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STEADY SABATINI BREEZES PAST MARTINEZ TO REPEAT TITLE
The Charlotte Observer
Monday, April 6, 1992
The match many thought would give Gabriela Sabatini trouble Sunday was hardly a struggle.
And Sabatini, playing with enormous confidence and new-found aggression, breezed past Spain`s Conchita Martinez 6-1, 6-4 to win her second consecutive Family Circle Magazine Cup tennis title.
The two women, ranked third and eighth in the world, have similar styles, preferring to wear out opponents with a tedious, topspin-heavy barrage from the baseline.
The strategy works best when ground strokes are executed with machine-like precision. That`s why it betrayed Martinez, whose game was on the fritz. Her normally lethal forehand proved benign, as she sprayed shots both long and wide. By the end of the match, Martinez had committed 21 unforced forehand errors to Sabatini`s three.
Sabatini, as steady as Martinez was erratic, simply hung back and played smart. She stayed with Martinez on the longer rallies, and attacked short balls with uncharacteristic verve.
``That made the difference - coming to the net when I had to come to the net,`` Sabatini said. ``She could be very tough when she takes control of the match. And when she is hitting her forehand, it could be dangerous.``
The victory gives Sabatini her third tournament title this season, and it solidifies her third-place ranking behind Monica Seles and Steffi Graf.
``I`m really feeling confident now,`` Sabatini said. ``And mentally, I feel very good. I am moving much better. I am faster.``
Sabatini opened the match with a double fault. It was one of the few mistakes she`d make in the first set.
Sabatini`s strong start signaled that she was perfectly capable of serving as a backboard for Martinez`s baseline assault.
As Sabatini`s confidence grew, she added new elements to her game. She scored winners off forehands and an occasional backhand slice. She even charged the net 28 times, winning the point 24 times off crisp volleys and
sneaky drop shots.
It was a dazzling display of strokes, and in short order, Sabatini`s lead was 5-1. Martinez managed just nine points in that stretch.
Afterward, a befuddled Martinez could only point to fatigue.
``The first set was terrible,`` Martinez said. ``I made many mistakes. I didn`t move. I was tired. In the second set, I tried to move a little bit more, but that was too late.``
With Sabatini serving for the first set at 5-1, Martinez ripped a passing shot to set up her first break point. Sabatini came in on the next point and smacked a forehand volley to get to deuce. She closed out the set behind
another volley, and an error by Martinez.
In the second set, Martinez seized control after falling behind 1-3. She broke Sabatini`s serve to tie at three games each. Up 4-3, Martinez had several chances to break Sabatini again and take a 5-3 lead. But Sabatini
refused to concede, waiting for Martinez to make a mistake.
Two games later, Sabatini served for the match. Down love-40, she fought back to win it with a final charge to the net, pulling off a masterful touch backhand drop shot that died in a puff of green clay well before Martinez
could reach it.
Next, Sabatini`s sights are fixed on a second Grand Slam title.
``I can remember what I felt when I won the U.S. Open,`` Sabatini said. ``I made a big step forward. I just want to have that feeling again.``
* In the doubles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Natalia Zvereva defeated Jana Novotna and Larisa Savchenko-Neiland 6-4, 6-2.
* With its new, 9,500-seat stadium, the tournament`s nine-day attendance was a record 60,825.
Sunday`s singles final: Gabriela Sabatini (1), Argentina def. Conchita Martinez (5), Spain 6-1, 6-4.
Doubles final: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain, and Natalia Zvereva, CIS (2) def. Jana Novotna, Czechoslovakia, and Larisa Savchenko-Neiland, Latvia, (1) 6-4, 6-2.