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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 07:57 PM   #2529
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Top-seed Graf unimpressive in easy victory
Houston Chronicle
Sunday, MARCH 6, 1988
CHARLES CARDER

SAN ANTONIO - The Wonder Woman of tennis won the tournament named for the "Wonder Woman" of television here Saturday as Steffi Graf captured the Linda Carter-Maybelline U.S. Hardcourt Championship.

Carter played the title role in "Wonder Woman" for several years on television and Graf has been the Wonder Woman of tennis for the past year.

A capacity audience of 3,044 watched as Graf, the West German who is the No. 1-ranked women's player in the world, needed only 61 minutes to dispose of Bulgarian Katerina Maleeva 6-4, 6-1. Graf was seeded No. 1 and Maleeva, the 13th-ranked player on the computer, No. 4 in the U.S. Tennis Association-sponsored event.

Although Maleeva earned only five points - none on Graf's serve - she insisted that Graf "is not as good as everyone thinks. She misses some. She is a human being and is beatable."

But Maleeva admitted that Graf should be the No. 1 player in the world. Graf, who took over the No. 1 ranking last August and has since won the Virginia Slims Championships and the Australian Open, lost only one set in capturing her second tournament of 1988.

Lori McNeil of Houston and Helena Sukova of Czechoslovakia, the No. 1 seeds, won the doubles championship with a 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2 win over Rosiland Fairbank and Gretchen Magers, both of San Diego.

Early in the week the media here understood Graf to say she was "rusty" after four weeks off from the tour, but she later said that she was saying "restless." The confusion is understandable, but rusty still seems to be the correct word to describe her game at this point in the year.

She only had 51 percent of her first serves in, compared to 61 percent for Maleeva. Graf double-faulted four times, had three aces and four service winners. Graf made 17 errors, 15 off her forehand, usually her most feared weapon. And she hit 20 winners, 14 off her forehand.

She converted five of her nine break opportunities, but her performance was hardly what is expected of the No. 1 player when she is facing the 13th-ranked player who had lost both previous meetings.

It was her 25th consecutive match win, dating back to the finals of the U.S. Open.

Even Graf was not impressed with her week, which was worth $40,000.

"I played slightly better. In practice (before the match) I tried to hit more winners on the forehand and, once I started hitting my forehand better in the second set, it was easier.

"I definitely got better as the match went on. We had some rallies, and I made her run some and miss some shots. It was not my best, and I'm looking forward to next week in Boca Raton. Yes, I was playing better at the end."

The part of her game that concerned her the most was her service.

"My serve was horrible, that is what I will have to work on the most. And in the first two matches here my serve was very good. Sometimes my backhand is steadier than my forehand, but my forehand got better in the second set."

Maleeva, who won $20,000, set her sights on improving her physical condition after the week in which she gained the finals by scoring three-set wins in two of her five matches.

"I was both physically tired and mentally tired, and I have to work more on my physical conditioning," Maleeva said. "But I wasn't nervous. I didn't have anything to lose."

McNeil, who will skip the Boca Raton tournament and return to the tour on March 14 at Key Biscayne, Fla., thought she and Sukova "went to sleep" in the second set.

"In the beginning we were aggressive," she said of the match. "At 4-3 on my serve we went to sleep a little and let them get back in it. We stopped moving as much."

This was the first and maybe the only pairing of McNeil and Sukova. Both have regular partners, but neither was here. Their first pairing proved successful.
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