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Old Sep 30th, 2013, 12:20 PM   #2956
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2

The "friend from the Netherlands" might have been part of the reason she finally relaxed, but the world will never know how much of a thing they had going on, or if it was merely all in everybody's imagination.

THE SEOUL OLYMPICS: TENNIS; Graf Hits Stride, Trounces Garrison
PETER ALFANO
The New York Times
September 30, 1988

The quest appeared to be taking its toll on Steffi Graf. She arrived in Seoul almost two weeks ago looking beleaguered, then was engulfed by a wave of reporters and photographers at the airport. The Grand Slam champion sounded tense in her first post-match interview and the weariness showed on the court, where Graf struggled in her early matches as she hasn't all year on the professional tour.

The Golden Slam is what her business agents called her bid to win the four major championships of tennis: Wimbledon, the United States Open, French Open and Australian Open, along with a gold medal in singles at the Olympics.

But when an Australian reporter brought up the subject, she bristled, saying: ''I won a Grand Slam, and now I am trying to do the best I can do to win a gold. One has nothing to do with the other.''

Graf still does not want to equate the two, but her mood brightened considerably yesterday, when she played her best match of the Olympics, routing Zina Garrison, 6-2, 6-0. The victory set up a rematch of the United States Open final against Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, whom Graf will face for the gold.

''I am excited,'' she said, ''because I played great tennis. I am very pleased, especially after the last couple of days when I did not play that well.''

No Time to Rest

Graf is getting accustomed to her surroundings. She is staying in the Olympic Village, which lacks some of the luxuries she enjoys on the tour. Graf rides a bicycle, she has gone to several events, even to the boxing to see friend from the Netherlands compete, and said she enjoys meeting other athletes. But this is usually the time of year she spends with her family in Bruhl, West Germany, counting down the end of her tennis season.

''When I came to Seoul, I was really tired,'' Graf said. ''I wanted some time to be away.''

For the first time in 64 years, tennis is a medal sport in the Olympics. Although the players are competing as individuals, most have said they feel a certain pride representing their countries.

Graf's countrymen expect her to win tournaments, in a convincing manner. They can be unreasonable, Graf said, but that did not lessen her enthusiasm for competing for West Germany in the Olympics.

She won the singles title when tennis was a demonstration sport in Los Angeles in 1984. What she had not counted on, however, was the physical toll playing here so soon after the United States Open would take.

End in Sight

With the end in sight, though, she was in top form against Garrison, who reached the semifinals at the Open and has continued to play well at the Olympics.

She is known for her forehand, the most intimidating shot in the women's game. The hard courts here are playing a little slowly, prolonging the rallies, which would appear to work in Graf's favor against Sabatini. In the Open final, stamina was the difference as Graf was easily the stronger player in the third set. Sabatini, on the other hand, is the only player who has beaten Graf this year, doing it twice last spring in Florida.

''I wouldn't give Steffi the gold medal right away though she's playing great,'' Garrison said. ''You never know. She did play so well, though. Everything zipped past me.''
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