Evidence suggests Graf and Seles will contest final - Wimbledon 1992
Thursday, July 2, 1992
Andrew Longmore, Tennis Correspondent
IT TOOK Gabriela Sabatini two minutes to end Jennifer Capriati's lingering hopes of revival yesterday. Their match had ended in disarray the previous evening with the Argentinian poised for a place in her third successive Wimbledon semi-final and the pair must have felt like gatecrashers at a stag night as they sneaked onto the centre court, the thin piece of lettuce between two meaty men's quarter-finals. Thin it was too, Sabatini taking all four points before they trooped off again.
Sabatini, the No.3 seed, now meets Steffi Graf in a repeat of last year's final, aware that her service or lack of it at the vital moment cost her the Wimbledon title. She twice dropped her serve one game from the title and there was little sign against Capriati of improvement over the last year. The American had ten chances to break in the match, but took just four.
Graf and Sabatini are such old rivals, victory and defeat is decided mainly in the mind. If the venue was Florida where Graf has lost seven times, Sabatini would be odds-on favourite, but, at Wimbledon, the German has won both times and she has the spur of being the defending champion. Sabatini is the better volleyer, should she care to use one of her most potent weapons, Graf has the better serve. "Serve is important, but I think it will be decided by the returns," Graf said.
The other semi-final, Monica Seles against Martina Navaratilova, promises an altogether different tempo. The tactics are not difficult to predict: Navratilova at the net, daring Seles to pass. Despite her pre-tournament promise to volley more, Seles ventured to the net just once in 116 points against Gigi Fernandez in the fourth round. She will not need to change her game today because Navratilova is ever willing to provide a target.
If the 35-year-old former champion's serve does not improve significantly from the quarter-final, it could be over quickly and painfully for those who hate to see a great champion hurt. "It's not like you're going to be boxing or anything where you may get your head knocked off. She hits a ball. I don't play her; I play the ball. I have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. What's the worst thing that can happen to me?" The question hung in the air.
Navratilova's hopes stem from Seles's vulnerability to serve-and-volleyers. Her last grand slam defeat was inflicted by Linda Ferrando, a left-hander who, for one brief spell in her career, gave a passable imitation of Navratilova. Navratilova emerged as Seles's most persistent foe last year, beating her twice, but she was left stranded by the force of the Yugoslav's groundstrokes in the final of the US Open. The heart would want one last hurrah for the old champion, the head, alas, points to a replay of the French final between the world's top two.