Aug 26th, 2012, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf on Course for More Than a Grand Slam
August 30, 1988
The Washington Post
Steffi Graf is so utterly, charmingly 19 it is difficult to believe this same woman occupies the tennis courts of the world so adultly. Having embraced no concept more meaningful than fast food, she brusquely dispatches players whose careers are older than she is years. Moreover, this callow talent is threatening to win the ageless Grand Slam while still under parental supervision.
Graf lives at home, like most 19-year-olds with adventurous habits probably should. She has a 19-year-old's impervious taste for plasticky drive-through cheeseburgers and greasy fries. She has a typical devotion to her stereo headphones and a preference for driving rock music that sounds like the thumpity-thump of ash cans rolling down a street. She has a loyal affection for her dog Max, even when he bites her, and she sleeps in the same room she did as a child.
She wears faded though not inexpensive jeans, casually beat up suede loafers and wrinkled though not unfashionable T-shirts that hang from her massive shoulders. Her walk is a youthful slump-and-lope, she tosses longish hanks of blond hair from a roundish face. She rolls embarrassed blue eyes and ducks her head when confronted with these issues of her unseemly youth, wealth and talent. "I feel my age," she shrugged. "Maybe in a way I'm older, but I feel 19."
But Graf's occupation is admittedly not one normal for late teendom, which is to be expected because no other 19-year-old has the opportunity to sweep the Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year when the U.S. Open began Monday at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, N.Y. There, Graf can collect the final trophy in the historical collection that includes the Australian and French opens and Wimbledon.
Graf would become only the fifth person to do so, and the first woman since Margaret Court in 1970 (the others are Don Budge, 1938; Maureen Connolly, 1953; and Rod Laver, 1962 and 1969). There is the sensation that should Graf do it, she could dominate the game for the next decade, because she has lost exactly one set in taking the first three legs of the Slam, on the grass of Australia and Wimbledon and the clay of Roland Garros, which aren't particularly her best surfaces. The hardcourt of the Open is. What is more staggering than her chance at the Slam is the potential breadth of her game and the idea that she could get much better.
"She says she still won't play her best tennis for two or three years," said her coach, Pavel Slozil. "That's really the goal, to satisfy the game."
Graf, still unable to measure herself as a person or player, cannot be expected to grasp what it would mean to win a Slam so early in life. In Australia she giggled when they asked her the question, and in France she shrugged. After Wimbledon, it was no longer a laughing matter but a pressing issue and, the tone of her voice sometimes suggests, it was apologized for.
"I didn't think it, I really didn't," she said. "Everybody was already asking me about the Slam after Australia, and I said, 'Well, I'm the only one who can do it now.' But I couldn't believe it, I was laughing.
"I think it's probably the best thing you could ever do. You might not realize it when you do it, but a couple of years later, you would. It's the biggest thing."
There exists the comical possibility that Graf could win the Grand Slam while she is still growing. She got a centimeter taller this year, which brings her to 5 feet 9 and 130 pounds of destructive force. Graf's game itself might be described as "the biggest thing," a massive driven entity that has kept pace with her physical growth.
Her father, Peter, a tennis coach from Bruhl, West Germany, put the first racket in her hand when she was 4, after sawing off the handle. By the time she was 12 she was playing adult tournaments internationally, setting a record she still holds for the youngest player ever to be ranked on the WITA computer. At 15, she won the gold medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics (tennis was a demonstration event) in Los Angeles, in the same year becoming the youngest player to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Graf's hectic rise occasionally suggested that she was too driven, a child prodigy of a demanding father-coach. Her quietness combined with the constant presence of her father on tour as her chaperon for a time gave her a reputation as aloof, particularly after incidents like the 1986 U.S. Open, when she stormed past a consoling Martina Navratilova after losing a semifinal.
But as Graf has become older and more articulate, it has become evident that if anyone was doing the driving, it was the child. To suggestions that perhaps she has missed a more normal life, she replies, "Are you sure? I have to say I've never missed anything. I do everything I want."
Peter Graf has emerged as a affectionate, protective father who views himself as a buffer for any criticism of his daughter. If he has played a role in her success beyond coaching, it has been forcing her to take a few days off to do things like go water skiing in Marbella, Spain, and maintaining the most normal home possible under the circumstances. She chooses to live at home in Bruhl rather than buy her own place because, she shrugs, "It isn't necessary (to move out) yet."
"I'm not a person who likes to have the racket out of her hand," she said. "Someone has to say stop. My father has been a big part of that."
So, if anything pushes Graf, it is her own obsessive lust for playing tennis. There is an odd sense that she doesn't play for money or victories so much as the sheer sensation of hitting the felt cover off the ball. She hasn't bought anything with her money, beyond a plain car and a new Sony Walkman. "It's nice to know I'm secure," she said. "But I'm not spending my money on crazy things. I never will. I'm not that kind of person." Her titles are just so much coal for the furnace, tournaments merely an excuse to pull Slovil onto the practice court.
"I think I never met someone who loves the game more than she," Slovil said. "It's never happened yet that I said, 'It's time to go practice.' Until she is late or doesn't want to go out there, I'll have to say she loves the game more than anyone."
She plays with a sort of brevity, an impatience that seems almost dismissive of her opponents. She has a cold, unfeeling backhand and an injurious forehand that might the single hardest stroke around, along with her right-handed serve. She carves out whole swatches of open court, leaving the opposition humiliatingly vulnerable to easy volleys. "Sometimes," she said, "if my opponent is easy or not playing well, I get a little angry because I wish they would play better."
But Graf is not callous so much as she is intent on her own purpose; she seems to greet every stroke with the sentiment, "Look, a ball!" In the Australian, she whipped Chris Evert in the first set, 6-1, and had her down by 5-1 in the second before Evert lost respectably, 7-6. In the French, she defeated Natalia Zvereva by 6-0, 6-0 to complete the first shutout ever in a final at Roland Garros. "I was blown out," Navratilova said incredulously after her three-set loss in the Wimbledon final, in which Graf took 12 of the last 13 games for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory.
Graf has brought sheer power to women's tennis, much in the way Navratilova first brought pure athleticism to it. She is threatening to develop the sort of thrall Navratilova held over the game when she won six straight grand slam events in 1983 and 1984 (she did not win a Grand Slam because the four did not come in a calendar year). Graf has held the No. 1 spot without interruption since August of last year, and has now won four grand slam events in the last 13 months. She has played in six straight grand slam finals and won four.
The turning of the tide is now painfully evident to the 33-year-old Evert and 31-year-old Navratilova, both of whom acknowledge they won't be in the game much longer. "I'll be back next year if my aching body holds up," Navratilova said at Wimbledon after Graf halted her streak of six straight titles. As long ago as last year's U.S. Open, Evert had already delivered her benediction. "I think a lot of people wondered what would happen when we retired, and now they don't wonder anymore," Evert said then. "Steffi will be a good No. 1 for women's tennis."
There is one significant drawback to Graf's tennis idyll, however, and it is fame. She sometimes flees to her second home, a condo in Boca Raton, Fla., because going back to West Germany has turned into an unrestful strain since becoming a national hero there. They drive slowly by her house, knock on the door for autographs, demand her opinions on international matters. She longs for some small amount of time in which to enjoy her accomplishments before the clamor for more begins.
"The tennis," she said, "is much easier than what's around it."
But as her victories increase, the problem compounds, and she remarks dolefully on the fact that her interview commitments now take take more time than her matches. Those have become a sort of refuge, where she can play with a sort of unthinking nervelessness that perhaps only a 19-year-old possesses.
"It's very difficult to do it right for everybody," she said. "If you play fast, they say you are too fast. But once I got down, 3-0, and someone said they wanted their money back. They don't know what they want. So I do it for me, I do what I want and what's best for me.
"I don't really like not having so much time. Like when you win Wimbledon, you can't really do what you feel. A few years ago, I could feel it much more. Now, I have to worry about winning the next tournament."
There is a "next tournament" at the Summer Olympics in Seoul (tennis is reinstated as a medal sport this year), where Graf is expected to win another gold medal, and she will have just three days to get there from New York. But for the moment, the next tournament is the Open, and that means the Slam. Graf has questioned Court about it, and received an interesting reply: "She says not to think about it too much."
Aug 27th, 2012, 09:35 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
It's an Open Draw That Graf Could Love : Her Slam Chances Improve With Navratilova, Sabatini in Other Half
August 29, 1988
Special to The LA Times
NEW YORK — They made the women's draw for this week's U.S. Open at a hotel in midtown Manhattan last Thursday morning, and within minutes, one state away, Peter Graf's day was made.
Virginia Slims tour liaison Ted Tinling--who umpired for Suzanne Lenglen and watched Margaret Court and Maureen Connolly complete their Grand Slams--sat in on this latest chapter in the history of women's tennis, and he immediately left his table after the draw was announced. Tinling then telephoned the anxious Peter Graf, who was waiting by the phone in Mahwah, N.J., to find out the state of his daughter Steffi Graf's Grand Slam chances.
Here was the news: Nineteen-year-old Steffi Graf was not in the same half of the draw as her young rival, Gabriela Sabatini, or the defending champion, Martina Navratilova. Sabatini, who has recorded the only two wins over Graf in 1988, and Navratilova would have to battle one another and/or a host of other dangerous players just to meet Graf in the final.
The only major seeded player that Graf would have to contend with in her half was 33-year-old Chris Evert, whom she hasn't lost to since 1986.
"I said to Peter, 'It's a miracle draw,' " Tinling said. "He didn't say anything. I said, 'Peter, are you smiling?' All he said was, 'Yes.'
"He was so nervous the day before that he was shaking. I started shaking. We were like two jellyfish."
They stopped shaking last Thursday. Today, as the 1988 U.S. Open begins, Graf is poised to take the final step of the most improbable Grand Slam, something people said couldn't be done in the 1980s, especially on four different surfaces in the same calendar year.
In January, Graf beat Evert in straight sets to win the Australian Open on a new synthetic surface. In June, in Paris, Graf survived a second-set tiebreaker before defeating Sabatini on clay in the French Open semifinals and went on to beat Soviet teen-ager Natalia Zvereva, 6-0, 6-0, in the final. And a month later at Wimbledon, Graf spotted Navratilova the first set before rallying to win 12 of the next 13 games to win the title on grass.
Next up: The last leg, the U.S. Open, played on cement. In the next two weeks, Graf has the chance to join a select group of four players who have won the Grand Slam. The last time the feat was accomplished was 1970, by Margaret Court. She fought back to beat Rosie Casals--and her own nerves--at the fourth and final stop, the Open at Forest Hills, N.Y.
So what exactly in the name of Don Budge, Rod Laver, Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court is this teen-ager doing, as she tries to break into this elite circle of Grand Slam winners?
The way Graf looks at it, the club has been closed for 18 years and she's not just campaigning to get in ... she'll break down the door if she has to.
Most of the experts, speculating on the eve of the Open, doubt that Graf will falter at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, N.Y.
"Steffi will win the Grand Slam unless she breaks her leg," Billie Jean King said.
Mary Carillo, CBS and ESPN analyst, figures it would take even more than that to stop Graf.
"I think it would take either illness, injury and extreme nerves for her not to win it," Carillo said. "Actually, I think you'd probably need a combination of those things. Those are the big three. But I think just one of them wouldn't wipe her out. It would take more."
Graf had an odd run-in with injury this summer. Back home in West Germany, she was playing with her dog Max and the German Shepherd bit her. Yes, on her right, playing hand. But Graf not only survived, she promptly won a tournament in Hamburg without losing a set, taped finger and all.
If Graf were to win the Grand Slam here, she won't be the youngest player to complete the feat. Connolly, known fondly as Little Mo, won the Slam in 1953 at 18 just less than a year before her precocious career ended. Graf's game reminds Tinling and others of Connolly because of her efficiency, style, sense of purpose and on-court concentration.
Carillo looks at the women's field and sees just one player with any kind of momentum--Graf. Actually, with Graf's year, you can call it, Big Mo. Sabatini started the year well, defeating Graf twice before the French Open. However, she faded badly at Wimbledon and looked sluggish this summer before rebounding to win the Canadian Open earlier this month.
The rest of the field, however, hasn't kept pace.
If people thought Navratilova had a strange season leading up to last year's U.S. Open, 1988 is more puzzling. Despite losing to Evert twice before Wimbledon, Navratilova won a handful of tournaments in the winter and spring and began to look again like the dominating player of the early '80s.
Once she got to Paris, however, everything stopped making sense.
Navratilova lost to the 17-year-old Zvereva at the French Open. This led Navratilova to later make a statement that from there on in, she was on a mission against all Russians. Although she beat Zvereva at Wimbledon, the mission blew up in Navratilova's face earlier this month in Montreal when the Soviet teen-ager beat Navratilova again, losing just five games.
This time, Zvereva might be waiting for Navratilova again in the quarterfinals. First, Navratilova must get past a difficult first-round opponent, No. 28-ranked Catarina Lindqvist. If the draw goes according to form, Navratilova will play No. 13-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez in the fourth round, while No. 11 Zina Garrison will meet Zvereva. Fourth-seeded Pam Shriver, No. 5 Sabatini and No. 10 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch are in the upper quarter of Navratilova's half.
On the other side, of course, are Graf and Evert. Evert's biggest problem could be Houston's Lori McNeil, seeded ninth, whom she could meet in the fourth round. McNeil came to prominence last year when she upset Evert here in the quarterfinals. However, McNeil has done little as far as major victories since last year's Open. Evert has won one tournament and reached the semifinals of another since her recent marriage to Andy Mill.
No Mo, as in no momentum, is also the story in this year's men's field. The great U.S. hope, No. 4-ranked Andre Agassi, heads into Flushing Meadow with seven tournament victories--but with no wins over the top three players in the world--Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander. And in an official tournament, the 18-year-old hasn't ever knocked off No. 5-ranked Boris Becker or No. 6 Jimmy Connors.
Lendl's story is almost as perplexing as Navratilova's. He began 1988 hoping for, and as it turned out, dreaming about a Grand Slam. That dream ended quickly for him with a semifinal loss to Pat Cash at the Australian Open in Janaury. Since then, Lendl hasn't appeared in a Grand Slam final, but he is the three-time defending champion at the Open.
"I don't have a solid pick yet," Carillo said. "But Lendl deserves the nod, but just the barest of nods. You wouldn't be able to see my head even bob up and down."
Hardly a ringing endorsement. But who else is there? The third-seeded Edberg has turned in mixed results since his Wimbledon title, the biggest victory of his career. But, Edberg would have to get past Wilander, a longtime nemesis. Wilander beat him in last year's Open, this year's Australian Open and this month's Assn. of Tennis Professionals Championship in Cincinnati.
Wilander, though, has his own problem in the form of the elusive, eighth-seeded Miloslav Mecir. Wilander could meet the Czech player before getting to Edberg, in the quarterfinals. At Wimbledon, Wilander had his hopes of a Grand Slam dashed by a one-sided loss to Mecir in the quarterfinals.
Also in this half are No. 5 Becker, No. 10 Henri Leconte, No. 11 Brad Gilbert and No. 16 John McEnroe. The up-and-down McEnroe would have to play Wilander in the round of 16, if he gets past Australian Mark Woodforde, who recently beat McEnroe in Canada.
"Mac is in trouble," Carillo said. "Woodforde could be a lot of trouble for him.... McEnroe is an extreme longshot to win."
"I picked Agassi to do well last year even though he was No. 90 in the world because he had a dream draw," Carillo said. "And he lost in the first round. I'm going to be very bold and pick him again. He has a lot of momentum, but has never beaten Lendl, Becker or Wilander.
"But I would give him a chance to win the Open because on a good day, I think he can beat anyone in the world."
The sporting world doesn't have that problem with the heavy favorite, Graf. She has dropped just one set in Grand Slam play in 1988. And she has lost only twice the whole year. So, barring injuries or plague or pestilence, Graf will likely inherit the Budge-Laver-Connolly-Court legacy in two weeks' time.
Carillo has one last idea, one last possible road block to Graf's ascendancy.
"A pack of wild dogs at the Open," she said, laughing, "Not just one dog, a whole pack. That's what it would take."
Aug 27th, 2012, 09:52 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Originally Posted by djul14
Yes really good read.
Two things made me
"Sometimes," she said, "if my opponent is easy or not playing well, I get a little angry because I wish they would play better."
(...)she seems to greet every stroke with the sentiment, "Look, a ball!"
If you like those, I will try to re-find a few articles about the 1986 US Open semi. Young Steffi could say some astonishing things, before she realized that people were paying attention to her....
Aug 28th, 2012, 01:22 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Navratilova, Lloyd Finally May Have Found Some Company ... : Three Is a Crowd, but Graf Doesn't Mind
February 07, 1987
Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd are still standing, still No. 1 and No. 2 atop the world of women's tennis. They have withstood the first wave, the second wave and the third wave of young would-be replacements.
Tracy Austin was the first. She posed a strong threat to the Navratilova-Lloyd regime but was defeated by nagging back and shoulder injuries.
In the second wave, Andrea Jaeger defeated herself. And although Pam Shriver and Hana Mandlikova may have had the physical skills, they also may have lacked the necessary psychological equipment.
Gabriela Sabatini was the third wave. She caught the fancy of the tennis world in 1985, but her '86 results seem to have shown her to be just another pretty face.
So now, there is a new entry on the list of those who would be queen. Her name is Steffi Graf. She is 17.
In a five-week stretch last spring, the West German defeated Lloyd and Navratilova. It was a rare clean sweep of the big two.
Is there, at last, a big three?
"I always mention Steffi's name first when I talk about the up-and-coming girls on the tour," Lloyd said last year. "She has a monster forehand, and in terms of pace, it is the best in women's tennis."
Ted Tinling, who serves as master of ceremonies at Virginia Slims events and has followed women's tennis for nearly 60 years, said: "We always thought she was the most hopeful. Chris Evert herself promoted Steffi's game. Now she's probably sorry she said those things."
--Graf compiled a 24-match winning streak, including 4 tournament victories last spring. She fought off match points in two of those finals, one against Sabatini at the U.S. Clay Courts and the other against another West German, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, in the WTA Championships.
--Her victories over Lloyd and Navratilova were in straight sets. Graf beat Lloyd, 6-4, 7-5, last April and defeated Navratilova, 6-2, 6-3, in May at the German Open.
--In the 1986 U.S. Open, Graf established herself as a genuine threat to the long-running Chris and Martina show. Her semifinal against Navratilova was the match of the year in women's tennis.
The exciting, tense, three-set match, which took two days to complete because of rain, even had the male players screaming at the television set in their locker room. After losing the first set, 6-1, Graf won the second in a tiebreaker and held three match points in the third before Navratilova prevailed.
At first, after the victory over Lloyd last spring, Graf seemed almost stunned by her new postion. Becoming No. 3 in the world wasn't in the plans at the beginning of 1986. Neither were victories over Lloyd and Navratilova.
"For the first time, it is really strange," Graf said in an interview last year. "You were always looking at the top of the draw and you saw Martina or Evert there. Now everybody expects me to win and there's a little more pressure on me. But I can handle it pretty good ... I hope."
Whether Graf can handle the pressure will likely manifest itself during the next Grand Slam events. She came down with a virus at the French Open and missed Wimbledon because of the illness. But nerves were no problem at the U.S. Open. In the second and third sets against Navratilova, she appeared supremely confident.
That, however, wasn't the case the night before. When rain interrupted play, Graf was down, 1-4, and Navratilova was playing brilliantly.
"That evening, I had a bad feeling," Graf recalled. "I thought, 'What am I going to do?' Before I played her, I had practiced against a lefty. But in the morning before we played again, I thought, 'I don't give a damn.' It didn't matter who I played against--lefty or righty."
When Navratilova won the first set, Graf's main goal was to try to win some more games. She started playing well and managed to hit some sharp passing shots. Then came the two tiebreakers, with Navratilova coming up the winner in the third set.
"After it was over, the crowd was really standing behind me and I felt so good," Graf said. "The people were the ones who pushed me and Martina to the next level. Just standing there, I was chilled on the court. It was such a good feeling. I wanted to do something, to say something to the crowd."
Afterward, Graf recalled that her father, Peter, told her that she had played so well. What else could she have done?
"I told him, 'I could have won.' "
In this country--and in tournaments such as the Newsweek Women's event she is playing in this weekend in Indian Wells, Calif.--Graf is probably the least known of the world's top five women players. She's well known in Germany but is overshadowed by Boris Becker, which suits her just fine.
And for a long time, she played in the shadow of Sabatini, who is now her doubles partner. At the 1985 French Open and Wimbledon, Sabatini was besieged by interview requests. As for Graf, it was: Steffi who?
"I wasn't angry about it or anything," Graf said. "She's a very good player. I didn't mind it. Yeah, it does take some (pressure) off. Everybody was looking after her. They knew her more. And they always wanted to see her. And I had time off."
That time off gave Graf the opportunity to refine her serve and backhand in relative anonymity. Some have felt, including Graf, that the attention lavished upon Sabatini helped Graf progress faster.
The life of anonymity has started to change. Obviously, the tennis world and general sporting public have lots of questions about Graf. Beating Lloyd and Navratilova will do that.
For instance, who is Steffi Graf?
"It's so hard to say," she said. "I would say I'm usually shy, and I hate to talk too much. After my first win, I felt more comfortable with everything. I was more relaxed. I am somebody, who at first, is quiet. I need some time to get used to the person. Usually I am not someone who is that open.
"But I am getting used to it more and more. And I mostly know the answers to the questions."
Hobbies? Shopping and cooking.
Favorite groups? Lionel Richie, Phil Collins, Wham!
Favorite team? Lakers.
Favorite movie? "Platoon."
But one question stumped her. Graf was talking about another hobby. She likes to collect little liquor bottles, like the ones you get on airplanes.
"But most of them are empty," she said, shrugging. "I'm trying to get more full ones."
Why are they empty?
"Not me," she said, laughing and looking embarrassed.
It isn't unusual for athletes to take on different characteristics once they start competing. Graf fits this category. Her court demeanor is a stark contrast to her off-court personality. In tense matches, she sometimes yells in German after missing on a big point or bangs her racket on the court after what she perceives as a bad call.
Graf claims she does have fun on the court, despite evidence to the contrary.
"I guess that's the way it looks, everybody's told me that," she said. "I know. Whenever everybody says I should smile more on the court, that's impossible for me. I'm just so concentrated out there. Even when my father and me are practicing, my father will say, 'You are looking so . . . not relaxed.' It's so hard for me."
It is, indeed, hard for someone who hates to lose. At anything. She dislikes even losing at cards. Before her matches, Graf plays cards or backgammon with her father. To put her in a good frame of mine, Peter Graf usually lets her win.
"I'm horrible," she said. "I get so mad at myself if I lose. I don't like it when he lets me win, either."
Almost every young player has a coach or mentor to help combat the stress. In Graf's case, the duty rests with her coach and father.
"I never had to push Steffi," Peter Graf said. "I never had to say, 'Steffi, please play tennis.' She insisted. When she was young, I never said, 'Steffi, want to play tennis?' I only had to say, 'Slowly.' "
Peter Graf is as surprised as his daughter about her rapid climb up the tennis ladder.
"Steffi makes not only one step, she makes some steps more," he said. "She has unbelieveable discipline. She always wants to win. Whether it is in backgammon or cards or tennis. She's a winner.
"Steffi now has a very good chance to stay in the top three. But I am not American. Americans are more, 'Oh, you are the next star.' "
Until recently, the American way and Peter Graf were on a collision course. He was regarded on the tour as an ogre. He frequently chastised tour officials and the media. Once, after Steffi had lost to Navratilova in a tournament final, he tried to pull her off the court before the presentation ceremony.
Things started to improve upon the realization that he needed a better image.
"That was not right from us," Peter Graf said of the tournament incident. "I was too much at fault. I still have much to work on. But I think we have also worked on my image now."
It got to the point where Peter Graf decided not to travel as extensively with his daughter. She said her father never liked the grueling travel and prefers to stay home in Bruehl to work on business projects.
Still, Graf needed a coach for the times her father stayed home. Pavel Slozil, Czechoslovakian Davis Cup player, entered the picture three months ago. Slozil, who continues to play the circuit occasionally, had met Peter Graf at tournaments.
When Graf took time off after the Virginia Slims championship, she worked with Slozil on improving her backhand, her passing shots and her serve. But when it comes to the big tournaments, Graf will keep looking to her father for support.
"He will do everything for me," she said. "He is the one who knows what is best for me and he will always be there. . . . Some people were writing very bad about my father. Maybe they wanted us to split up. That, for sure, will never happen."
After the U.S. Open match against Navratilova, Graf was quoted as saying that Martina was beatable and that Chris wasn't so tough anymore.
"My words were totally mixed up," she said. "I said, if you play a match like this, you have to feel you can beat them. What I said is that they're more beatable now. The more you play them, the more chances you have. I'm just beginning . . . and they are 30 and 32.
"I felt bad it sounded that way. I started to get some bad letters from Britain. They said, you can't beat Chris and Martina."
Graf laughed. She said she isn't in a hurry, thinking it might take two or three years to break into the top two. "I don't think anybody is going to be the next Martina or Chris," said Robert Lansdorp, the former coach of Austin and tour player Stephanie Rehe. "Everybody, that is, from three on down, doesn't believe that they can be No. 1. When Chris and Martina do retire, for whatever reason, there's going to be an unbelieveable enthusiasm with everybody else ... thinking they can be No. 1."
People now know about Graf, the top contender for the throne. She's been to 1986 what Becker was to 1985--the child prodigy, the new hope.
No doubt, 1987 will be Graf's testing ground. This year, she will have her greatest opportunity yet to break up the hierarchy in women's tennis.
Aug 29th, 2012, 03:34 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Sports of The Times; Steffi Wins Survival Contest at the Open
By George Vecsey
Published: September 10, 1989
New York Times
The marathon continued yesterday at the steamy outdoor dance hall in Flushing Meadows, with the player who had suffered from cramps outlasting the player who suffered from being 32.
Steffi Graf, who ran off the court with leg cramps on Friday, ran off the court again yesterday, only this time for the regular ceremony of kissing her father.
Martina Navratilova, who had played an exceptional first 16 games, had to settle for slamming the racquet after the 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 loss, but then she somehow managed to find a gracious speech at the awards ceremony.
The defeat had to be particularly galling to Navratilova, who had said she could play better against Graf after losing to her at Wimbledon. After squandering the break lead in the second set, Navratilova praised her nemesis's recuperative power: ''She's 20.''
Martina had wondered if Steffi would suffer from having five fewer hours to rest because their semifinal matches on Friday had been separated by a men's doubles match.
After a tough three-set victory over Gabriela Sabatini in the tea-time attraction, Graf bolted off the court in tears because of cramps in her legs.
Previous contestants have been seen scuttling crab-style toward the trainer's room, their legs locked into claw-like appendages.
More and more, the Open resembles a Depression-era dance marathon, with competitors rocking back and forth from one foot to another, afraid to relax lest one knee slip to the ground and they be disqualified.
Tennis treats its finest players cruelly by asking them to endure two weeks of heat and humidity, with no recourse to medical attention if their muscles start to cramp.
So far in the Open, Jimmy Connors has gone into a shivering, quivering mass of muscle and nerves from dehydration after a long session on center court.
Jimbo was warned years ago by Dr. Gary Wadler, one of the tournament physicians, to drink copious amounts of water and avoid soft drinks, but Jimbo may have done some backsliding, causing himself to need intravenous treatment. Jay Berger had to default with cramps while trailing in a fourth set against Aaron Krickstein.
Dr. Wadler has some concern about leaving athletes out there on their own. An internist, he recently combined with Dr. Brian Hainline to write ''Drugs and the Athlete,'' an extensive survey published by F. A. Davis.
''As a physician, if a player certainly has developed heat exhaustion or cramps or stroke, you certainly want that individual to make sure that they do not do harm to themselves,'' Dr. Wadler said Friday.
''I think that it's a question we have periodically had to address amongst ourselves.''
Dr. Wadler said when athletes start swigging water while cramping, ''the cattle are out of the barn. The treatment of heat illness is anticipating it,'' particularly on a Decoturf II surface where the temperature is 120 degrees.
After treating Graf with ice, gentle massage and drinking water on Friday, Dr. Wadler said the young champion would probably be able to compete yesterday.
Graf came out early to prepare for Martina by hitting with left-handed Mark Woodforde, the redhead who shared the doubles crowd with John McEnroe Friday.
Woodforde said later that Graf looked a bit stiff, and in the early games she was not whacking the ball into the corners with her marvelous forehand.
Mostly that was because Navratilova was playing vintage tennis, mixing soft drop shots with athletic backhand volleys and slashing forehands, evoking abrupt cheers from the fans, as if her shots had been slam-dunks by Michael Jordan.
After 16 games, it changed. Navratilova misfired for two double faults to be broken, and Graf began to spank the ball deep into the corners. Navratilova said she never thought she had the match won, but she didn't claim fatigue, and she didn't think she or Graf suffered from having played on Friday.
''I wish I could blame it on my body, but I can't,'' Navratilova said. ''I could have played five sets today.''
On Friday, Navratilova had suggested Open officials schedule the late rounds the way Wimbledon does it, and put the women's semifinals on Thursday, the men's semifinals on Friday, the women's finals on Saturday and the men's finals on Sunday.
''I probably won't see that in my lifetime,'' she said.
The reason the women do not get their own time slots is that television does not consider them a good attraction, even with two champions like Graf and Navratilova trading their best shots in a final round.
''You gotta get organized and say, 'Look, this is a big game,' '' Navratilova said. ''You don't start the Super Bowl at 11 A.M.''
Graf and Navratilova had to sit around the clubhouse and wait for Boris Becker to dispose of Aaron Krickstein in straight sets in the opening semifinal.
A few years ago, Martina and Chris Evert had to sit around during a five-hour semifinal match, with the two old pros sharing Martina's extensive cache of bagels and bananas.
The men also suffer from a split card. The winner of yesterday's second men's semifinal would have six fewer hours of rest than the winner of the first match.
Sometimes it doesn't matter, as in 1976 when Manuel Orantes barely had time for a deep soak in the tub and a quick sleep after a marathon semifinal with Guillermo Vilas late Saturday evening. The smiling Spaniard recovered for an easy victory over Jimmy Connors on Sunday afternoon.
Skill is obviously important in the Open, but so is standing on two feet, alone in the world but for a racquet and a bottle of water.
Aug 30th, 2012, 04:33 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf: "Alle haben das Potenzial für Grand-Slam-Titel"
Die 22-fache Grand-Slam-Siegerin traut Kerber, Lisicki, Görges und Petkovic einiges zu.
Die 22-fache Grand-Slam-Turniersiegerin Steffi Graf spricht im Interview über das "Fräulein-Wunder" im deutschen Tennis. Die 43-Jährige analysiert die Stärken von Petkovic, Lisicki, Görges sowie Kerber und verrät, wer die besten Chancen auf einen Major-Titel hat.
Frau Graf, welcher Spielerin aus dem Kreis der deutschen Frauen trauen Sie am ehesten den Einzug in ein Grand-Slam-Endspiel zu?
Steffi Graf: "Es ist sehr schade, dass Andrea Petkovic in diesem Jahr so ein Verletzungspech hat. Ich hoffe sehr, dass sie dieses Pech nicht weiter verfolgt und dass sie wieder topfit antreten kann, denn generell gebe ich ihr die besten Chancen auf den Einzug in ein Major-Finale und den Titel.
Warum gerade Andrea Petkovic?
Graf: "Weil Andrea einfach alles mitbringt, um es ganz nach oben zu schaffen. Das ist mein Eindruck. Und dann kommt natürlich noch ihre spielerische Klasse dazu."
Wie schätzen Sie Sabine Lisicki ein?
Graf: "Sie verfügt über ein unglaubliches Talent. Sabine schlägt zum einen hervorragend auf. Was sie aber zudem auszeichnet: Lisicki ist in der Lage, aus jeder Ecke des Platzes die Bälle hart, präzise und in fantastischen Winkeln ins Feld zu spielen."
Mit Julia Görges und Angelique Kerber hat Deutschland inzwischen sogar vier Spielerinnen in der Weltspitze.
Graf: "Ja, auch Kerber und Görges haben großes Talent, können sehr weit kommen. Also ich muss unseren Mädels allen ein generelles Lob aussprechen. Wenn noch ein wenig mehr Selbstvertrauen dazukommt, dann haben sie alle das Potenzial für einen Grand-Slam-Titel."
In Österreich sorgt derzeit Tamira Paszek für Furore. Wie beurteilen Sie die Zukunft der 21-Jährigen?
Graf: "Für Tamira gilt im Prinzip dasselbe wie das, was ich eben über die Deutschen gesagt habe. Wozu sie imstande ist, hat sie mit dem Turniersieg in Eastbourne und der Viertelfinal-Teilnahme in Wimbledon eindrucksvoll unter Beweis gestellt."
Lassen Sie uns noch zu den Männern kommen, wo Andy Murray der Mann der Stunde ist. Welche Bedeutung hat der Olympiasieg für einen Tennisspieler?
Graf: "Zunächst einmal sind die Spiele so oder so ein Highlight. Wenn ich da nur aus eigener Erfahrung an den Einmarsch der Nationen zurückdenke - ein unglaubliches Gefühl. Im Bezug auf Andy Murray bin ich mir sicher, dass die Goldmedaille ein Boost für die gesamte Karriere ist."
Rekorde oder Siege? Was war Ihre stärkste Motivation während der Karriere?
Graf: "Ich habe nie auf Rekorde geschielt, auch nicht bei den Olympischen Spielen. Mir ging es darum, einfach nur Tennis spielen zu können."
Auf welchem Niveau spielen Sie denn heutzutage?
Graf: "Ich muss zugeben, dass sich das Tennisspielen bei mir in Grenzen hält. Ich spiele nur noch fünf, sechs Mal im Jahr, halte mich lieber mit anderen Sportarten fit. Zum Schläger greife ich vor allem dann noch, wenn es um den guten Zweck geht. Meine ganz klare Priorität liegt auf der Familie."
Serena: "We have great personalities like Jelena (Jankovic) on the tour."
Jelena: "If I had to pick someone after me, I'd pick Serena."
Aug 30th, 2012, 08:25 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf's Reaction to Slam Is Not Exactly Grand
September 11, 1988 | LISA DILLMAN | Special to The LA Times
NEW YORK — What 19-year-old Steffi Graf of West Germany accomplished Saturday, winning the Grand Slam with her 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina in the U.S. Open, ranks with the top athletic accomplishments of this decade.
Her Grand Slam is right there with the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Soviet Union in 1980, Carl Lewis getting four Olympic gold medals in 1984 and the Lakers winning back-to-back NBA championships.
Those three events brought forth a reaction that was almost as memorable as the accomplishment itself. So how did Graf react to her epic accomplishment, when she became only the fifth person to win the Grand Slam, and the first since 1970?
What everyone got was a non-reaction. Graf barely clenched her fist, shook hands with Sabatini and walked over to her chair at courtside to towel off.
Moments later, she went to the other side of the court to greet her father, Peter, and her coach, Pavel Slozil. Graf started to walk away, but her father called her back, and she returned to the stands to acknowledge her mother, Heidi.
Anticlimax was the theme of the day. Maybe you can chalk it up to stoicism. Boris Becker showed some joy after winning Wimbledon at 17. Stefan Edberg sank to his knees at this year's Wimbledon. Even Bjorn Borg emoted.
Graf's iciness on the court was downright chilly. Edberg at Wimbledon looked bubbly by comparison.
Afterward, Graf said she didn't know how she felt about the Grand Slam. However, she did have a sense of relief to get it over with, as if the Slam were a bothersome fly that had been following her all year.
"I don't think you can expect me to give the right answer right now about it," she said. "I've just finished the match. I need some time to think about it a little. . . . I'm very happy all the talk about the Grand Slam is over. That's a nice relief. Now I've done it and there's no more pressure on me. There's nothing else you can tell me that I have to do."
Well, actually, Steffi, there is one thing.
Can you do it again next year?
"I don't know. We'll see," she said.
Graf joined Don Budge, Rod Laver, the late Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court as the only winners of the Slam. Those four, and now Graf, won the Slam by winning the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same calendar year. Graf lost only two sets in all four events.
For her part, Sabatini didn't have much to say about the significant occasion. She said she played well in the second set and, well, not so well in the third.
"I think it gave me more motivation," Sabatini said about being the last player to try to stop Graf's quest for a Slam.
"I didn't feel any pressure. I think she had pressure on her."
It showed in the second set, especially. Graf started missing big with her powerful forehand, and Sabatini's driving topspin off both sides kept Graf pinned behind the baseline. The key to the second set was at 1-1, when Graf had Sabatini down love-30 on her own serve, but Sabatini came back to hold. Graf had looked in control in the previous game after Sabatini blew three break-point opportunities.
Then, up 2-1, Sabatini used her momentum to break Graf at 15 in the very next game. They stayed on serve until the seventh game when Graf broke to cut the lead to 4-3. But Sabatini, playing strongly, responded with another service break and held to win it, 6-3.
"I was playing well technically in the first set," Graf said. "I wasn't giving her chances to go for winners. She started hitting some good shots in the second set, I wasn't so tough. The third set, she got tired."
What else is new?
The rap on Sabatini is that she wilts when the going gets tough in the third set. That's why her three-set victory over Graf last spring at Amelia Island, Fla., was so surprising. However, Sabatini, spent from the effort, had nothing left against Martina Navratilova in the final there.
"I don't understand why Sabatini keeps getting tired," said Billie Jean King. "I mean, she's 18. She has all the shots and she certainly has the game to bother Graf. I think she needs to get checked out. I feel sorry for Sabatini."
There was some solace for the runner-up. She was the first female player from her country to reach a Grand Slam final. Moreover, Sabatini is the only person to beat Graf in 1988; in fact, she beat her twice.
Oh well, that cuts Graf's record to 60-2 this year. Her winning streak is 34 as she heads to Seoul later this week for the Olympics.
Since Graf hasn't had time to savor this Grand Slam, it isn't obvious where she places the Olympics on the scale of priorities, either.
"Well, this tournament is over now," she said. "It was wearing me down a little. I'm happy to go there, but maybe the timing isn't the best, right after the U.S. Open."
She won't be worn out from celebrating. The Graf contingent planned to celebrate the Slam by hopping on a plane back home to West Germany on Saturday night.
And if Peter Graf has his way, he'll probably talk about what she did wrong against Sabatini. In the midst of a group of reporters, he kept going back to how his daughter continuously played Sabatini's better side, the backhand.
"I don't know why she kept going backhand, backhand, backhand," he said. "She needed to play the forehand as well as the backhand. Not always the backhand. . . . But this helps much, because she played not very good, but she still won.
"Even though she won the wrong way. Going to that backhand."
There you have it.
Aug 31st, 2012, 09:10 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Graf Breaks Navratilova, Defends U.S. Open Crown
By Melissa Isaacson of The Sentinel Staff
September 10, 1989
NEW YORK — Steffi Graf usually does not require any favors on a tennis court, but when she does, it need only be a small one. A double fault, a momentary lapse of concentration, the slightest letdown from her opponent and she becomes relentless in her pursuit of victory.
Martina Navratilova knew that Saturday, but she could not avoid it. After leading by one set and 4-2 in the second set of the U.S. Open finals, she gave Graf the smallest of openings and Graf leapt through with all the fury of an animal protecting its young. Or in this case, its championship trophy.
Graf, 20, won her second consecutive U.S. Open, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. It was her eighth Grand Slam title in all, her seventh championship in the last eight major tournaments.
Like their Wimbledon encounter this summer, Graf closed out the match with relative ease, winning 11 of the last 13 games at the National Tennis Center. Navratilova likened the phenomenon to "a runaway train."
But the truth is that at the midway point of the second set, Navratilova looked for all the world to be on her way to regaining the title she has won four times, the last time in '87.
In the first set, Navratilova could not have been much better, first-serving at a 72 percent clip and holding off four break points by Graf. The set lasted a crisp 32 minutes and Navratilova, so often overly emotional on court, was sure, confident.
Navratilova squandered a break point to start off the second set, but it didn't seem a critical gaffe when she did break Graf's serve in the third game to take a 2-1 lead.
Graf committed her first two double faults in that game, and when Navratilova held to take a 3-1 lead despite another two break points by Graf, Navratilova apparently had all the momentum she needed.
The turning point occurred with a scary suddenness. Leading, 4-3, Navratilova double-faulted to open the eighth game. It seemed harmless at the time, but it was the first show of nerves at a point when it was critical that she begin to close out the match.
Navratilova double-faulted again to give Graf an 0-40 cushion and when Navratilova barely missed a low backhand volley, Graf did not let the opportunity slip by.
"The game at 4-3, I just gave it to her, and you can't do that on your serve," Navratilova said. "I had been serving well and I just sort of let it slide. I was just thinking about hitting the first volley instead of hitting the first serve."
Graf, who raced off the court with painful leg cramps following her semifinal victory over Gabriela Sabatini on Friday, showed no ill effects in the final. As is her custom, she only got stronger as the match went on.
"It helps having been there so many times recently," Navratilova said, referring to Graf's string of 11 consecutive Grand Slam finals. "You get to that stage where you know exactly what to do because you've been doing it so many times. It's second nature.
"For me, it's like reading and writing. I've been there many times but I haven't been there in a while. I go more from memory than instinct."
Graf's instincts were keen. After holding serve to take a 6-5 lead, she allowed Navratilova just one point on her serve and forced the match into a third set.
There was some justice in the fact that the match deserved a third set. For Navratilova, however, it only signalled the end of a good fight. Graf took a 3-1 lead on Navratilova's fourth double fault and the Graf locomotive was going full steam.
"It's disappointing because I had a chance to win, really good chances," Navratilova said. "At 4-4 in the second, it's virtually match point because I won the next game at 40-15, so you figure that I was one point from winning the match. That's about as close as you can get but I gave her too many chances and you can't do that against her. She didn't give me any."
Six weeks shy of her 33rd birthday, this was a match Navratilova not only wanted, but needed. After going through a low point last spring where she questioned her desire, she seemed to have found a new enthusiasm since Wimbledon.
She insisted the loss was not a major disappointment but the racket she slammed down in disgust on match point suggested otherwise.
"I wish I could blame this on my body but I can't," Navratilova said. "My body is feeling really, really good and my head is better than it has ever been. Now I just need to crown it with a win. I'm definitely encouraged that I can still hang in there with the youngsters."
This particular youngster missed winning an unprecedented second Grand Slam in a row by one tournament the French Open in which she was not in top physical condition.
Navratilova commented after the match that Graf still does not look as if she is enjoying herself. Graf, who was on a plane back to West Germany less than 3 1/2 hours after the victory, said it only looks that way.
"Someone who doesn't enjoy the sport wouldn't be on the court anymore," she said. "If it wasn't for the sport, I would do something else. I like it very much and if it doesn't show, I don't care. I feel good about what I'm doing."
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