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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 11:25 PM   #2534
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

Sabatini, Graf Advance To Virginia Slims Final
March 13, 1988
JIM SARNI
Sun-Sentinel

BOCA RATON -- Chris Evert believes in the Law of Averages. Steffi Graf believes in herself.

Evert lost to Gabriela Sabatini 6-1, 7-5 for the first time in her career Saturday at the Virginia Slims of Florida, and it was one of those things that was bound to happen sooner or later.

Sabatini, the 17-year-old Argentine, is No. 5 in the world and getting better every day.

"The Law of Averages caught up to me today," said Evert, after losing for only the eighth time in 173 Florida matches.

"Sabatini is too good a player."

Steffi Graf, meanwhile, beat Pam Shriver 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) after saving a match point.

Graf has won 30 matches in a row, and 105 of her last 107. The No. 1 player in the world laughs at the Law of Averages.

"Sure, you feel you are close to losing, but you just go for it," said Graf, after pulling out the 2-hour, 50-minute match.

"I tried it and got it. It was great that I won."

Graf and Sabatini advanced to today's final at The Polo Club (ESPN at 2 p.m. Less than 500 tickets remain.

Graf has won all 11 previous matches against Sabatini, and don't bet against the streak continuing.

"I will go into the match with a different feeling," said Graf, the defending champion. "But I will fight like hell."

Sabatini showed a new spirit, herself, against Evert. She won the first set in 23 minutes, allowing Evert only nine points.

In the second set, Sabatini fought back from an early break and played with relentless determination, winning three deuce games, including the last one, in which she broke Evert for the match.

"I knew I was going to win," said Sabatini, who had lost five previous matches.

"I did what I had to do and I concentrated from the beginning."

Sabatini took advantage of the slow, hardcourt, hitting heavy topspin that trapped Evert behind the baseline.

"I felt I was 20 feet behind the baseline the whole match," Evert said. "I haven't played anyone like that in this tournament.

"On this court, her shots are very effective. Those high balls kept me offguard. I like to drill them, but I couldn`t with her topspin."

Sabatini has won opening sets from Evert before, but Evert has come back to win matches as Sabatini folded. But Sabatini was made of steel Saturday.

"She held her nerve very well," Evert said.

"I was very nervous the last time we played (Virginia Slims of New England), but this time I had the confidence that I could win," Sabatini said.

It was Evert's fabled backhand that faded at the finish. She hit three backhands into the net on the final three points she lost.

Graf, ironically, saved her match with an uncharacteristic backhand volley -- 4-5, 30-40.

"It was match point and I was going to take the risk," said Graf, who charged the net.

"I didn't want to finish the match by missing a shot and letting her hit a winner. I was going to do it myself."

Down 2-4 in the first set, Graf rallied to win the next four games. Graf fought back from 2-5 to 4-5 in the second set, but lost her service on Shriver's fourth set point and the match was even.

Graf had nine break points in the third set, but Shriver, like a pitcher working out of jams every inning, saved them all and eventually forced a deciding tiebreaker.

"I had all these break points and it irritated me that I couldn't do it," Graf said.

Graf led 3-1 in the tiebreaker, but lost the next three points. Shriver served at 4-3 with a golden chance to put the match away, but Shriver couldn't make an overhead, and Graf grabbed each point.

Now, Graf had the match on her racket and didn't let it go. Shriver saved one match point at 5-6 with a net chord, but Graf rifled a forehand past Shriver to end the challenge.

"In my kind, I can't feel like I lost," said Shriver, who dropped six successive sets to Graf last year.

"I feel like the bigger winner. I didn't play out of my mind, I just played good, solid tennis and I feel great because I know she's beatable.

"I watched Graf beat Pascale Paradis Friday and I thought she was so good, but Graf's not perfect. If you play smart tennis, the match is there to be won. Maybe I didn't quite believe I could win today."

Steffi Graf believed she could win, even at the darkest moments, Saturday. She's a champion and champions don't believe anything less.
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