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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf makes point with win over Evert at Lipton
St. Petersburg Times
Mar 27, 1988
KEY BISCAYNE - "I needed to win this tournament for myself," Steffi Graf said. "I wanted it very badly."
And as the best woman tennis player in the world, what Steffi Graf wants, Steffi Graf usually gets.
Graf reaffirmed her standing on the tour Saturday afternoon by holding off Chris Evert 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the $2.1-million Lipton International Players Championship.
"Everybody was writing that I wasn't as confident as I used to be. I was just too eager to play. I wasn't being patient," Graf said, referring to her upset loss to Gabriela Sabatini in the final of the Virginia Slims of Florida two weeks ago in Boca Raton. "Winning this match was very important to me. It meant a lot."
In monetary terms, the win meant $112,500 for Graf. Evert, the second seed from Boca Raton, received $56,250.
Graf also defeated Evert in last year's Lipton final, 6-1, 6-2. In their only other meeting this year, in the Australian Open in January, Graf won 6-1, 7-6 (7-3).
"I'm disappointed, but I'm not devastated like I was last year when I got blown off the court," Evert said afterward. "The last few times I've played her before the Australian I was getting beat so badly. Before I could think about beating her, I just wanted to stay with her and I did that pretty well (Saturday)."
Graf served extremely well, allowing no more than one point on serve in five games, but her usual supersonic forehand produced just five winners to 17 unforced errors.
Evert had several opportunities to tighten the screws on the top seed, but she was able to capitalize on only a few. On the rare occasions when she did grab an advantage, she didn't hold on to it.
"I don't know whether I just wasn't used to being in that position or I was rushing or whatever," Evert said. "It was a matter of a couple of points and Steffi still is playing the pressure points a little bit better than I am right now."
The pressure points. The near-capacity crowd of 7,253 went silent on each one. The first came when Evert broke Graf's serve to even the first set at 4-4. If Evert had held serve in the next game, the pressure would have been on Graf to hold serve or lose the set. But Evert double-faulted at love-30, and Graf broke back and then held at love to take the set.
In the second set, Evert, 33, took on another opponent: the heat. On-court temperatures rose to more than 100 degrees. As Evert attempted to run down shots from Graf, she took longer and longer breaks between points, toweling off and catching her breath.
"It certainly took a lot out of me," Evert said. "And I think it took a lot out of her."
With Evert leading 4-3 in the second set, both players again converged at pressure-point junctures. Twice Evert had break-point chances that would have put her up 5-3 and serving for the set. Twice Graf rose above her.
Again in the next game, after Graf held to even things at 4-4, Evert had a game point that would have moved her out to a 5-4 lead. But Graf prevailed, rocketing a service return for a winner.
Finally, with Graf holding break point at 4-4, an Evert drop shot didn't clear the net, giving Graf the break and putting her in position to serve out the match.
For Graf, the pressures of staying No.1 apparently are no threat. Since the start of 1986, her match record is 162-9. While second-ranked Martina Navratilova is vacationing, Graf has the two biggest titles of 1988 in the bag and is setting her sights on the French Open, the next Grand Slam tourney, May 23-June 5.
Evert, although playing well, is still looking for her first tournament title of the year. Largo is the next stop, where she's the top seed and defending champion in the $200,000 Eckerd Open, beginning Monday at the Bardmoor Country Club.
"It would be a good tournament for me to win," Evert said. "It would do something for my confidence."