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Old Oct 12th, 2012, 05:03 PM   #2393
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

GRAF LIKES WAY PENDULUM SWINGS
Peter Alfano
The New York Times
Nov. 24, 1986

The paradox surrounding Steffi Graf's year was that the better she played, the less opponents feared her. She began 1986 with modest goals, hoping to win her first tournament and break into the top-10 ranking. She ended it yesterday, No. 3 in the world and an eight-time winner, making a shambles of her own timetable.

"A year ago," Graf said, "opponents were scared of me because I was young and had nothing to lose. Now, they play as if they have nothing to lose. They are not scared."

Losing to Martina Navratilova in yesterday's final of the Virginia Slims championships did not diminish Graf's accomplishments this year at the age of 17. She defeated Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd for the first time, which she said lifted her confidence, immeasurably.

"It was a difficult thing to do and that made it an unbelievable season," she said. "This year, I wanted to just improve my serve and backhand, but now, I have no time to improve. I don't have the life I had two years ago and it is very important not to think about what people expect of me."

It is a life, though, she said she would not trade. She will return to West Germany, play an exhibition match or two, perhaps also in the German championships, then put down her racquet until February. She will stay in shape by playing basketball and she is also planning a ski vacation.

"My father makes sure I do not play too much tennis," Graf said. "It's tough keeping my hands off a racquet. During my time off, there will be three and a half hours every day when I will have nothing to do. After a week, I get crazy." The emergence of Graf coincided with Boris Becker's rise to prominence on the men's tour. They were child prodigies, the best hopes of the West German Federation. They have succeeded in making tennis a national craze, although Becker's two Wimbledon championships has earned him more attention.

"When Boris came along, I had some quiet," Graf said. "There was no pressure."

Now, the pressure will mount. Graf has the potential to be No. 1 someday, but her most difficult task next year will be trying to equal this year's harvest. She is a baseliner who relies on a topspin forehand that many of the women say is the best on the tour. But it is also a Linus blanket, which can impede the development of her overall game. One of the things she will work on during the holiday season, is coming to the net.

"I can play the net," Graf said. "The trouble is getting there." She has more than enough time, however. When Navratilova was asked how much longer she can continue to dominate the tour, she said: "It depends on how much better Steffi gets."
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