Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
And it would be an uphill battle for Gaby. Carillo's analysis of the difference between Steffi and Gaby is probably one of the most insightful things a true tennis pundit has ever publicly said. Compared with Steffi, and then with even more players as her career progressed, Gaby needed to use too much energy to win a point/game/match/tournament. And Steffi absolutely understood the concept of "The Moment" from the perspective of both personal competition and public entertainment spectacle. When the world was watching and the stakes were highest, Steffi instinctively knew that was the time to show your best stuff.
Week In Preview: Future No. 1? - Sabatini faces an uphill battle
St. Petersburg Times
Sunday, April 16, 1989
AMELIA ISLAND - Gabriela Sabatini seemingly has everything anyone could want. At 18, she is one of the best women's professional tennis players on the planet, rakes in more money than some small businesses, and has traveled to far-away places many teen-agers have only read about in school.
What's more, her dark, smoldering South American good looks have made her the Sophia Loren of the women's tour, producing a trail of endorsements and magazines begging to get her name and face on their product.
She has everything. Except, maybe, a little luck.
The Argentinian would probably own the women's circuit well into the 1990s, say many observers, if it weren't for top-ranked Steffi Graf, 19, who is 102-3 since the start of 1988 (through Friday). As it is, Sabatini will probably win her share of major tournaments, but may go down as the greatest champion who never was.
Sabatini is the top seed in the $200,000 Eckerd Open that begins Monday at Largo's Bardmoor Country Club.
''Sabatini doesn't have the ability to win a point like Graf. She has no sense of the moment, which is what Graf has over everybody else,'' said former touring pro and ESPN tennis commentator Mary Carillo during last month's Lipton International Players Championship in Key Biscayne. ''(Graf) owns it. This is where she lives. Everybody else is just trying to rent space.''
Needless to say, Sabatini's favorite number is one. Before heading out to practice Monday afternoon at the Bausch & Lomb Championships here, she reiterated her unalterable goal of one day becoming the No. 1-ranked player - Steffi Graf notwithstanding.
''(Being No. 2) is not what I want. I want to be No. 1,'' said Sabatini. ''I know it will not be easy because Steffi's there, but I don't want to stay No. 2. That's not my goal.''
Looking at their head-to-head matches, Sabatini hasn't had much of a choice. In 17 clashes with Graf, Sabatini is 2-15 - the latest a resounding 6-3, 6-0 drubbing in the Australian Open semifinals in January. (''It was like I couldn't do anything,'' Sabatini said at the time.)
And Graf is showing no signs of letting up. Coming off last year's Grand Slam season, she is 31-0 this year while, amazingly, dropping just one set.
But lately, most of the Sabatini/Graf collisions have been close, and since January 1988, Sabatini is 2-2. In those two victories, both at Florida tournaments, Sabatini attacked repeatedly with booming first serves, threading passing shots and well-timed volleys to beat the West German. She also won the mental war, staying more focused and solid when each match went to the third and deciding set.
''That's why I'm working on being mentally better. That's the key to beating Steffi,'' said Sabatini, who owns a condominium in Key Biscayne, near Miami. ''She is so strong mentally.''
And Sabatini's game has even improved since then. Her first serve has more kick and she's not running out of gas in third sets as frequently as before. Still, some experts aren't totally sold on her stamina, and they sometimes question her tactics and strategy during matches. Other observers say her second serve could stand some punch and her playing style less motion.
''She moves extremely well and hits the topspin good off both sides (backhand and forehand),'' said Hall of Famer Tony Trabert, now a CBS tennis commentator. ''She's learning to attack more which will help her. She's like a (John) McEnroe. She does a lot of different things (on the court). I would hate to tell someone that good that they can't be No. 1.''
Off the court, it's Graf who may be trailing Sabatini. According to Sabatini's agent, Dick Dell of ProServ, she's commanding millions of dollars in endorsement deals and has even raided Graf's homeland, snagging the ''Gabriela Sabatini'' line of perfume and toiletries through a West German cosmetics company. The perfume is expected to hit U.S. markets next year.
Sabatini could probably increase her marketing pull if she were more outgoing. Players and the media characterize her as being aloof and private. When asked if Sabatini was more friendly these days, Helena Sukova said: ''Maybe if she says one word before, she says two words now.'' But, Sabatini and her camp say she's just shy and extremely practical.
She sold her red BMW 325i because she was rarely in Key Biscayne to drive it. And instead of taking an airplane, she drove (a rental car) the 350 or so miles from Key Biscayne to the Bausch & Lomb Championships at Amelia Island. And she plans to drive the 200 miles from Amelia Island to Largo for the Eckerd Open, according to her agent.
''She likes to drive,'' said Patricio Apey, Jr., of ProServ. ''People think she's unfriendly, but she's not.''
''I'm very shy, very quiet,'' said Sabatini, who is comfortable speaking English. ''It's hard for me to talk with people I don't know. I need time to get used to the people. But right now, my mind is on my goal, and that is to be No. 1.''
In the meantime, women's tennis is in store for a sequel to the Evert-Navratilova rivalry of the 1970s and '80s. This one should certainly fill the 1990s and possibly stretch into the next century.
During that time, Sabatini is sure to get plenty of shots at Graf and the No. 1 ranking.
Regardless of who emerges as the victor in this two-woman war, Sabatini will undoubtedly leave her mark on the game; a mark as distinct as the imprint left in the clay by her bruising groundstrokes.
BIOGRAPHIES OF TOP SEEDS
No. 1 Gabriela Sabatini, Argentina. Ranking: 3. Age: 18. Nickname: Gaby. Achievements: Titleholder of the 1988 Virginia Slims Championships and the 1989 Lipton International Players Championships. 1988 U.S. Open finalist and three-time French Open semifinalist.
No. 2 Natalia Zvereva (pronounced ZVAIR-a-vuh), U.S.S.R. Ranking: 8. Age: 18. Achievements: 1988 French Open finalist and tour's most impressive newcomer. Has beaten Martina Navratilova three times. The 1987 World Junior Champion, winning three of the four junior Grand Slam tournaments. Likes classical music.
No. 3 Katerina Maleeva (ma-LAY-va), Bulgaria. Ranking: 10. Age: 19. Achievements: 1988 U.S. Open quarterfinalist, 1988 titleholder of the Virginia Slims of Indianapolis. Has wins over fifth-ranked Helena Sukova and seventh-ranked Pam Shriver. Sister Manuela is ranked ninth on the tour.
No. 4 Hana Mandlikova (man-LEEK-ova), Australia. Ranking: 17. Age: 27. Achievements: Once ranked third, but is on the comeback trail after a hamstring injury limited her play much of last year. Has won the Australian Open twice, the French Open and the U.S. Open. Born in Czechoslovakia, but now an Australian citizen.
No. 5 Arantxa (a-RONCH-a) Sanchez, Spain. Ranking: 18. Age: 17. Achievements: A clay-court specialist, she is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist and a finalist at last year's Eckerd Open. Won her first pro tournament (the Belgian Open) last year. Has beaten Chris Evert. One of three professional players in her family. Listens to Beatles music to relax.
No. 6 Larisa Savchenko (sav-CHENK-o), U.S.S.R. Ranking: 19. Age: 22. Achievements: 1988 U.S. Open quarterfinalist and 1988 Virginia Slims of California finalist. Excellent doubles player, winning the Virginia Slims of Indianapolis and reaching the finals of Wimbledon with partner Zvereva.
No. 7 Sandra Cecchini (cha-KEEN-e), Italy. Ranking: 21. Age: 24. Achievements: A French Open quarterfinalist in 1985. Won two minor tournaments last year. Has beaten Chris Evert and Natalia Zvereva. Likes actor Mel Gibson.
No. 8 Susan Sloane, Lexington, Ky. Ranking: 22. Age: 18. Achievements: Third full year as a pro. Won first significant tournament (Virginia Slims of Nashville) last year. Has beaten Lori McNeil. Formerly a nationally ranked junior player and ex-member of the U.S. Junior Wightman Cup team. Likes music group Duran Duran.