Join Date: Jul 2012
Seles to meet Graf in final - Top seeds play Saturday
Friday, JULY 3, 1992
WIMBLEDON, England -- Monica Seles grunted and, in the end, Martina Navratilova groaned. Steffi Graf, in turn, kept her mouth shut and ground up Gabriela Sabatini into little bitty pieces.
Three-time champion Graf was a deathly silent semifinal assassin at Wimbledon on Thursday, ripping Sabatini 6-3, 6-3. Seles, as per usual, pumped up the volume in her much tenser 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 defeat of the 35-year-old nine-time champion Navratilova.
Two dichotomous means, the same desirous end, a Saturday showdown for the women's title. Seles, ranked No. 1 in the world and top-seeded, is in the finals here for the first time. Graf, second ranked and second seeded, is 3-for-3 on the last day, the last fortnight's included.
The American-dominated men's semifinals, pitting John McEnroe against Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras against Croatian Goran Ivanesovic, are today, starting at 6 a.m. CDT.
The 23-year-old German, Graf needed only 1 hour, 14 minutes to dispatch Sabatini, or about as much time as Navratilova spent complaining about and Seles spent defending the 18-year-old's barnyard noises. The more crucial the point, the more boisterous Seles became, Navratilova said.
"It gets louder when it gets close," Navratilova said. "It just gets louder and louder. 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 pretty hard. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. . . All I know is she doesn't make any noise when she's practicing.
"I am not saying I lost because of her grunting. I would have said this and we would be talking about it if I'd won."
Her post-match news conference was confrontational, and Navratilova charged reporters with accusing her of sour grapes, saying at one point, "Am I on trial or is her grunting on trial?"
Actually, it was a little of both. Wimbledon officials had asked Seles to cool it before the fact after complaints from her quarterfinal victim, Nathalie Tauziat, but no action was taken during the match except for a couple of verbal warnings from the referee.
"I really tried hard to keep it down today," Seles said. "I think in some parts of the match I was successful and in some parts I was not. But I do hope that next year when I come back here I won't be grunting anymore.
"I don't do it on purpose. I don't even realize I'm doing it sometimes."
Seles, a Serb who lives in Florida, has been making more than her fair share of noise on the women's tour since she won her first professional event, the Virginia Slims of Houston, as a 15-year-old in April 1989. She hasn't lost a Grand Slam match since the 1990 U.S. Open third round, winning the last five major tournaments she has entered.
She withdrew from Wimbledon abruptly last summer with a mysterious injury that she later said was shin splints.
"Grunting or not, she is a great player and certainly deserved to win today," said Navratilova, the most prolific Wimbledon champion in history. "She probably would have won today without the grunting. She hits the ball harder than anyone off both sides. A couple of times just the pace of her ball beat me.
"My problem was I never could get even. It was an uphill struggle for me the whole match."
She lost her serve in the first game and didn't finally convert break points of her own until the second-set tie-breaker, when she won the last three points against Seles' serve to force the third set.
In it, she twice answered Seles' breaks with strong breaks of her own, but Seles got to her a final time in the last game. Navratilova saved one match point with a volley winner but succumbed, fittingly, to a blistering Seles backhand passing shot down the line. Seles' two-fisted backhand was devastating all afternoon, producing repeated winners.
"I think there were a lot more winners than unforced errors out there," Navratilova said, although she admitted too many of her approaches landed long. "If I had made her play a few more balls, I would have had more of a shot (to win)."
The defeat wasn't necessarily her last at Wimbledon after 19 tournaments, going back to 1973. She won in 1978 and 1979, then from 1982 through 1987, an unprecedented six in a row.
"I'm planning on being back next year," Navratilova said.
As, no doubt, will the frustrated 22-year-old Argentine Sabatini, who lost to Graf in last year's final and is still looking for her first Wimbledon title. She was never in the hunt Thursday, failing to push Graf to break point even once.
"She was putting all her first serves in (Graf hit 80 percent), and I didn't have much chances," Sabatini said. "I never saw her play so well. Everything was working for her."
With the victory, Graf gets a chance to avenge Seles' 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 triumph in Paris. She said she will attack Seles more here than on the red clay of Roland Garros, but her serve will be the key to success.
"It's important that I have another steady day like today, like I've been showing in the last few games," Graf said. "She hasn't played as much on the grass, but she is so strong on any surface."