It is one of her dreams to play Fed Cup and to be in the Olympics. And she still loves tennis," King said.

The two talked for an undisclosed length of time. King would not elaborate except to say it was longer than two minutes.

"I think deep down she probably does want to really play again," King said. But, she added, "Right now, she really does not know, so I think it behooves us to give her time and be patient, so that is what I am going to do."

The two women have been trying to hold a phone conversation for two years, King said. But it has not been easy. "It is a long process to get to her," King said. "Very long."

That's something Steffi Graf has found out. She tried several times and was rebuffed. Graf hasn't talked to Seles since she was stabbed by a German fanatic in Hamburg two years ago [sic].

When it was learned two days ago that King and Seles would talk there was hope Seles had decided to make her comeback at the April 22-23 Fed Cup against Austria at Turnberry Isle in Aventura.

But apparently the need to talk to King was simply to impart her current feelings to someone she trusts.

There is no way Seles now can play the first round of the Fed Cup, even if she made a sudden decision to return to tennis. The team was named Thursday. But King said she would talk to Seles again and ask her again before the second and third rounds.

Navratilova on U.S. team

King announced what everyone suspected, that her team for the Austria tie would be Lindsay Davenport, Mary Joe Fernandez, Martina Navratilova and Gigi Fernandez.

Davenport, who came down with the flu this week, will probably be healthy in a month, but Mary Joe Fernandez, who is still largely confined to bed, is always a question mark.

Davenport and Navratilova are probably the strongest singles players on the squad. Though Navratilova is no longer on the WTA Tour, King says she works out daily and "looks great."

Best doubles team? Probably Davenport and Gigi Fernandez.

There are only about 2,000 seats at Turnberry and they may have to expand. Ticket sales are reportedly very strong and are expected to pick up even more in the two weeks prior to the event.

For ticket information and sales call 1-305-933-6925.

Graf closes in on No. 1 Sanchez

Graf can't regain the No. 1 ranking, even if she wins Lipton, but she will be tantalizingly close. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will start next week with an average of 299.4 and Graf will be at 298.8.

Under the ranking system, players have to defend points gained at tournaments one year ago. Neither Graf nor Sanchez Vicario played next week a year ago and have no points to defend. But Graf is taking the week off and Sanchez Vicario is playing at Hilton Head, S.C., where she can expand her lead. Graf's next tournament is at Houston, April 10-16.

Pierce's mission: French Open

Mary Pierce emerged from the clay courts in Bradenton long enough to conduct a telephone press conference Thursday and explained that she passed on Lipton because she is dedicating herself to winning the French Open and wants as much practice time on clay as possible. The French Open is two months away and there are several players at Lipton who also would love to win the French but who thought it was important to play one of the most important tournaments on the schedule. ... The Sunday men's final is sold out.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Originally Posted by Ms. Anthropic View Post

Said Zvereva: "Every time we meet, basically she either plays extremely well, or well. Hopefully by the end of my tennis career, maybe I will win."
That was profetic.
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TENNIS: Date's appointment with Graf
The Independent
London, England
Saturday, March 25, 1995
JOHN ROBERTS reports Key Biscayne

A player with an injured shoulder stands between Steffi Graf and the distinction of becoming only the second woman in the history of the sport to amass more than $15m (£10m) in prize-money (Martina Navratilova retired last year after winning $20.3m).

Assuming that Kimiko Date is fit to play in the women's singles final at the Lipton Championships here today, the Japanese seventh seed must hope that the defending champion breaks the habit of a lifetime and capitulates in the manner of Gabriela Sabatini.

Telephone calls to Miami 6151 prompt a recorded message from the Argentinian: "Sorry, but I'm out." The number represents the lead Sabatini squandered in losing to Date in the semi-finals here on Thursday and also, it may be remembered, when playing Mary Joe Fernandez at the 1993 French Open.

Greg Cote, writing in the Miami Herald, suggested that a limited edition porcelain Gaby Doll, currently on the market, double-faults when you wind it up. Sabatini hit a staggering 18 and contributed 69 unforced errors to a total of 148 as Date came back to win, 1-6, 7-6, 7-6.

"My shoulder is painful," Date said. "I never thought of winning until the last point, because my condition was really bad." It is hoped that a day's rest will enable her to compete against Graf.

A strained right rotator-cuff muscle, which has troubled Date periodically for four years, but has not precluded her from winning more than $1m, recurred while she was practising at the beginning of the week.

Though naturally left-handed, Date was forced to play right-handed as a child because in Japan it is considered unladylike for women to hit the ball left-handed. Though she occasionally hits shots left-handed during rallies, she lacks the technique and confidence to switch to left-handed serves in the manner of the ambidextrous American, Luke Jensen.

Graf knows about pain. A chronic problem with the lower back has prompted her to wear a support during matches. None the less, the world No 2 has won her 13 matches this year without the loss of a set.

Her form was close to perfection when she defeated Austria's Judith Wiesner, 6-0, 6-1, in the fourth round on Tuesday. Afterwards, Graf said she would welcome Monica Seles back to the tour with a joint No 1 ranking, since when, ironically, an edge of nervousness has permeated the German's play, as if her rival's return were imminent.

Errors punctuated Graf's quarter-final against Natasha Zvereva, and were a feature of a 6-2, 7-5 victory requiring five match points against Jana Novotna in the semi-finals.

Both Graf and Novotna were irritated by some of the line calls, and the crowd voiced their sympathy with the Czech when she was warned for time wasting in the fifth game. Novotna merely had walked to the back of the court to mop her brow before Graf prepared to serve after the second deuce.

Andre Agassi swept through a third-set tie-break, 7-1, to advance tomorrow's men's singles final with a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 win against Sweden's Magnus Larsson. Agassi primed himself for the shoot-out by winning the 10th game with an ace followed by a spectacular running forehand across court.

Larsson, who won their only previous encounter, in the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam Cup in Munich last December, became the first player to take a set off Agassi in five matches this week. But when the Swede double-faulted for 1-4 in the tie-break, his prospects evaporated.

Agassi blamed a swirling wind for some "strange, unpredictable tennis", and described Larsson as "a very lethargic player who is one of the best shot-makers in tennis, which is an odd combination".

LIPTON CHAMPIONSHIPS (Key Biscayne, Florida) Men's quarter-finals: P Sampras (US) bt A Medvedev (Ukr) 6-1 6-7 6-4; J Bjorkman (Swe) bt M Wilander (Swe) 6-2 1-6 7-5. Semi-final: A Agassi (US) M Larsson (Swe) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6. Women's quarter-final: K Date (Japan) bt G Sabatini (Arg) 1-6 7-6 7-6. Semi-final: S Graf (Ger) bt J Novotna (Cz Rep) 6-2 7-5.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Another final with a strong possibility of a blowout match or even a walkover.

The Miami Herald
Saturday, March 25, 1995
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN, Herald Sports Writer

Some things you might not know about Kimiko Date, Japan's female tennis phenom who meets Steffi Graf in the Lipton Championships women's final at 1 p.m. today:

* Her favorite Miami restaurant is Matsuri in the Red Bird Shopping Center -- Bird Road and Southwest 57th Avenue.

* Her recipe for riceballs is to grab a handful of rice, add soy-seasoned plum in the center groove and wrap it with dry seaweed paper.

* She is a natural lefty who changed to the right side as a youngster by a grandfather who told her "it's not ladylike" to play left-handed. (Watch this match very carefully and you'll notice how she occasionally hits left-handed.)

* She became the first Japanese woman in 21 years to reach a grand slam semifinal at the '94 Australian Open, where she lost to Graf, 6-3, 6-3.

Date (pronounced DAH-Tay), 24, the world's ninth-ranked woman, is 14-2 in matches this year, and 172-73 since turning pro in 1989. She has five WTA Tour singles titles.

Graf, a German who has a home in Boca Raton, has 88 career WTA Tour titles, 15 of them in grand slams. She is a three-time Lipton winner and has a 732-88 overall record.

Date has played No. 2 Graf four times since 1992, losing each time. The first time, at the Lipton on Key Biscayne, she made it a thriller, going down, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-4.

But don't expect that to happen today. Date has a strained right rotator cuff, which she clutched in agony nearly the entire three-hour marathon semifinal Thursday against Gabriela Sabatini.

Graf, at 25 the defending Lipton champion, had a tough warmup in fifth-ranked Jana Novotna Thursday. In the round-of-16s last Tuesday, Graf made seven unforced errors against 20th-ranked Judith Wiesner in 41 minutes.

Thursday, Date made 79 unforced errors against Sabatini.

Graf hits fireballs and serves at 100 miles per hour. Date hits deep, angled groundstrokes and serves at about 75 mph.

In getting to the final, Date defeated the fifth seed, 25th and 27th seeds, plus two unseeded players.

Graf's five victories included the third, sixth and 13th seeds.

"I am maybe a little bit surprised playing against Kimiko," Graf said. "I thought Gaby (Sabatini) was playing pretty well right now and knowing that Kimiko had problems with her shoulder . . .

"Her shoulder obviously is a problem, but she won (Thursday) and played three long sets. So it can't be that bad."

Date did not choose to discuss her final matchup.

"I am not especially thinking about an opponent," she said, "but trying to just do my best play."
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Steffi is, once again, second on the fastest serve list for the tournament with 107 miles per hour; Debbie Graham was first with 109 mph. Humorously, Pete Sampras is also second on the men's list, tied with Jared Palmer at 124 miles per hour. Shuzo Matsuoka was first with 126 mph.

Saturday, March 25, 1995

Steffi Graf is not only recovered from her back injury, she's perfect.

She goes into today's Lipton final against seventh-seeded Kimiko Date with a 13-0 won-lost record for the year and without the loss of a set.

It's Graf's opponents that are hurting.

Date has a strained rotator cuff in her right (hitting) shoulder that left her in pain throughout her semifinal win over Gabriela Sabatini. And in Graf's last final, at Delray Beach, she defeated Conchita Martinez, who played with a strained hip muscle.

After a night of what was described as total rest Thursday, Date took a series of therapy treatments on Friday - electrical stimulation, ice and soft-tissue massage. She did not practice, but spokeswomen said she is "definite" to play.

The match begins at 1 p.m.

Graf has been through too many tournaments to map strategy based on an injury, however. "Her shoulder obviously is a problem, but she won and she played three long sets [against Sabatini), so it can't be that bad," she said.

Her coach, Heinz Gunthardt, laughs off any idea of a game plan, anyway.

"Steffi comes out to play her game. It's the opponent that has to adjust," he said.

Graf, seeking her 88th WTA Tour tournament title, came to Lipton as the No. 2 player in the world behind Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. She will depart in the same position, even if she wins.

She was not pressed until her quarterfinal match against sixth-seeded Natasha Zvereva, whom she beat 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). Then she disposed of third-seeded Jana Novotna in the semis, beating her for the 12th time in a row.

Date, a disciplined baseliner, has had some rough matches, and that was before she hurt her shoulder. She needed tiebreaks to beat Miriam Oremans and went three grueling, mistake-filled sets with Sabatini, staying on court 3 hours and 5 minutes.

Graf is seeking her second straight Lipton championship and fourth overall. She also won in 1987 and 1988.

Davis Cup team departs

U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson and his doubles team of Jared Palmer and Richey Reneberg are leaving for Sicily today and singles players Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are leaving Monday, the day after the final. The team should be in Palermo, preparing for Italy, by late Tuesday. That will give the team more than two days to shake the jet lag for the Friday-Sunday Cup tie. ...

Lipton attendance through the Friday day session was 176,999, approximately 2,000 above the 1994 attendance at this point. ...

Tournament organizers appealed to fans attending today's women's final and Sunday's men's final to get to the grounds as early as possible to avoid a traffic crush. Today's final begins at 1 p.m. The men's final starts at noon. ...

Twenty-two linespeople, prohibited from working Lipton until the INS makes a ruling on their visas, will not work a day here. The ATP, which regulates lines-people, had hoped for a quick INS ruling earlier this week, but the agency advised Lipton its work will take longer.
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TENNIS; Graf Easily Beats Date For Third Title of 1995
March 26, 1995
New York Times

On an otherwise hot and hazy afternoon, the defending champion Steffi Graf turned a cold shoulder on an opponent with a sore shoulder and captured her third title of 1995 with a businesslike 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Kimiko Date of Japan in the final of the Lipton Championships.

The victory left the second-ranked Graf six-tenths of a computer point behind top-ranked Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, and the 25-year-old German's $205,000 winner's check nudged her career earnings beyond the $15 million mark, making her second in income only to Martina Navratilova.

By humbling the seventh-seeded Date for the fifth time in as many confrontations, this time in just 78 minutes, Graf stretched her 1995 undefeated streak to 14 matches.

"She is very strong," said Date, who escaped from a 6-1, 5-1 deficit against Gabriela Sabatini and made an epic comeback in their 3-hour-5-minute semifinal. But the best Date could manage today was to improve a 5-2 second-set deficit to 5-4. Her 38 unforced errors and her inability to convert more than 2 of the 6 break points she earned against Graf's serve conspired against a final-round upset.

The victim of a strained rotator cuff in her right shoulder, Date was able to play today's match only after a battery of treatment that included massage, electronic stimulation, anti-inflammatory drugs and a pain-deadening analgesic cream.

Originally a left-hander, Date switched to playing right-handed at the behest of her grandfather, who prevailed upon her to switch for gentility's sake. It didn't matter which hand gripped the racquet today because she couldn't quite counterpunch with enough accuracy to threaten Graf. Though Date welcomed the German's pace, which she duly absorbed and re-channeled back across the net, she was inconsistent in her efforts, particularly in the first set, where forehand errors were her downfall.

The only woman to twice defend a Lipton title, Graf claimed the opening set with a sneaky forehand drop shot and immediately broke Date in the first game of the second set. But the underdog converted her fourth break point in the next game after Graf overhit a forehand.

"She started to play much better tennis, running around, playing deep, and things got a little more difficult," said Graf. "She has very good stamina, that's why she has the ability to use the power of your pace."

But Graf's pace eventually proved overwhelming. She assumed a 5-2 lead in the second set, and even though Date broke her at love the first time she served for the match and then saved a match point against her own serve, Graf's second attempt to serve out the final accomplished her end.

After a delayed start on the season due to lingering back pain and a brand new bout of leg trouble, a condition that cost Graf her opportunity to defend her 1994 Australian Open title, Graf has won all three tournaments she has entered. The only sign of discomfort today was a slight reluctance to chase some of Date's corner-bound shots and six double faults.


STEFFI GRAF sent an impromptu televised message to MONICA SELES after the match, assuring her that she is missed and imploring her to return to the WTA Tour . . . In the men's final on Sunday, top-ranked PETE SAMPRAS and second-ranked ANDRE AGASSI will stage their same-time-next-year reprise of last year's event, not to mention meet in their third final of the year. Sampras, who is seeking his third consecutive Lipton title, leads the overall rivalry by 8-6, but they are 1-1 in 1995. Agassi prevented Sampras from repeating as the Australian Open's champion in January but couldn't separate him from his Indian Wells title two weeks ago. "We basically know what each other's going to do; it's just a matter of who does it better and who feels better Sunday morning," said Sampras. "I hope I feel better than I did last year." Last year, Sampras woke up sick on the morning of the final here, and Agassi chivalrously allowed the nauseated defending champion extra hours to recover before the match was played.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

That 16 point game was just a warm-up for Wimbledon.

The Star-Ledger
Newark, NJ
Sunday, March 26, 1995

KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. - Steffi Graf added a new name to her long list of title-round victims yesterday and maintained an unblemished record for 1995.

Graf won for the 89th time in a spectacular career, turning back Japanese star Kimiko Date, 6-1, 6-4, in a 78-minute Lipton Championships final at the tennis center in Crandon Park. The victory marked her fourth Lipton title.

Graf made a successful defense, but the outing was not one of her best title-round showings. She committed 29 unforced errors, including six double faults, to only 11 winners, a poor ratio for the long-time champion.

While there was little doubt before or during the match about the outcome - Graf is 5-0 against Date - there's more suspense surrounding the men's final today between No. 1-ranked Pete Sampras and No. 2 Andre Agassi. Sampras holds an 8-6 edge in their series.

Graf, ranked No. 2 in the world, closed the gap to the slimmest of margins in her drive to overtake current leader Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. The Spanish player, a third-round loser, has a computer standing of 299.4426 while Graf moved to 298.8213.

Graf picked up a purse of $205,000 to scale the $15 million mark. Date, who moved up in the rankings one notch to No. 8, settled for $103,000.

Much of the drama in the women's field was eliminated by the upset of Sanchez Vicario in the third round and the absence from the field of Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Conchita Martinez and Jennifer Capriati.

Graf, the 1994 champion, set a Lipton record with her triumph, and Sampras has a chance to record another if he beats Agassi. Graf became the first to win this tournament four times while the men's defender will be seeking to become the first to win the Lipton title three years in a row.

Graf, trailing only retirees Martina Navratilova (167) and Chris Evert (157) on the list of tournament winners, captured her third title of the season.

Graf, though pushed a bit in the second set when she had her service game broken twice, has not lost a set this year in 14 matches. Last year she didn't lose until her winning streak hit 36 matches.

"I was a little nervous, but it felt great playing out there," Graf said.

Date, who rallied from a near impossible situation against Gabriela Sabatini in the semifinals, played well late in the match after losing seven of the first eight games. Sabatini fell apart with 18 double faults after holding a 6-1, 5-1 lead.

"I tried my best, but Steffi was too good," said Date, holding her first interview in English. "No chance to win. I couldn't do anything."

That wasn't exactly true. date managed to keep Graf off balance at times by taking the ball on the rise for quickly paced shots and ended up keeping her on the court longer than expected after a slow start.

Date had a tough time establishing her game. Graf, who has made it a habit during the past decade for quick matches, seemed bent on producing another after a 28-minute first set.

Graf didn't experience much pressure as Date made the crucial mistake of playing a loose first set. A restless stadium crowd of 12,600 sensed another of those lopsided matches in the making, especially after Graf opened the second set with a service break.

"She tried to do too much with the ball," Graf said. "But she played a better second set, running well and hitting deep. It got more difficult for me."

Date, who hits flat shots off both sides and has excellent foot speed, started getting the range as she broke back in a long second game, 16 points and nine minutes.

There was a slight ray of hop for Date a game later when she held to 2-1. That slim lead in the 47th minute of play proved to be her only lead of the match.

Graf, who had been struggling with her first serve and finished with only a 53 percent first-serve accuracy, picked up a little steam and ran off four games to a 5-2 lead. During one stretch, she won 10 of 12 points.

Graf led, 6-1, 5-2, similar to Sabatini's overwhelming lead against Date. For a brief moment - two games - Date relived her dramatic comeback of Thursday. She broke Graf at love, launching two whipping returns and gaining two points on unforced errors.

"I served well but she made some incredible shots," Graf said.

Date then fought off a break point and trimmed Graf's lead to 5-4. The Japanese player got as far as 15-30 on Graf's serve in the 10th game.

Unlike Sabatini, Graf met the challenge head on. Enough was enough, declared the defender. She drew even on a service point, outduelled Date in a rally for a break point and followed with another big serve with a deep forehand that forced a match-ending error.

Graf, a member of the Top 10 rankings list since 1985, drew a first-round bye before beating Ginger Helgeson Nielsen, 6-2, 6-3; Maureen Drake, 6-1, 6-2; Judith Wiesner, 6-0, 6-1; Natasha Zvereva, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5); and Jana Novotna 6-2, 7-5, enroute to yesterday's title duel with Date.

In the men's doubles final, the Australian team of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde beat Jim Grabb and Patrick McEnroe, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3). The victory was Woodforde's 24th in 28 finals. They split $133,000.
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