Another from Ms Anthropic...
Graf's seaside success story survives stormy challenge
The Times (London, England) - Monday, October 26, 1992
THE spoils went the usual way yesterday, Steffi Graf winning her sixth title in seven years at the Midland Bank championships in Brighton and a cheque for Pounds 40,000. But for much of the longest final on record at this tournament, the scales were tipped firmly in favour of Jana Novotna, who came to within two points of cutting short Graf's highly profitable seaside excursions before faltering in the third-set tie-break.
Poor Novotna must be sick of the sight of Graf. After defeats in the final of the European Open in Zurich and semi-final in Leipzig, this was the Czechoslovak's third loss to Graf in the last four weeks and she will rarely have a better chance of putting matters to right. Graf had to issue an official apology for sneaking the title out through the back door with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 victory that owed as much to obstinacy as skill.
"I was lucky to get out of that," she said. "All I can say to Jana is 'sorry'. This is the third time in four weeks."
Even when Novotna, the world No.9, was 30-0 and serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Graf refused to surrender a title she regards as her personal property. She won the next four points, breaking back with a stock-in-trade forehand cross-court shot and, her confidence restored, sent her loyal band of followers into raptures by romping away with the tie-break.
History suggested that it would be a long and hard-fought affair. Their last four matches on indoor carpet had gone the distance, each player winning twice, and Novotna had given fair warning of her challenge when taking the first set off the champion in the semi-final in Brighton three years ago.
Graf was at the height of her powers then but Novotna, one of the few natural volleyers on the tour, has always had the game to test Graf. She did so to the full again yesterday.
Despite the see-saw finale, both players pinpointed the second set as the moment of truth. Novotna, serving consistently and returning brilliantly at times, had broken Graf twice to take the opening set and kept up the momentum early in the second.
She led 3-1 and, though broken back to 3-3, had three chances to break the champion again at 4-4, which would have left her to serve out for the match. Three unforced errors, the result of overeagerness and taut nerves, handed the psychological initiative straight back to Graf, who duly broke decisively to level the match.
"I was ahead and on top of my game at that time, so that's when I felt I could win it," Novotna said. "When you get as close as I did, it hurts, but I have showed once more that I can keep up with her and one day I'll find the right ball to finish it off." It will become harder with each defeat.
Despite surviving the second set, Graf still could not find any rhythm in the face of Novotna's deliberate pace. She was broken in the first and seventh games of the final set and only seemed to shed her inhibitions early in the tie-break, an inch-perfect lob and an old-fashioned winner off her otherwise erratic forehand contributing to a 5-0 lead. For the first time in a match that lasted two hours and 32 minutes, she had a precious safety cushion.
"She let me back into the game in the second set. She wasn't aggressive enough," Graf said. "But when I was right down, I just thought how mad I would be if I lost. This is my title."
Graf promised to back next year to extend her sequence of 30 consecutive victories, stretching back to 1985, and there was at least some consolation for Novotna, who partnered Larisa Savchenko-Neiland to victory in the doubles title.
RESULTS: Singles: Semi-finals: S Graf (Ger) bt A Huber (Ger), 7-5, 6-2; J Novotna (Cz) bt M J Fernandez (US), 6-3, 6-4. Final: Graf bt Novotna, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. Doubles: Semi-finals: Novotna (Cz) and L Savchenko-Neiland (Lat) bt P Fendick (US) and A Strnadova (Cz), 6-2, 6-3; C Martinez (Sp) and R Zrubakova (Cz) bt Fernandez and N Zvereva (CIS), 6-2, 6-4. Final: Novotna and Savchenko-Neiland bt Martinez and Zrubakova, 6-4, 6-1.