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post #211 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:31 PM
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Re: 1992

Wimbledon showdowns - WOMEN:
St. Petersburg Times
Friday, July 3, 1992

They're getting on Monica Seles at Wimbledon. It's the grunting thing again.

Journalists call her "Moanica.'' Fans shout, "Shut up, Monica!'' Players are complaining to the All England Club that her sound effects are distracting.

A bit of advice: Better come up with something else - and fast because Seles, grunts and all, is one victory away from the Wimbledon title and the third leg of tennis' Grand Slam.

It's a telling sign when Seles brings down nine-time Wimbledon queen Martina Navratilova as she did in Thursday's semifinal, 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4. If there were any lingering doubts about Seles' grass-court ability, that ought to dispel them.

"I never felt that I hadn't mastered grass. I think a lot of people just kind of always tried to say that about me,'' said Seles, who had only gotten as far as the quarterfinals here before this year. "I've always felt comfortable on it.''

Seles' Grand Slam winning streak, which includes the Australian and French Open titles, is at 41 matches and counting. Only Steffi Graf, who thumped rival Gabriela Sabatini 6-3, 6-3 in Thursday's other semifinal, can stop Seles now.

Saturday's Wimbledon final is a rematch of last month's epic French Open final, which Seles won 10-8 in the deciding set. Graf leads their series 5-3.

No doubt the continuing subplot of Seles' sounds will come up again.

On Thursday, Navratilova twice complained to chair umpire Fran McDowell about Seles' grunting during play, and twice McDowell asked Seles to keep it down - once embarrassingly summoning Seles over the loudspeaker. Two days ago, Nathalie Tauziat complained during her quarterfinal loss to Seles.

"It just gets louder and louder. You cannot hear the ball being hit,'' Navratilova said. "I was on my heels a couple of times because I thought she hit it hard and she didn't. She stopped when she was cautioned (by McDowell), and then she progressively got worse again.''

Seles says she has been grunting since 1988, yet no one has publicly complained during a match until now. Seles is not the only player who grunts. Katerina Maleeva, for one, has been known to grunt when her opponent hits the ball.

Further, Tauziat and Navratilova made their complaints when they were losing. So is it just gamesmanship, a ploy to somehow trip up the player who has taken her past five Grand Slam tournaments and is No. 1 in the world?

"Yes,'' says Seles, who maintains she's trying to stop grunting. "When I was No. 5 or 6, not too many people noticed anything. But as soon as you are No. 1, it's like everything you do is double.''

The counterpoint from Navratilova: "Her argument is that she is not doing it on purpose, but she can stop it, you know. I was practicing next to her. She doesn't make any noise when she is practicing. But you know, I don't want to take anything away from Monica. Grunting or not, she is a great player.''

The third set was a battle of two great players trying to exert their wills. Seles broke Navratilova's serve to go up 4-2 and 5-3, only to lose her serve the next game.

Navratilova's pressure-packed charges to the net had much to do with it. That's how she squeezed the second-set tiebreaker out of Seles, forcing Seles to pass her or be passed.

On Seles' second match point, at 5-4 of the third set, she found the hole and ripped a running passing shot up the line that escaped a lunging Navratilova.

"I had my chances,'' Navratilova said. "I could have won if I had just believed a little more.

"She is certainly the best player right now. A couple of times just the pace of her ball beat me. You just don't see it.''

"I had so many chances to win the match, and it almost slipped away from me. Martina kept coming back,'' Seles said. "I had a tough time a little bit, but there are just so many emotions in the third set when it's 4-2 and you have a point to go up 5-2, and Martina comes to the net and you miss by this much (holding up her thumb and index finger) clearing the net or she hits a winner by this much.

"I was really happy when it was over.''

That goes ditto for Sabatini, who lost to Graf for the first time since last year's Wimbledon final.

If Graf tried it, it worked. She hit on 80 percent of her first serves (they averaged 93 mph) and repeatedly burned Sabatini with her crackling forehand. Graf was in control throughout, so much so that Sabatini never held a break point on Graf's serve.

"It was one of the best matches I have ever seen from her,'' Sabatini said. "I mean, she was putting all the first serves in and I didn't have much of a chance.

"I was trying to do different things. Sometimes, I just felt like I didn't know what to do. I tried to come to the net and well, just nothing happened.''

Even in defeat, there was nothing to sour Navratilova's appetite for Wimbledon, where she holds the record for singles titles.

"I am planning on being here again next year,'' she said.
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post #212 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:31 PM
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Re: 1992

They're making a lot of noise at Wimbledon - Seles turns up volume, will play Graf in final
The Sun
Friday, July 3, 1992
Don Markus

WIMBLEDON, England -- It didn't seem to matter who won and who lost in yesterday's women's semifinals at Wimbledon. What counted was how loud Monica Seles grunted.

The primal screeching by Seles not only overshadowed her tightly contested three-set victory over nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, but defending champion Steffi Graf's one-sided win over Gabriela Sabatini as well.

Forget about aces. Or double faults. Or even unforced errors. The most telling stat apparently is how many times Seles grunts (on nearly every point) and how distracting it is to the opposition (very).

Listen to Navratilova after she lost to Seles, 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.

"It just gets louder and louder,'' fourth seed Navratilova, 35, said after seeing her chance at a 10th title denied. "You can not hear the ball being hit. If you judge by the noise that is emanating from the other side of the court, the ball should be coming over pretty hard. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.''

Listen to Seles after she advanced to her first Wimbledon final.

"The whole tour, I never got anything, and now it's become a pretty big issue here,'' top-seeded Seles, 18, said after her 40th straight Grand Slam match victory. "But I said millions of times that I'm not doing it on purpose. After this tournament, I'm going to practice to get rid of it, because I don't want to have it anymore.''

For now, she will practice only for Graf, who beat Sabatini, 6-3, 6-3, in yesterday's quieter semifinal. The two top players in the women's game will play for the ladies' championship tomorrow afternoon (9 a.m. EDT).

It will mark their second straight Grand Slam final, after Seles' dramatic 10-8 victory in the third set of this year's French Open. Seles, who skipped Wimbledon in 1991, is looking for her sixth straight Grand Slam title.

The match between Seles and Navratilova was reminiscent of Seles vs. Graf in the French Open, after Navratilova came back to even the score at a set each by outplaying Seles in the second-set tiebreaker. But the third set turned sloppy, and a bit chatty, when Navratilova complained twice to chair umpire Fran McDowell of Washington, D.C. McDowell, in turn, quietly talked with Seles.

"It gets louder when it gets close,'' Navratilova said. "I mean, I was watching the French Open. If I had played her at the French Open, I would have complained. It is not a matter of complaining. I want to be able to hear the ball. I am not saying I lost because of her grunting. I would have said this and we would have been talking about it if I had won.''

Said Seles: "She [the chair umpire] asked me twice about it. But she said, Martina didn't complain. She said, 'Miss Seles, would you keep it down?' Then I tried, and at one point I was.''

Actually, it was for one point, a silently hit, perfectly placed, forehand service return down the line. But the grunts were not the only thing separating Seles from Navratilova yesterday.

In trying to put pressure on Seles, who plays almost exclusively from the baseline, Navratilova admitted taking a few too many chances by forcing to win points a few shots too early. The end of their match was exciting, but both played erratically, with five straight service breaks.

"A lot of pressure was on us that last game,'' said Seles, who closed out the match with a forehand past a lunging Navratilova. "When I hit that last shot, it was just a big relief. I was really happy it was over.''

Said Navratilova: "My problem is that I could not get even.''

But she did get mad, angrier perhaps, at the questions she was asked about Seles' grunting than about losing the match. When someone asked her why she had never complained about Seles in their previous 11 matches, Navratilova steamed.

"Am I on trial or is grunting on trial?'' Navratilova said. "You sound like I am making sour grapes. I wasn't complaining after I lost the first set. I wasn't trying to get her off-balance or do any gamesmanship on my part. If it bothers the opponent, then it is up to the umpire. The player doesn't necessarily have to say anything.''

When she lost in Paris, Graf didn't say anything about Seles' grunts, which by the end of the third set were louder than any of her screams yesterday. Looking for her fourth Wimbledon title, Graf is well aware of the issue it has become.

"It has always been an issue, but it's the first time the umpires react to it, that you can do something really against it,'' said Graf, who officially began the gamesmanship for tomorrow's final. "I mean, there are times when it gets close, she really gets loud.''

Sabatini, seeded third, didn't get loud or close yesterday. She played an exciting match in the final last year against Graf -- Sabatini served twice for the championship before losing 8-6 in the third -- but this time the 21-year-old Argentine went down meekly.

The tone was set when Sabatini was broken early in the first set. The only chance for Sabatini came in the final game, when she fought off six break points serving at 3-5. But Graf didn't provide any further opportunities, hitting a forehand crosscourt past Sabatini at the net.

"I think I was really going for my shots,'' said Graf, 23. "I'm really going for my forehands. So, yes, I feel pretty good.''

Asked if she will change her strategy from clay to grass against Seles, Graf said, "I think quite similar play as I did today. I think when I have the chance I will try to come in. I mean, if I see a chance, I'll try.''

One more question, Steffi?

Might you complain, if Monica's grunting gets too loud?

"I don't know,'' she said. "I don't know.''

Bank on it.
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post #213 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:32 PM
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Re: 1992

Friday, July 3, 1992

WIMBLEDON, England -- Monica Seles blasted the backhand down the line, past Martina Navratilova's outstretched racket.

All that was left for Navratilova to do now was go to the net and shake Seles' hand before they walked off Centre Court at Wimbledon Thursday.

The nine-time former champion had given her best shot, but it wasn't enough. It never is against Seles, who won 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 to advance to her first Wimbledon final Saturday against Steffi Graf, the defending champion. Graf disappointed Gabriela Sabatini 6-3, 6-3 for the second year in a row.

''When the chips are down, Monica is very, very tough,'' said Navratilova, who was broken in the final game.

''I had my chances. I could have won if I had just believed a little more. I could have won.''

Seles won, as she has been doing for the past two years at Grand Slam tournaments. She has won the last five Grand Slams she has entered, starting with the 1991 Australian Open and skipping only last year's Wimbledon , which Seles missed with shin splints. If Seles wins Wimbledon this time, she will be three-quarters of the way to the Grand Slam.

Navratilova tried to stop the streak, but she joins a list of frustrated opponents who have come up short in the final set at a Grand Slam.

Mary Joe Fernandez and Jana Novotna at the Australian Open last year. Jennifer Capriati at the U.S. Open last summer. Sabatini and Graf at the French Open last month.

Seles runs out the table when the chips are down. She is 10-0 in final sets at Grand Slams in the past two years.

''When I'm in the match, I really don't think about winning or losing until the last point is over,'' said Seles, whose two defeats this year (Capriati at Lipton and Sabatini at the Italian Open) came in straight sets.

''I think I've just been lucky a few times. The shots went my way, but I don't think when I'm out there 'Am I going to lose this match or am I going to lose it if I miss this point?' You don't have time, especially with Martina's serve.''

Seles broke Navratilova twice to win the first set easily, but then Seles seemed to get nervous in the second set, hitting short and giving Navratilova chances to attack.

Navratilova evened the match by winning the second-set tiebreaker, after Seles saved a set point in the 5-all game.

The final set was very tense, with six of the last seven games going to deuce.

After saving a break point for 2-all, Navratilova had three break points to turn the match around 3-2. Seles, however, saved them, then broke Navratilova for 4-2, when Navratilova netted a forehand on her fourth break point.

No one held serve again. Seles had a point for 5-2 twice, but dropped the game. Navratilova was two points for 4-all, but Seles smashed winners to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the match. Navratilova stopped her quickly at 15.

Serving at 4-5, Navratilova could not keep the match going. Navratilova reached 30-all, but Seles planted a forehand passing shot down the line for a match point.

Navratilova saved it with a backhand volley on a second serve, but her forehand volley on the next point landed long. Seles, feeling no nerves now, jumped on her next chance.

''It was always an uphill struggle for me the whole match,'' said Navratilova, 8-2 in her last 10 three-set matches at Wimbledon (only losing to Graf in finals). ''I'd like some approach shots back. I was thinking about getting to the net and still hitting the ball. That cost me dearly. If I had just made her play the ball a couple of times, I would have hit a much better shot.''

Navratilova, as Nathalie Tauziat did in the quarterfinals, complained about Seles' grunting, which led to two cautions from the chair. The grunting issue was a big focus of the postmatch news conferences.

''This is unbelievable,'' said Navratilova, upset at being interrogated. ''I'm on trial here. Grunting or not, she is a great player and certainly deserved to win.''

Sabatini is 7-2 against Graf in their last nine matches, unfortunately Graf is 2-0 on Centre Court.

''I think I have a stronger serve and that's really important on this surface,'' said Graf, a two-time Wimbledon champion. ''I'm able to be more aggressive than her.''

Graf hit 34 winners to 14 for Sabatini, who never had a break point.

''It was one of the best matches I've seen from her,'' said Sabatini, who lost 8-6 in the final set in last year's final. ''There was not much I could do today.''
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post #214 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:33 PM
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Re: 1992

The Plain Dealer
Cleveland, OH
Friday, July 3, 1992

Monica Seles grunted and Martina Navratilova groaned.

Seles was admonished by the chair umpire after Navratilova complained about her loud shriek yesterday. But Seles had the final note, defeating Navratilova, 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, and reaching the Wimbledon final.

She will meet defending champion Steffi Graf, who overpowered and outwitted Gabriela Sabatini, 6-3, 6-3.

For Seles to beat Navratilova on Centre Court, where the 35-year-old has won the title nine times in 20 appearances, was like breaking into her home and walking off with her jewelry.

She almost got caught.

After chasing in vain after Seles' punishing groundstrokes in the first set, Navratilova rallied in the second. She pressured Seles into rare errors and wound up with a set point at 5-4.

Seles, seeded No.1, replied with two almost identical forehand cross-court winners that even had Navratilova applauding.

The set went into a tiebreaker and a rejuvenated Navratilova won four points in a row, tying the match at one set apiece.

The set had one controversial moment after Seles had saved a break point for 2-2. Umpire Fran McDowell called Seles over to the chair and asked her to make less noise when she hit the ball.

It was a rare case of the umpire telling a player, rather than the fans, to keep quiet.

"I tried so hard today to keep it down," Seles said. "And I think in some parts of the match I was successful and some parts I was not.

"But I do hope that next year, when I come back here, I won't be grunting. After this tournament, I'm going to practice to get rid of it."

Navratilova, who complained twice to the umpire about Seles' grunting, explained why it was so distracting.

"It gets louder and louder," she said. "You cannot hear the ball being hit. If you judge by the noise that is emanating from the other side of the court, the ball should be coming over hard. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

"I was on my heels a couple of times because I thought she hit it hard and she did not, because I couldn't hear it.

"I know she is not doing it on purpose. But she can stop it on purpose."

Navratilova, who had played Seles 11 times previously, was asked why she had not complained about the noise before.

"Am I on trial here or is her grunting on trial?" she said.

"I wasn't trying to get her off balance or do any kind of gamesmanship on my part. If it bothers the opponent, then it is up to the umpire. This is unbelievable. If I don't say anything I am damned; if I do I am damned. You make it sound like sour grapes," the nine-time champ said. "I was complaining when I was winning. If I had won the match, I would have said the same thing. There was no gamesmanship."

In a high-quality third set, every game from 1-1 had break points. Seles broke to lead 4-2, Navratilova hit back for 4-3. Another Seles break was followed by another by Navratilova.

At 5-4, Seles engineered two match points. Navratilova hurried to the net to cancel the first with a backhand volley.

But on the second match point, Seles made sure of reaching her first Wimbledon final by squeezing a backhand between the stretching Navratilova and the sideline.

When the match was over, she showed her most emotion of the fortnight. She sprinted to the net to shake hands, rushed to her chair and then took a deep breath before breaking into a giddy smile and giggling.

The typical teenager's reaction was a stark contrast to the fierce competitor who so coldly defeated her 35-year-old opponent.

"It feels wonderful," Seles admitted. "It was such a great first set, then the tie-breaker was so emotional. When I hit the last shot, I was just so relieved."

The Graf-Sabatini semifinal was a repeat of last year's finalists. But it was nowhere near as close as Graf's 6-4, 3-6, 8-6 triumph in the 1991 final. Graf was so efficient, she broke Sabatini's serve three times and did not even allow the Argentinian a break-point opportunity.

"I have never seen her play so well," said Sabatini, who is 11-22 against Graf. "Everything was working for her."

Graf, the No. 2 seed, had Sabatini, the third seed, on the defensive throughout the match. She lost only eight points on serve.

"I am going for my shots," said Graf, who lost to Seles in three closely fought sets in the French Open final a month ago.

"I am going for my forehands and I feel good. In Paris, I felt good too, but right now my serve is a lot stronger than it has been for a long time."

Graf has not said if she plans to complain about Seles' noise.

"It's always been an issue, but this is the first time the umpires have reacted to it, the first time you can do something against it," said Graf. "There are times when she gets really loud."
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post #215 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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Re: 1992

Only Graf can now deny Seles - Wimbledon 1992
The Times
London, England
Friday, July 3, 1992
Andrew Longmore

WITH a grunt and a whimper, Monica Seles came to within one match of completing the third leg of the grand slam yesterday. The top seed beat Martina Navratilova in the semi-final, but not with the conviction many expected, nor with the sound of silence the umpire would have liked.

Steffi Graf, the No.2 seed and defending champion, will be waiting in tomorrow's final, anxious to gain revenge for her narrow defeat in the French Open final three weeks ago. Judging by the ease with which Graf dismissed Gabriela Sabatini from her presence yesterday, Seles is not going to be made welcome in her first Wimbledon final.

Navratilova, aged 35, left the centre court after her 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 defeat to an ovation tinged with sympathy and just a hint of farewell. The impression proved false. "I am planning on being here next year," she said.

But what would she have given to shed a few years, find a little extra pace on her serve or in her step? Where Seles, aged 18, accelerated towards the finishing line, Navratilova was already flat to the boards.

Not until deep into the final set did Seles find enough pace or the consistency on her ground strokes to disrupt Navratilova's sure touch on the volley. There were other distractions for the world No.1. Twice Navratilova complained about Seles's decibels; twice Seles was asked to quieten down.

"I thought of talking to Monica about the grunting before the match," Navratilova said. "But she might think that was gamesmanship, so I was stuck. If you don't say something during the match, I'm the one who loses out."

Neither warning had much effect on Seles's larynx, though they did seem to upset her delicate equilibrium, a weakness Graf will have noted. "It's always been an issue, but it's the first time that the umpire has reacted to it," Graf said. "The umpire approaches her to keep quiet and I think for some players it really helps."

Navratilova had promised to "give Seles some junk" and duly did so, mixing up the angles and slicing so hard and deep that Seles spent much of the afternoon trying to dig up passes from her ankles. As the world No.1 lost her usual deadeyed accuracy, it seemed that the most fervent wish of the centre court crowd would be granted, but, unlike Navratilova, they had underestimated the Yugoslav's tenacity. "I knew she would turn it up a notch if I got close. A couple of the times just the pace of the ball beat me. I was just a little slow on some of my volleys," Navratilova said.

There was little sign of Navratilova's spirit early on. She looked subdued, accepting, strangely out of place on her home court, as if unable to believe she could win, which was surprising because her record against Seles is as good, or as bad, as anyone else's in the game.

The first set was all one way, Seles breaking in the first and seventh games and defying Navratilova's attempts to make wisdom and experience more important than power and the confidence of youth. The No.4 seed's self-belief grew as it became clear that this was not the relentlessly efficient Seles she had anticipated.

Suddenly, there was more spring in her step, more sting in the volleys. Any sign of weakness on the Seles serve was countered with a brisk charge to the net. Where in the opening half an hour many of the approaches were long, she increasingly found the right range.

In the second set, Seles, whose service was underpowered, had to save break points in the fourth game and a set point in the tenth before desperately seeking the sanctuary of the tie-break. She found none there, Navratilova volleying solidly, at times brilliantly, and keeping up the pressure on Seles's suspect passing shots.

Navratilova took the tie-break 7-3, and was only broken the first break for 18 games in the sixth game of the final set. Twice she was broken, twice she recovered until Seles belatedly produced a series of rapier passes to break decisively for victory after nearly two hours. "It was just a big relief," Seles said.

Graf and Sabatini never threatened to emulate the drama of their final 12 months ago. Graf was playing better and Sabatini much worse. Graf, who has rarely played better nor more intelligently on grass, had 11 chances to break the Argentinian's notoriously suspect serve, but was impregnable on her own. If anything, the 6-3, 6-3 scoreline flattered Sabatini.
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post #216 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:35 PM
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Re: 1992

Grunting and groaning is getting tedious - Wimbledon 1992
The Times
London, England
Friday, July 3, 1992
David Miller

MOST sports football, rugby, cricket, boxing get into a mess if they do not uphold their own rules. If the regulations of tennis had been applied yesterday, Monica Seles would probably not have beaten Martina Navratilova. The world's No.1 is currently making the game sound like feeding time at the zoo.

The position is quite clear. The hindrance rule, under regulation 4/3/3 of the Women's Tennis Association rule book, states that `"any ... continuous disruption of regular play such as grunting shall subject a player to a warning, and a penalty point thereafter." Seles does not merely grunt on almost every stroke: she has a two-tone double-grunt which develops, when about to lose a critical point, into a squeal of complaint.

Seles was warned by the umpire twice, justifiably encouraged by Navratilova: at 2-2 in the second set and after Seles had served for 5-2 in the final set and been broken. Navratilova's complaint, she later explained, was less the distraction of a noise like strangled bagpipes than the fact that the sound of the opponent's racket on the ball, a key guide to velocity, was being drowned.

The critical game for Navratilova in a long and exciting match was the fifth in the final set. She had three break-points to lead 3-2 with her own service to follow: she won none. However, the one point of the match she would most like to have again, she said, was that at 15-30 when, at the end of a rally, she left a drive by Seles thinking it would be long. It had been struck less hard than she thought and was good.

Seles's vocal accompaniment is less offensive than all the nonsense which for years the sport needlessly endured from Nastase, Connors and McEnroe, but is incontestably an interference with the opponent's play. In the old amateur game, it would have been called bad manners. The rules, as always, provide an answer if officialdom only has the will to impose it.

Navratilova saliently made the point that Seles does not grunt when practising, which contradicts Seles's contention that she cannot help it. Seles further contends that McEnroe and Agassi are unrestrained grunters, that she is being penalised specifically because she is a woman and the No.1.

Seles would be more believable had her tactics not included a nasty piece of gamesmanship when leading 4-3 in the final set; with Navratilova serving break point down at 30-40, Seles, waiting to receive, was leaping a yard back and forth from left to right. Navratilova refused to serve, began her rhythm again and there was huge applause when she saved the point in a baseline rally.

Seles says that she will spend the winter "practising" the elimination of her melodic exhilation. She needs to, because it was clear where the neutral crowd's sympathy lay, as she may rediscover tomorrow against Graf. The crowd, predominantly, decided Seles was expedient rather than girlishly amusing, though you could see the funny side: there were moments when Seles seemed like some Disney character desperately baling out a sinking ship.

Navratilova, initially outplayed, levelled at set-all, winning the tiebreak 7-3 with a succession of clenched, forearm gestures reminiscent of body-builders when photographed wearing little more than a clenched jaw smile. We knew that somewhere Virginia Wade would be telling listeners that "Martina is getting pumped up"; and although the view of Navratilova pumped up is one which many people seriously wish to avoid, there could be no doubting the sympathy now flowing her way.

She spoiled it a bit with her itsy-bitsy Marceau mime impersonations, but some sensational stop-volleys were leaving Seles stranded, physically and temperamently.

Ultimately, however, that two-fisted backhand, which comes at you like a Foreman left jab, proved even more damaging to the former champion than any grunt.
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Re: 1992

If Jimmy Seles was grunting, it would be fine - Wimbledon 1992
The Times
London, England
Friday, July 3, 1992
Simon Barnes

MONICA Seles's grunt is an important contribution to the feminist dialectic of the late twentieth century. It is an extraordinary din but, more extraordinary still, is the fuss everyone has made about it.

McEnroe, Connors, Agassi: these three centre court darlings grunt like a set of hogs. The first two have done it for decades. None of them has prompted the world's press to bring the gruntometers on to centre court. None of them has got Fleet Street's finest in such a lather, not by grunting, anyway.

The point is that women's sport has always thrown up weird ambiguities and inconsistencies in the way society looks at women. Women's tennis has the highest profile of all women's sports; inevitably, it is absolutely crawling with contradictions.

The Seles grunt is just another one of these. Prominent male tennis players have grunted for years. But Seles is a woman. She is trying to do the same thing as Connors and Co. that is, win tennis matches but she is judged by a different standard. Grunting is unladylike, you see.

Let us look at some of the run-of-the-mill criticisms people make of women's tennis. Behind them lurk the same inconsistencies that surround the Seles grunt.

People say there are took many one-sided matches, that the fragile feminine temperament makes defeats of lower-ranked players inevitable. At the same time, when a player establishes effortless dominance over the rest, as Court, Navratilova, Graf, Seles and even Evert did in their time, she is criticised for being unattractively ruthless.

People go on about power tennis, and modern racket technology, and say it makes for the unattractive blast-'em-out-of-the-road tennis of Seles. Ou sont les Buenos d'antan? they sigh. But a couple of years ago, the same people were telling us that women's tennis was feeble stuff: pat-ball.

People say that women deserve less money than men because they play only best of three sets. Then they say that women playing best of five sets would be dull. Most of us would have relished a couple more sets of that absorbing semi-final between Seles and Navratilova yesterday. Women certainly have the endurance to play best of five women run marathons, after all and it is high time that, at least for semi-finals and finals, they played best of five in grand slam tournaments.

People say that women's tennis is unathletic: lazy fat pigs, one male tennis player called them last week. Imagine the shock that would greet Seles were she to come out clad in a Flo-Jo lycra leotard. (Maybe I shouldn't have put the idea into her head, come to think of it.) A woman tennis player wearing anything other than a skirt creates an automatic sensation at Wimbledon.

Women tennis players Seles in particular are criticised for worrying too much about their images. But multi-national companies, seeking to appeal to millions of people all over the world, pay vast ammounts of money to female players who manage to combine competence and comeliness.

In short, then, women tennis players are too tough, too soft, too weak, too powerful, too weedy, too butch, too feminine and too unfeminine.

Women's sport has always been a repository of inconsistencies. Winning involves such qualities as grit, determination, strength, ambition and ruthlessness. There are plenty of people who are not altogether at ease with women who openly display such qualities, and any succesful athlete cannot help but do so.

The canniest female athletes try to have it both ways. Evert was the best at that: she disguised her tigerish nature with pussycat mannerisms.

Seles goes all giggly as soon as she stops playing tennis, but it carries no conviction. The grunt gives her away every time. Every cry of huh-ihhhh reveals the truth: she is a brutal competitor.

She is trying to stop grunting. "It's been affecting her commercial side," Navratilova said. "She's been trying to make herself more attractive, and it's certainly not an attractive side."

Sports attract vast audiences because intense competition strips the athletes bare of all pretence. But naked ambition in women is something some people still find hard to deal with. The "problem" comes down to this: Seles is ambition personified. Huh-IHHH!
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post #218 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 14th, 2012, 06:15 PM
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Re: 1992

Scripps Howard News Service
Thursday, July 2, 1992

When did tennis get so noisy?

I'm not talking about the fans, I mean the players. Instead of tendinitis in the elbow, today's racketeers seem prime candidates for laryngitis.

The "Tennis Boom" of the 1970s has turned supersonic in the '90s. The airways are filled with grunts and groans louder than jets taking off.

It wasn't so long ago that the only sounds during a point were the strings striking the ball and sneakers squeaking on the court.

Granted, Jimmy Connors would let out a grunt on his two-fisted backhand, but not every time he hit it -- only when he tried to put a little extra mustard on a passing shot or putaway.

Besides, Jimbo was tennis' bad boy. You can bet Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer and Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith didn't raise a racket while swinging one.

Even John McEnroe was almost as quiet as a mouse during points. He saved his vocal outbursts for after the point was over.

Now the point has become the nosiest part of a match.


The crowd is library silent, but the players make the court sound like it's a fenced-in torture chamber.

The best way to describe the grunts and groans is to imagine someone hitting their thumb with a hammer. Over and over again.

The players grunt on first serves. They groan on second serves. They groan on service returns and groundstrokes and volleys. They even grunt while hitting drop shots, for goodness sakes!

And it's not just the macho men who are breaking the sound barrier. The distaff netters too. In fact, Monica Seles is certifiably the loudest offender of all. She grunts and squeals so much her matches sound like an X-rated movie.

It's become a Scream Fest. One suspects teaching pros now instruct star students on topspin backhands and top-of-your-lungs grunting.

Tennis pro: "Bend your knees, Johnny. Good. Now follow through with a high finish this time. No, no, no! Not with the racket head! A high finish on your grunt. Like this, ArrrrGHHHHH! Now you try it."

I bring this up today because watching Wimbledon sounds like the world's largest outdoors Lamaze class.

"Huff, huff, huff, ARRRGH! Huff, huff, huff, ARRRGH! Out. Fifteen-love."

One match I watched sounded like the line of scrimmage at an NFL game.


And this was a distaff match!

And then there is Seles. She meets each groundstroke with a primal scream that sounded like a Russian weight lifter setting a new world record in the dead lift.

Still, as you might expect, the big boys are the loudest offenders. They aren't tennis players, they're tenors. Instead of Gatorade during court changeovers, they need throat lozenges.

The chair umpires officially refer to them as the "gentlemen's" singles. The Wild Men Wilderness Fortnight And Weekend Retreat would be more like it.

They don't play tennis so much as they play, "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Louder."

It's gotten to where spectators need to bring sun hats, sunscreen and ear plugs.

As he began his current comeback, Bjorn Borg expressed his belief that technology is ruining the sport. Specifically, Borg said that the modern space-age rackets which make it possible for 15-year-old girls to serve at 100 miles per hour and hit groundstrokes that are a blur, have turned the game into a slugfest void of strategy and finesse.

My question is, if these modern rackets do all the work and make it so easy to hit the ball so gosh darn hard, why do the players all grunt so loud?

Grunting is for when you're moving a refrigerator, not hitting a fuzzy yellow ball back and forth over a net. I mean Cecil Fielder doesn't even grunt when he smashes a baseball 450 feet over the outfield wall. John Daly doesn't sound like he just got a hernia every time he hits a 340-yard drive. Michael Jordan doesn't grunt when he throws down a dunk.

Tennis players and umpires are always pleading for quiet from the fans. The sneaker is now on the other foot. It says here it's time for tennis fans to ask the players to please remain quiet during play.
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post #219 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 14th, 2012, 06:16 PM
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Re: 1992

Let the grunters be the grunted
Houston Chronicle
Saturday, JULY 4, 1992

WIMBLEDON, England -- Tennis players and tennis officials have been telling Joe Tennis Fan for years to shut up. Even the most discreet "soto voce" courtside conversations are routinely shushed by umpires, who wouldn't dare let a match start until they make the obligatory announcement, "QUIET, PLEASE!"

Because tennis is supposed to require the greatest imaginable powers of concentration -- sort of a cross between performing brain surgery and splitting atoms -- most spectators have meekly and unquestioningly gone along with the program.

Tennis fans try desperately to be seen and not heard, paying no mind to the fact that, for the price of admittance to other sporting events, one can whoop, holler and heckle to his or her heart's content.

But tennis is changing for the noisier and, because of it, maybe the standards of decorum should be reconsidered.

If Monica Seles simply must sound like a wart hog in heat to smack a tennis ball with enough velocity, and if Andre Agassi really needs a primal scream or a hyena's laugh to dull the pain of blowing a shot, then fair is fair.

Take the muzzles off the customers, too.

A day of peace and quiet

The rising crescendo of tennis racket has become the hottest controversy at Wimbledon since Gussie Moran showed up wearing lace panties almost half a century ago. But at least Friday the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club did revert to its peaceful, pastoral old self for one day.

Seles -- call her "MOANica" -- had the afternoon off to rest her vocal cords for today's final against Steffi Graf. Fellow grunts Agassi and John McEnroe were put on mute by the day-long drizzle that postponed the men's semifinals. It was boring. But the silence was golden, music to our sore ears.

Tennis has very explicit rules against the ridiculous animal (or offensive lineman) sounds Seles, Agassi and McEnroe make while they're playing.

For example, let me quote regulation 4/3/3 of the Women's Tennis Association book of conduct: "Any ... continuous disruption of regular play such as "grunting" (italics mine) shall subject a player to a warning and a penalty point thereafter."

Were 4/3/3 enforced, Seles would be ranked about 1,000th in the world instead of No. 1 because she would be defaulted out of every match. In reality, she has never been docked a single penalty point for her now-infamous two-syllable grunt -- "huh-IIIHHH!" -- that is said to register a higher decibel reading on a noise-testing device than most diesel engines.

Seles isn't alone

But McEnroe and Agassi sound as awful or worse, I can assure you. Agassi's verbal excesses are especially irritating because rarely do they have anything to do with the act of hitting a ball. His shouts and shrieks usually come in response to an error. One such startling screech in his match with Boris Becker prompted Becker, a baleful look on his face, to ask him, "Are you OK?"

But Moanica has become the lightning rod because her opponents, unlike the men, are showing increasing outrage and because of the old double-standard thing. Whereas Seles is expected to behave like the proper young thing she is supposed to be -- instead of the two-fisted lady killer she really is -- it's apparently OK for the men to ignore convention and imitate apes in trees.

Seles' supporters contend the grunting reflects the power and the intensity of her play. In Japanese martial arts, they point out, fighters are taught the benefits of the "kiai," the outburst that occurs simultaneously with the striking of an object or an opponent. The "kiai" is said to concentrate all the individual's force into the action.

"It (grunting) helps in various ways," says Dr. Stuart Biddle, senior lecturer in physical education at England's Exeter University.

"It is part of a psychological strategy and expression of the tremendous intensity of top-class sport. It also tenses the stomach muscles, thereby stabilizing the body and the postural muscles. This helps you hit the ball from a firm base."

Noise deceives opponent

Seles' critics, most notably her semifinal victim, Martina Navarilova, protest that it enables her to disguise the pace of her shots and drive opponents nuts. The day is coming when earplugs will be part of a woman's game plan for playing Seles.

Says Steffi Graf, the last obstacle standing in the way of Moanica's first Wimbledon title: "You expect such a hard shot to come, then suddenly it doesn't come and you are not in the right position for the ball. That's the big distraction about it."

The bottom line, though, is that tennis' clearly stated rules notwithstanding, the only people who ever get reprimanded are the ticket-holders, who can't hear themselves think while play is going on. Being a traditionalist, I'm of the opinion that everybody, players included, should be required to keep their traps shut.

Otherwise? Nobody. Take your pick.
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Re: 1992

The Miami Herald
Saturday, July 4, 1992

If I were Monica Seles, I would tell all the grunt-questioners to bugger off. Suddenly demanding she turn silent in what could be the top act of a Madonna-like career is like asking a cat to quit purring when it is happiest. Or a lioness to stop slavering over a lamb.

Not that Steffi Graf comes under any "lamb" listing. But even Graf, Seles' championship opponent today, says Seles' grunting is not only unnatural but off-putting.

They say that "Huh-ihhh!" emerges as a cross between a donkey's bray and a French romantic bellowing "Je t'aime!" They say the grunts confuse them because they muffle the sound of the impact of her racquet on the ball.

That's garbage.

Why didn't they bring it up when she first showed up and introduced a long-sought flash of color to women's tennis? Why wait until she is virtually on stage in all of tennis' top female show?

Martina Navratilova complained, which is rare for her. "I thought Monica was hitting a ball hard from the way she grunted, but she hit it easily, and it cost me the point," Navratilova said. "I think that's a hindrance."

Even Gabriela Sabatini, who seldom has anything to say about anything, said Seles' huffing and puffing distract opponents.

So why wasn't the grunting a hindrance and a distraction before Seles moved to No. 1?

"Would you please hold it down?" umps ask Seles. She tries. You can see her trying. But when she has to play a huge point, out it comes. "Huh-ihhh!"

Opponents ask why, if it is so intrinsic a part of her game, Seles doesn't grunt in practice?

Easy. She isn't trying that hard in practice.

Meanwhile, Seles keeps turning the other cheek, conversationally. The grunting issue has been hurled at her at least a hundred times this week alone.

Over and over, she says, "I am trying to stop." She wishes she didn't do it. She is making every effort to put a lid on it.

Over and again, Seles-baiters cite the Women's Tennis Association rule book: " . . . Continuous disruption of regular play such as grunting shall subject a player to a warning, and a penalty point thereafter."

The key word here is "disruption." Is it disrupting if it's a normal part of Seles' game, which is lethal enough without the most famous human exhalation since Elvis the Pelvis first opened his mouth on stage?

I begin to wonder how woman players can win except at the bank.

They catch it for being "too weak" to play best-of-five sets. But as soon as a blaster such as Seles, or, before her, Navratilova, turns up, people start trying to knock them down.

They are criticized for not being show-biz-pretty enough. But when a Sabatini comes along drenched in glamour and her own perfume, she is portrayed as a feline opportunist.

I offer Seles one more sliver of advice.

The next time an interviewer asks about grunting, give him a one-word, two-syllable answer.

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post #221 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 14th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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Re: 1992

The Miami Herald
Saturday, July 4, 1992

Tarzan wooed Jane with them. James Brown drenches his in soul. All of tennis twitters over Monica Seles' piercing renditions.


Short. Soft. Long. Loud. Excruciating. Erotic. The grunt is a flexible, expressive -- sometimes even necessary -- noise humans have been making since our bony-browed ancestors ambled about on furry knuckles.

But now, as the world's top woman tennis player yowls her way through the Wimbledon championship, the good ol' grunt is under scrutiny. This week, Seles thumped a foe who complained about her incessant and distracting groans.

London's tabloids responded with grunt-o-meters and serious arguments over gruntal etiquette. "Muzzle Monica," cried one.

As the vital debate rages, two questions demand answer: Why do people grunt? Is it a mental or physical thing with Seles?

Arlette Perry, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Miami, describes a grunt as necessary stress relief, akin to a safety valve on a high-pressure tank.

Think of your last grunt. Don't be shy; everybody grunts. You probably were straining at something, like bailing buckets of rain out of your backyard. That'll induce one. Your grunt eased your strain.

Perry used weight-lifting as an example of physically necessary grunting. As a lifter hoists, muscles, sinews, organs all get squeezed. "Can you imagine the pressure in the chest cavity?" she says. A grunt opens the glottis -- that's a band of tissue over the throat -- and ensures a clear windpipe to release the intense air pressure. Without a grunt, the heart would have to pump under severe strain.

The most common grunting probably occurs in bathrooms. Again, internal pressure is involved. Bowel movements can create intestinal gyrations that grunting relieves. Sexual release, too, can be grunt-intensive.

On the court, grunting as a need holds less solid ground.

Seles says she barely knows she's doing it and doesn't mean to distract. She vows to tone it down but calls it a natural reaction to the force she hits with.

But physiologists like Perry don't believe tennis swings, even at the pro level, demand grunts.

Perry isn't a casual observer. With a U.S. Tennis Association grant, she's evaluating tests to assess on-court performance. In all but the most strenuous shots -- say, an all- out serve -- there's no physical reason to grunt, she says. Steffi Graf, likely the hardest hitter in women's tennis, blisters the ball silently. Seles grunts even for soft shots.

Perry believes grunting is a mental crutch for Seles, an audible swing timer like the clicking of a metronome helps a
piano novice keep tempo.

"I don't know right now if Monica Seles can take a swing and feel comfortable without grunting," she says. "It's now a psychological dependency."

Many tennis players believe the grunt gives an edge in both ways: physical and mental.

Gloria Suvillaga, a Hollywood 22-year-old who plays for Barry University, is a sometime-grunter. "When I play at school my friends come. I hit it and they're all laughing. It's like, 'Why do you grunt?' " she says. Simple: It makes her feel she's putting more power into a shot.

Jill Rosen, 27, a pro at the Polo Club in Boca Raton, believes grunting helps her deliver physically but adds: "When I play, I find myself a lot more aggressive when I do grunt."

Blaine Willenborg, 32, director of tennis at the Athletic Club of Weston and a former No. 50 singles player, says the grunt is an aural affirmation of a tougher tennis attitude, "a killer instinct."

Seles' GruntGate, Willenborg says, is being blown out of proportion. "She's been doing it for years. She hasn't grunted any more or less this time." And Jimmy Connors has groaned for decades. Lesser grunters include John McEnroe, Gabriela Sabatini and Jennifer Capriati.

There are fears of a future of grating grunters. Rosen believes the grunter count on tour is up to 80 percent, though few players near Seles' volume.

Bobby Curtis, director of junior programs for the Florida Tennis Association in North Miami Beach, has played the game for 40 years. He knows how these things work.

"When you get somebody like Monica, who is now a big star, and Connors, and they're grunting on TV, you know darn well the players are picking up on it."

And are they?

"Well," Curtis says, "it's getting noisy out there."
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Re: 1992

Scripps Howard News Service
Saturday, July 4, 1992

Don't touch that set.

There's no need to adjust your television during Saturday's Wimbledon women's final between Monica Seles and Steffi Graf. That unusual noise is not coming from extraterrestrial interference.

It's only Seles grunting.

The loud "wha-heeee" sound Seles makes when she hits the ball finally has become a source of controversy. She has received warnings from the umpire in each of her past two matches. She says she is being picked on because she is the No. 1 player. That's probably true.

But she's also desperately seeking silence. Is there a doctor in the house? Seles admits she needs help.

"Somehow, after this tournament is over, I'm going to practice to get rid of it," she said. "I don't know how. I stopped giggling somehow."

Now a grizzled 18 years old, Seles used to giggle almost uncontrollably in press conferences. All she was doing was acting her age. But with her grunting she is being accused of affecting other players' performances. They say because of all the racket they can't hear the ball hit her racket.

"I'd love to get rid of it," she said. "I don't think it's pleasant to go through for me in a match. I do hope when I come back here next year I won't be grunting."

So do a lot of other people.
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Re: 1992

Far from gruntled - Leading Article
The Times
London, England
Saturday, July 4, 1992

Whoever wins the finals in the next few days, Wimbledon 1992 will go down as the year of the grunt. Gruntometers have recorded Monica Seles's explosive noise as she strikes the ball, particularly when serving, as registering as many decibels as a diesel train. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors are two others who groan when serving, as though it is they rather than the ball that is being struck. Is it mere imagination that their grunting seems to grow louder and shriller when they are losing a crucial point but is inaudible when they are practising?

Grunts are partly a consequence of modern coaching, which encourages athletes to let everything hang out, even unladylike noises, at moments of extreme effort. It is also a form of aural intimidation, as practised by infantrymen who yell as they charge, and by the All Blacks with their minatory haka war-dance. But it comes close to cheating if the grunt is so loud that it blots out the sound of the racket hitting the ball, the first clue for the receiver about how fast the ball is going to arrive over the net.

But it is as Wimbledon gameswomanship that the new ploy of grunting has been brilliantly successful. The grunter can project a fifth-column decibel of doubt from her mind into that of her opponent, breaking her concentration and causing her to feel that she has been hard done by. Once a receiver has started to feel sorry for herself, her chances of watching the ball rocketing onto her racket are diminished. The grunt is not the secret weapon, but the irritation it causes.

Professional sport is about winning, while staying just on the windy side of the rules. At tennis, receivers of service jog from foot to foot more ostentatiously than limbering up requires, especially up at the net in doubles, hoping to deflect the attention of the server. In mixed doubles the men tend to hit the ball as hard as they can at the women in the other team. At cricket a batsman who snicks a thin edge behind rubs his elbow or his stomach when appealed against for l.b.w.

Footballers diving into the penalty area and writhing as if they are auditioning for the death throes of Richard III as performed by Olivier ought to belong to Equity; and wrestling is nothing but feigned agony and acting. Rugby has made it illegal for scrum halves to make a dummy run without the ball in the hope of luring the opposition offside. At golf the gamesman concedes three-foot putts early in the game, before overwhelming his opponent with doubt by demanding that he sink an 18-incher at a crucial late hole.

And fair enough, too. Umpires should only penalise grunting that is so loud it constitutes cheating. The counterploy to grunting is not to out-grunt or grumble, but to play Miss Nice Guy. The game is already half lost once the non-grunter is exasperated into complaining. But by far the most effective gamesmanship is to get the notoriously partisan centre court on your side, so that they clap every point you win even if it comes from a double fault. What profit a player if the grunt wins her the point, if she loses the sympathy of the crowd?
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post #224 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 14th, 2012, 06:21 PM
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Re: 1992

Scripps Howard News Service
Saturday, July 4, 1992

Forget the grunting, the Madonna comparisons, the supposed weight gain, the rumored addiction to butter and all the other silly and superfluous things written and said about Monica Seles.

Only one piece of truly reliable information on this 18-year-old native Yugoslavian matters at Wimbledon: She is simply the best women's tennis player in the world.

You can argue with unnamed sources in the British tabloids, but you can't argue with facts:

-- She has won the last five Grand Slam tournaments she has entered.

-- She has won 41 straight Grand Slam matches since losing in the third round of the 1990 U.S. Open.

-- She has won six of eight tournaments in 1992.

-- Last year, she reached the finals in all 16 tournaments she entered, winning 10.

"She's certainly the best player right now, and she has dominated the last year and a half," said Martina Navratilova. "But it's like Chris (Evert) said of me when I had a good year in 1982: One great year does not a player make.

"The great players of an era are measured by two things: longevity and quality. She certainly has the quality. If she'll have the longevity, only time will tell."

Only 18, Monica has plenty of time if she can stand the pressure and pace. But regardless of how many years she plays, Seles can make perhaps her most powerful statement yet on Saturday. She plays Steffi Graf in the women's finals at Wimbledon, the only major tournament she has failed to win.

A victory here gives her three legs of the Grand Slam. She'll only need to defend her U.S. Open title later this summer to become just the third woman in history to win all four majors in one year.

Graf and Margaret Court are the others.

"Two years ago, I was always satisfied in Wimbledon and the U.S. Open if I got to the quarters," Seles said. "But I don't think that's a good way to go into a tournament. Now, when I'm in a match, I don't think about winning or losing until the last point is over.

Her mental approach is the strength of her game. Long-time tennis observers say they have rarely, if ever, seen someone so focused, someone who
concentrates so well.

Navratilova, no slouch herself, compares Seles' intensity with Evert's.

The technical part of Seles' game is nearly on the same level. She plays the best groundstrokes on the tour. Her serve is becoming faster with age.

On grass, her weakness is that she won't come to the net to volley. To beat her, Graf might try what she did in the French Open final: drop shots that force her to the net, aggressive returns of the serve.

Incidentally, Graf didn't win that French final -- but a similar strategy would be more likely to succeed on grass.

Even if Seles refuses to come to the net, her ground strokes are so powerful she can survive. Said Navratilova, "She hits the ball so hard that even when she doesn't place it well, the sheer speed of it causes problems."

Seles brushes aside criticism of her grass play.

"I never felt I did not master grass. A lot of people said that to me. But inside I knew I could play on it. At the U.S. Open when I lost in the third round, they said, 'Monica hates hardcourts.' Then I won it and they said, 'Monica loves hardcourts."

Another tactic against Seles has been unveiled here unsuccessfully: complain to the umpire about her grunting. It's an obvious ploy to distract her.

The grunting is just one more peripheral problem confronting Seles. Obviously, this has not been an easy fortnight for her. She has been asked about weight gain, how much butter she eats and if she idolizes Madonna. She has declined to discuss the volatile political situation in Yugoslavia. She maintains her citizenship there but resides in Florida.

On Friday, British tabloids reported that threats have been made against her. A tennis official confirmed to American reporters, "I know she's had some threats. Whether they are genuine or crank, how can you tell?"

Somehow, she has kept her good humor, laughing in press conferences and maintaining her composure over the grunting issue. She keeps saying all she wants to do is play.

"I don't look at money or trophies. I just look at the game. Every point, that's where I get the fun out of it. I just love my sport and that's the only reason why I play it, because I love it."
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post #225 of 648 (permalink) Old Dec 14th, 2012, 06:22 PM
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Re: 1992

Seles and Graf promise to repeat Paris finale - Wimbledon 1992
The Times
London, England
Saturday, July 4, 1992
Andrew Longmore, Tennis Correspondent

MEMORIES do not have to be too elastic nor imaginations too sharp to predict the pattern of today's final of the women's singles at Wimbledon. Monica Seles and Steffi Graf locked horns for two hours and 43 minutes on the red clay of Roland Garros four weeks ago in a match which lasted 44 minutes longer than the men's final and proved the best possible advertisement for the women's game.

The final set, which Seles won 10-8, was as fraught and tense as any since the great days of Evert v Navratilova and today's repeat promises to be equally close.

With luck, it may even produce tennis of higher quality and greater contrast. In the final of the French Open, business was conducted exclusively from the baseline. At Wimbledon, Graf has already shown more willingness to attack and she will need to do so again to turn the tables this time. Graf will take heart from the result in Paris. On Seles's home ground, she pushed the champion all the way and all those tiny variables, which tend to decide the issue between the world's best two women players, are on Graf's side of the scales this time. She is the defending champion and this is her court.

She has already won three titles there, while Seles, who has all the other grand slams in her possession, is the debutante at the Wimbledon ball. Stage fright, though, is not part of her make-up. She has reached six grand slam finals and won them all. If Seles should win today, thereby completing the third leg of the grand slam, it would remove any lingering doubt about her right to be numbered with the greatest names. She would also be the first to win the title without playing a single voluntary volley throughout the tournament. Her one effort against Navratilova in the semi-final was forced upon her by a drop shot and was greeted by a look of disbelief. Even Evert, the arch counter-puncher, ventured forward occasionally. "Great players of an era are measured by two things, quality and longevity," Navratilova said.

"She certainly has the quality. She might have the longevity. Only time will tell, but she is certainly right up there. When the chips are down, she is very very tough." Determination might not be enough today because Graf, according to Gabriela Sabatini, another impartial observer, is playing the best tennis of her career. "I have never seen her play so well. Everything was working for her," the Argentinian said after her semi-final defeat by the champion.

Under the guidance of her new coach, Heinz Gunthardt, Graf is on the verge of becoming a more complete player than when she dominated the game in the late Eighties. She still relies on her forehand, but uses it with more subtlety than of old, and is beginning to grasp the principles of going to the net.

Whether she can keep the faith and not revert to her bludgeoning ways under pressure from Seles's ground-strokes is more doubtful the outcome of the final might depend on Graf keeping her nerve at the vital moment. "When I have a chance I will try to come in. I'm just playing my usual sliced backhand and go for my forehand. It's important to have a good, steady serve as I have been doing during the last few games."

The unknown factor, needless to say, is the grunt. Seles admitted that she was put off by the warnings she received from the umpire during her semi-final, just as Navratilova claimed she was distracted by being unable to hear the sound of the ball. Graf has not made any plans to counter the noise. "We will see," she said. "I did not complain in the French Open, but the noise was pretty loud towards the end."

STEFFI GRAF (Germany). Age: 23. Right-hander. World ranking: 2. Grand slam titles: 10 (Australian 88, 89, 90; French 87, 88; Wimbledon 88, 89, 91; US 88, 89). The defending champion. Graf dominated the women's game from 1987 until the emergence of Seles, achieving the grand slam in 1988 and winning Olympic gold in Seoul. In 1990-91, plagued by injury, illness, personal problems and Seles, she lost her grip on the No.1 ranking.

MONICA SELES (Yugoslavia). Age: 18. Left-hander (double-fisted on both flanks). World ranking: 1. Grand slam titles: 6 (Australian 91, 92; French 90, 91, 92; US 91). Last year it was her failure to appear that took the headlines. This year it is her grunting. She has powered her way to the final, dropping only one set. She has never been beaten in a grand slam final. Having won the Australian and French titles this year, she is on course for the grand slam.
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