Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
"I've done you before, haven't I?" --- Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged to Arthur Dent, Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams, 1982
Poor Rene. This is a really bad case of Getting Graffed, Type II and Type III. Of course, her travel blunder could not have helped. And still not sure if there was anything else going on behind the scenes between Steffi and the Canadian contingent, because Bassett, Kelesi, and Simpson were all awed before, during, and after playing Steffi in 1989. Then again, maybe Steffi just had an extracurricular activity planned for the rest of the evening. Or maybe Steffi was just that exhilarated by Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Years later, Simpson would reproach this article as an unfair misrepresentation of her attitude.
Graf's foe was aced by Queen
San Diego, CA
Tuesday, August 1, 1989
TO THE "It's Over Before You Know It" chapter in world history, please add the name of Rene Simpson. Place her right there with Michael Spinks and Carl "The Truth" Williams. France in '40. Hungary in '56. Mondale in '84.
The Rene Simpsons of the athletic world are fascinating creatures.
For some reason, Rene flew seven hours from her home in Toronto yesterday to "play" a tennis match against Steffi Graf at the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club. That's like walking over hot coals for seven hours to get a soda pop.
The end doesn't justify the means.
Steffi Graf doesn't "play" you. She athletically humiliates you. She knifes you with her skill. She's so good, I don't even think she could dump a game if she tried. She couldn't take a dive.
Rene Simpson, who is ranked No. 77 in the world, didn't need a lesson in tennis history to realize any of this. So the 6-0, 6-0 concert Graf played for her last night in the first round of the Great American Bank Tennis Classic -- while surely not music to Rene's ears -- hardly was ear-splitting. It came as no shock to the loser. It was women against girls.
It was expected. Certainly, just about everyone alive expected Steffi, the recent Wimbledon champion, to win. Graf thought so. And so did Rene. Really.
I don't know how many sporting events of all types I've been to, I don't know how many coaches and players and athletes I've interviewed, but last night, Rene Simpson became a first.
She sat there in the postmatch news conference and admitted that she entered the match fully expecting to lose. The way she spoke, she had a better chance of splitting an atom.
And I can't say that I've ever heard that before. Sure, I've heard coaches moan before a big game, but that's all show. Rene Simpson did not put on a show last night.
Maybe Cumberland felt that way before it played Georgia Tech; I don't know. And I'm sure athletes and teams feel that somewhere, deep down, they have no chance against a particular opponent. But I've never heard anyone actually say it.
And Rene didn't stumble into it. She repeated it more than once.
"I honestly don't know how people beat her," the 23-year-old Simpson said of Graf, who, by the way, is not undefeated for her career. "I really think it's hard for a player in this draw to realistically believe they can win. People come up to you and say, 'Too bad,' and you haven't even played the match. I don't know how you should try to approach the match."
Well, approaching it with some confidence might be one way.
Rene said maybe if she had a coach with her, someone to pump her up, she might believe otherwise, but then she dismissed that idea, too. Saying you can do it is one thing, and defeating the West German seemed as remote to her as Pluto.
"I find it hard to believe that a player really feels that way inside," she added. "Maybe that's the first step, saying it, but I haven't believed I could beat her both times I've played her."
Obviously. Rene met Graf in the Australian Open earlier this year and Steffi pitched a shutout then, too. Last night, Graf did away with Rene in 41 minutes -- officially, it was put at 51 minutes, but I think that included some of Simpson's flight time -- with Rene managing to win just 15 points. She got to deuce once.
"I wasn't, like, terrified," Rene said. "I felt pretty good tonight, not like last time, when I couldn't even get the ball on the court. But she just totally overpowers me and completely abuses my second serve."
Now some may find Simpson's attitude refreshing and honest, and I suppose it is. But it seems to me that if you enter any athletic endeavor believing you have no chance, it's time to look for another line of work. You're wasting your time. You may as well walk away, Rene.
In a way, her attitude sums up the world of women's tennis, a world that is flat, not round. Once you get past Steffi, you fall off.
Sure, there's Martina, who, in her prime, could have given Graf a great go, although Steffi is a superior talent. And there's Gabby Sabatini, who, as Graf's doubles partner, is better off on the same side of the net. It has to tell you something when Chris Evert, at 34, still can club 99 percent of the top women players in the world. Chris could play until she's 60 and still be in the top 10.
So, in tennis now, it isn't so much, "Can anybody out here beat Steffi?" but, "Does anybody out here even think they can beat Steffi?"
And that is not competition. That's getting a paycheck.
It's too bad this isn't another time, because it would be nice to see Graf face some real competition. But that isn't going to happen now. And forget about the future. Steffi's only 20.
And simply a marvelous player. She isn't Maria-Bueno smooth, but it's a pleasure to watch such a great athlete at work. She hits terrific winners off-balance. And have we ever seen anything like her leaping forehand? Certainly, no woman ever has served with such force.
"If she isn't the best ever, she's very close," says Ben Press, the longtime local tennis pro. "I'm partial, you know, toward Maureen (Connolly). Maureen had better footwork and impeccable timing -- she never mis-hit a ball. And she hit the ball hard. But Maureen couldn't serve like Steffi."
And, if you believe success and riches -- Graf's already third all-time in women's earnings -- may slow her down, guess again. She loves what she's doing. She loves to play, be it against Martina or Rene.
"I'm not bored," Steffi said. Her way is to be consistent, to play the best she can -- as close to perfection as she can -- every time she steps on the court. Obviously, she competes against herself.
"Never," she said, when asked if it's tough to get fired up for matches such as last night's. "I always look forward to a tournament. If it's the U.S. Open or any tournament. I take it just as serious as any tournament."
She obviously didn't have much to worry about last night. "Didn't seem like it," Steffi said when asked if she had any problems with Rene.
"I understand she loves to play against me," Rene said. "Maybe that's why I don't win a game against her."
Just a guess, but maybe part of the reason why Rene Simpson can't win a game against such a great talent is because she doesn't think she can.
She's the little tennis player who couldn't.