Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
ITALIAN WOMEN'S FIELD SEES UPSETS OF GRAF, SANCHEZ VICARIO
The Charlotte Observer
May 11, 1996
VICTOR SIMPSON, Associated Press
ROME -- Steffi Graf was eliminated from the Italian Open yesterday by talented 15-year-old Martina Hingis, touted as a possible successor some day Graf as the world's No. 1 woman player.
Hingis won the quarterfinal match 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, sending Graf to her first tournament loss in seven months and her first on clay since the 1994 French Open.
''I don't know what happened out there,'' said Graf after a frustrating afternoon marked by error and indecision.
Another upset victim was No. 3 seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who fell to No. 7 Irina Spirlea of Romania 6-4, 6-3. Spirlea will meet Hingis in one of today's semifinals. In the other, No. 2 seed Conchita Martinez, seeking a record fourth consecutive Italian title, will face No. 4 Iva Majoli, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Nathalie Tauziat in a night match.
MARTINEZ NEEDED three sets to get by No. 5 Magdalena Maleeva 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 for the Spaniard's 18th straight win on the Foro Italico courts.
The 26-year-old Graf is coming back from foot surgery and has played only two tournaments this year, winning both on cement. But she looked sharp against the sixth-seeded Swiss in the first set, needing only 30 minutes to nail it down.
Then she began a steady drift into backhand errors and found her famed forehand was neither powerful nor accurate enough to bail her out in the rallies. ''I just never found the patience to go for the right shots,'' said Graf, who blamed a lack of preparation on the slow surface. ''I've lost a lot of confidence here.''
Graf suffered her first tournament loss since falling to Mariaan De Swardt in Brighton in October, 1995. She also lost in the Federation Cup to Japan's Kimiko Date last month.
To her credit, Hingis did not give anything away to the German, keeping the ball in play with deep strokes from the baseline.
''I just beat the world's No. 1, I can't describe the feeling,'' said Hingis, who's ranked 20th. ''I was lucky I played a great game today.''
LONG LOOKED at as a future star of the game, Hingis played with an impressive maturity, keeping the ball to Graf's backhand and was unafraid to go the net on occasion.
''Even after the first set, I thought I had a chance,'' said the youngster.
She also kept her temper in check, which has been a problem for the youngster. ''Better than the other times, there were no broken rackets,'' she joked.
Graf, who won her first of 18 Grand Slam titles when she was 17, was asked about Hingis as a possible No. 1. ''She has a lot of potential. It's a matter of what she does the next few years,'' the German replied.
Graf said she will not play next week in Berlin's clay court tournament, opting instead to rest ahead of the French Open later this month.
Pete Sampras and No. 4 Michael Chang have withdrawn from next week's Italian Open clay-court tennis tournament, organizers reported yesterday.
Sampras said he would not play at the major warmup for the French Open -- the lone Grand Slam he hasn't won -- because of the death last week of Tim Gullikson, his coach and close friend. "This has been a very emotional and difficult time for me and Tim's family," Sampras said. "I don't feel that I am mentally or physically prepared to give my best effort in such an important event." Gullikson died of brain cancer at the age of 44.
Chang, a semifinalist at the Foro Italico in 1995, cited a chest muscle tear. He lost at Monte Carlo last month in his opening match.