Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
The Sabatini-Date match did not help the WTA's cause. Ugly, ugly match.
LIPTON LEADS PROVE TOUGH TO HOLD
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.