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Old Jan 6th, 2013, 12:12 AM   #2471
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Posting these here as well, because some of these have priceless drollery. "I asked the guy..."

Graf, Navratilova Gain Slims Semis
February 14, 1992
Neil Milbert
Chicago Tribune

Top-seeded Steffi Graf glided smoothly into the semifinals of the Virginia Slims of Chicago tennis tournament Thursday afternoon. But 11-time titlist Martina Navratilova had to rise above some night-time turbulence in the UIC Pavilion.

It took a second-set tie-breaker for the second-seeded defending champion to get the best of her friend and doubles partner, Pam Shriver, 6-2, 7-6. In the tie-breaker, Navratilova went back to playing the way she did in the first set and won 7-2.

Graf defeated Manon Bollegraf 6-2, 6-1, punctuating the performance with a 103-mile-an-hour ace for match point.

``I asked the guy what the hardest serve was so far, and he told me 104, so I went for it,`` said the No. 2-ranked player in the world. ``I almost made it.

``Bollegraf started off really well. She went for her shots and didn`t miss. It took me a few games to get into it.``

Once Graf got ``into it`` Bollegraf quickly was out of it. Graf complemented a strong serve with an assortment of well-placed strokes. She was especially effective with her backhand.

Unlike Graf, Navratilova didn`t have the luxury of indulging in impulsive experiments such as serving a rocket for the fun of it. She faltered after a powerful start and had to surmount second-set deficits of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2. It wasn`t until game 11 she managed to take the lead.

``It was sort of an up-and-down match,`` said Navratilova, trying for an unprecedented 158th singles victory. ``I wasn`t as consistent as I`d like. It`s difficult playing her. We know each other`s game so well.``

Nineteen of Navratilova`s points came on passing shots, most of which were on return of service. Her backhand play and 74 percent success ratio on first serves also were important ingredients.

``Martina started incredibly well,`` said eighth-seeded Shriver, who has a 3-38 lifetime record against Navratilova and has lost to her 28 straight times. ``I was pleased I didn`t become overly intimidated by her start. She plays the same style as I do, but she`s just that much better.``

Navratilova and Graf will have Friday off, then engage in semifinal matches Saturday.

Graf will meet the winner of Friday afternoon`s clash between third-seeded Jana Novotna and seventh-seeded Amy Frazier.

Navratilova`s semifinal foe will be the winner of Friday night`s match between fourth-seeded Zina Garrison and sixth-seeded Lori McNeil. Garrison was last year`s runner-up and the Chicago Slims champion in 1989.

Frazier and McNeil had to work hard Thursday. Both succeeded by coming on strong in the final set, McNeil beating Ginger Helgeson 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 and Frazier defeating Debbie Graham 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Shriver was asked to speculate on the outcome if Navratilova and Graf advance to Sunday afternoon`s final as expected.

She hedged. ``Steffi obviously is playing very well,`` said Shriver, alluding to the fact that Graf has lost only three games in her four tournament sets.

``But Martina is a lefty and can attack that backhand really well. When you try to find weaknesses with Martina you have to think a lot.``

The top-seeded doubles team of Navratilova and Shriver is another enigma for opponents. Immediately after their match the adversaries became allies and defeated their quarterfinal foes Peanut Harper and Cammy McGregor 6-4, 6-2.

Also advancing to the semis was the second-seeded team of Garrison and Chicago`s Katrina Adams, 6-4, 6-1 winners over Mary Lou Daniels and Rosalyn Fairbank-Nideffer.
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