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post #31 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2016, 10:27 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Yes, even the longest-lasting No. 1 does still sometimes have a "Stupid, why can't you keep the ball in play?" moment.

The Cincinnati Post
May 20, 1996
Associated Press

BERLIN -- Steffi Graf won her ninth German Open, but was forced to battle over three tough sets before ending the upset run of Slovakia's Karina Habsudova.

The top-seeded Graf let a match point slip away before completing a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Habsudova, who had defeated three top-20 players to reach the final.

Graf, who has won the German Open more than any other tournament, said the title restored some of her confidence for the French Open, which starts May 27. She rebounded from a quarterfinal loss to Martina Hingis last week in Rome.

"To win on clay again was very important," Graf said. "But the uncertainty is still there; it's not gone yet."

Graf screamed "dumb" when she let her first match point escape at 5-4 in the third set, hitting a short ball that Habsudova whipped into the open court.

"I thought, 'Stupid, why can't you keep the ball in play?' " Graf said. "But I must say, she played some unbelievable shots."

But Graf recovered in the next game to break the serve of Habsudova, who had ousted Germany's Anke Huber, France's Mary Pierce and Hingis.

Graf won $200,000 while Habsudova earned $100,000. It was Graf's 98th career title.

Habsudova, 22, who has been slowed by injuries during the past three years, began the year ranked No. 98. She will break into the top 30 next week.

"Now, I've learned I can beat these players," Habsudova said. "I just have to believe in myself."
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post #32 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2016, 10:29 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

One of those real life "ironic echo" moments. When Steffi won the German Open in 1986 and Martina N. had her little teary moment, Steffi made an "Are you OK?" overture, to which Martina replied with a "Yeah" and a smile that suggested the kid would never understand. But 10 years later, I think the kid understood.

Tennis: Tears as Graf wins her ninth German Open
The Guardian
London, England
May 20, 1996

STEFFI GRAF wiped tears of happiness from her eyes as a Berlin crowd rose to acclaim her 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Karina Habsudova in the final of the Women's German Open, a clay-court title she has now claimed nine times.

The ovation from her compatriots proved that Graf's popularity has not diminished since her father was detained last August and later charged with evading taxes on millions of dollars of her earnings. 'To play here was a difficult decision at first,' Graf admitted, 'but from the first day I knew it was the right decision. I am incredibly happy I made it.'

The world joint No. 1 was given a tough final by the unseeded Habsudova, who showed no signs of nerves and took the opening set with a series of pinpoint shots down the lines.

On her way to the final the 22-year-old Slovak had knocked out the highly rated Swiss teenager Martina Hingis, the French No. 1 Mary Pierce, the No. 4 seed Anke Huber and Russia's Elena Likhovtseva. But she was unable to extend her string of upsets as Graf hit her stride.

Inspired by a partisan crowd, the top seed forcefully took the second set, decisively broke service at 5-5 in the third, and served out for a morale-boosting victory in the run-up to the French Open beginning next Monday.
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post #33 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2016, 10:30 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Tearful triumph for Graf
Daily Mail
London, England
May 20, 1996

STEFFI GRAF recovered from a hesitant start to beat Slovakia's Karina Habsudova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 and win the German Open clay title for the ninth time in Berlin yesterday.

In her first home appearance since coming under investigation for tax evasion, top-seed Graf broke Habsudova's serve at 5-5 in the third set and then held serve to clinch victory.

Graf wiped tears from her eyes as the crowd cheered her success.

The 22-year-old Slovak who beat Swiss teenager Martina Hingis, French No 1 Mary Pierce, German fourth-seed Anke Huber and Russian Elena Likhovtseva on her way to the final, started the match superbly and showed no signs of nerves as she took the first set with a series of pinpoint shots down the lines.

But she was unable to press home her advantage as Graf, who first won the tournament a decade ago, got her game into gear to complete a confidence-boosting victory before the French Open later this month.

Graf said: 'It was a difficult decision to play here but I felt a lot better after I made it. From the first day here I knew it was the right decision. I am incredibly happy I made it.'

BELGIUM'S Dominique Van Roost leapt up to 35th in the world rankings with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over compatriot Laurence Courtois in the final of the Rover Women's International in Cardiff. It was Van Roost's first tour win and earned her [pounds sterling]11,000.
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post #34 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 22nd, 2016, 02:33 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Hi, everyone, in case there are fans don't visit GM often, I'd like to share a news that Steffi will endorse the WTA Zhuhai match in south part of China this year, and visit China very possibly.

I don't care how did this happened as Steffi does not show up publicly lately, but our Chinese fans are really happy about it because she rarely visits east asia.
For me, I've regreted for 3+ years that I was on a business trip to Turky in 2012 when she played in Taipei. So I definitly wont miss this chance.

We still dont know what kind of public event will there be because we are not sure if everything will copy last year exactly where LiNa met her fans. We tried to contact the commitee but haven't heard from them yet.
If any of you are interested, once there is update, I'll post it here.

Steffi Graf
翩若惊鸿 婉若游龙 荣曜秋菊 华茂春松

周笔笔 但愿你的眼睛,只看得见笑容,但愿你流下每一滴泪,都让人感动
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post #35 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 22nd, 2016, 05:09 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Originally Posted by steffiandbibi View Post
Hi, everyone, in case there are fans don't visit GM often, I'd like to share a news that Steffi will endorse the WTA Zhuhai match in south part of China this year, and visit China very possibly.

I don't care how did this happened as Steffi does not show up publicly lately, but our Chinese fans are really happy about it because she rarely visits east asia.
For me, I've regreted for 3+ years that I was on a business trip to Turky in 2012 when she played in Taipei. So I definitly wont miss this chance.

We still dont know what kind of public event will there be because we are not sure if everything will copy last year exactly where LiNa met her fans. We tried to contact the commitee but haven't heard from them yet.
If any of you are interested, once there is update, I'll post it here.
I read the news, but didn't really understand what it was about.
Yes let us know ! I never visit the GM forums.
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post #36 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 22nd, 2016, 05:14 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

A bit disappointed by the 1996 Berlin articles (not by you Mrs A lol), the articles very (can't find the word) about the results, the matches.
I followed it every day on (german) tv back then, it was special, not just about the tennis you know, the expectation, the emotional part, etc...
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post #37 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2016, 08:43 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Originally Posted by djul14 View Post
A bit disappointed by the 1996 Berlin articles (not by you Mrs A lol), the articles very (can't find the word) about the results, the matches.
I followed it every day on (german) tv back then, it was special, not just about the tennis you know, the expectation, the emotional part, etc...
It's the language barrier. Besides, the AP and other wire reports tended to be less "emotional" and more dry.
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post #38 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2016, 08:45 PM
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

The Body Defeats the Mind
Berliner Zeitung
May 13, 1996
By Volker Gundrum

The 89th edition of the Ladies German Open begins today on the grounds of the Rot-Weiß Lawn Tennis Club on the Hundekehlesee. And the undisputed star of the event will be Steffi Graf, who changed her mind about her initial intentions to skip the tournament after her quarterfinal loss in Rome and will now give it a go in Berlin after all.

The best tennis player in the world finds herself in a quandry just three weeks before the French Open in Paris. "I lost a lot of self-confidence in Rome," Graf admitted about her 6-2, 2-6, 3-6 loss to Martina Hingis. The dilemma facing the 26-year-old before her first grand Slam tournament of the year is clear: "I feel emotionally and mentally burnt out and urgently need a break, but I need match practice just as urgently."

For the time being, the body has the upperhand over the needs of the mind. In order to make up for her present, serious deficiency of match practice as quickly as possible, Steffi Graf took a wildcard for the German Open. Her first opponent will be either the young German hopeful Marlene Weingaertner or American Tami Whitlinger-Jones.

The commitment of Germany's most prominent player took a load off of tournament director Eberhard Wensky's mind. "Without Steffi Graf, you would have had to describe the line-up for the German Open as a catastrophe." The Top Ten players Kimiko Date (Japan) and Chanda Rubin (USA) already had to withdraw.

Wensky said: "Steffi Graf is the most perfect female athlete of our time and the Number One player of the century. Our new stadium construction is dedicated to her, she has elevated this tournament to greatness. We didn't pressure her to play here. She just finally realized that she needs to play a lot of matches in order to be in top form for the French Open."

If the eight-time champion of the Berlin Open can fulfill the high expectations in her present state of health and mind seems rather questionable. During her loss to 15-year-old Martina Hingis, Graf horrified her fans with countless mistakes from her already not-so-strong backhand and a forehand that was lacking any depth or precision. "I had zero confidence in my shots and no feel for my game," Graf explained. She hadn't felt right on the court for the whole week. "Physically, I am not in good shape, I need to work urgently on my physical fitness."

But at any rate, Steffi Graf will set a new record in Berlin. No other player has been at the top of the rankings longer. Today, the 26-year-old supersedes Martina Navratilova as the all-time record holder. 332 weeks at the summit, and with that, the German passes the American by seven days. "That means a lot to me," she said. For almost six years and four months, Steffi Graf was and is the best tennis player in the world.

Australian Open finalist Anke Huber plays her first match on either Tuesday or Wednesday against either Lindsay Lee (USA) or Larissa Neiland (Latvia). In total, 11 German players are taking part in the German Open. The Center Court can be extended via retractable stands to accomodate a capacity of 7002 spectators.

Der Körper besiegt den Kopf
Tennis: Steffi Graf doch bei den German Open in Berlin am Start
Volker Gundrum

Heute beginnen auf der Anlage des LTC Rot-Weiß am Hundekehlesee die 89. German Open der Tennis-Damen. Und unbestrittener Star der Veranstaltung wird Steffi Graf sein, die ihre ursprüngliche Absage nach der Viertelfinal-Niederlage in Rom revidierte und nun doch in Berlin an den Start gehen wird.

Doch drei Wochen vor den French Open in Paris steckt die beste Tennisspielerin der Welt in einem tiefen Loch. "Ich habe in Rom viel Selbstvertrauen verloren", gab Steffi Graf nach dem 6:2, 2:6, 3:6 gegen Martina Hingis zu. Das Dilemma, in dem die 26jährige vor ihrem ersten Grand-Slam-Turnier 1996 steckt, ist klar: "Ich fühle mich psychisch ausgebrannt und brauche dringend eine Pause, aber genauso dringend brauche ich Matchpraxis."

In dieser Zwickmühle hat zunächst der Körper die Oberhand über den Kopf behalten. Um ihre derzeit gravierenden spielerischen Mängel möglichst schnell in den Griff zu bekommen, nahm Steffi Graf doch noch Wildcard für die German Open an. Ihre Auftakt-Gegnerin wird am Dienstag Nachwuchshoffnung Marlene Weingärtner vom ausrichtenden LTTC Rot-Weiß oder Tami Whitlinger-Jones (USA) sein.

Berlins Turnierdirektor Eberhard Wensky fiel nach der Zusage seines prominentesten Vereinsmitglieds ein Stein vom Herzen. "Ohne Steffi Graf hätte man die Besetzung der German Open als Katastrophe bezeichnen müssen." Zuvor hatten mit Kimiko Date (Japan) und Chanda Rubin (USA) bereits Top-ten-Spielerinnen absagen müssen.

Wensky weiter: "Steffi Graf ist die perfekteste Sportlerin unserer Zeit und die Nummer eins dieses Jahrhunderts. Ihr ist unser Stadionsausbau gewidmet, sie hat dieses Turnier großgemacht. Wir haben keinen Druck auf sie ausgeübt. Letztendlich hat sie aber eingesehen, daß sie viele Matches braucht, um für die French Open in Topform zu kommen."

Ob die achtmalige Berlin-Siegerin die hohen Erwartungen in ihrer derzeitigen Verfassung erfüllen kann, scheint eher fraglich. Bei der Niederlage gegen die 15jährige Martina Hingis entsetzte Steffi Graf ihre Anhänger durch unzählige Fehler mit der ohnehin nicht so starken Rückhand und einer Vorhand, die jegliche Härte und Präzision vermissen ließ. "Ich hatte null Vertrauen in meine Schläge und kein Gefühl für mein Spiel", gab Graf zu. Schon die ganze Woche über hatte sie sich auf dem Platz nicht wohl gefühlt. "Körperlich bin ich nicht in Schuß, ich muß dringend an meiner physischen Fitneß arbeiten."

Immerhin aber wird Steffi Graf mit einem neuen Rekotrd in Berlin eintreffen. Keine Spielerin stand länger an der Spitze der Weltrangliste. Heute löst die 26jährige die US-Amerikanerin Martina Navratilova als ewige Beste auf dem Tennisthron ab. 332 Wochen und damit sieben Tage länger als die Amerikanerin steht die Deutsche auf dem Gipfel. "Das bedeutet mir sehr viel", sagt sie. Fast sechs Jahre und vier Monate war und ist Steffi Graf damit die beste Tennisspielerin der Welt.

Australian-Open-Finalistin Anke Huber (Karlsdorf) bestreitet ihr Auftaktspiel am Dienstag oder Mittwoch gegen Linsy Lee (USA) oder Larissa Leiland (Lettland). Insgesamt elf deutsche Spielerinnen nehmen an den German Open teil. Der Centre Court wurde durch ausfahrbare Tribünen auf ein Fassungsvermögen von 7 002 Zuschauern erweitert.
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post #39 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2016, 08:46 PM
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Tears Followed the Victory
Tennis: Steffi Graf wins the German Open for the ninth time

"Berliner Zeitung"
20 May 1996
Reinhold Schnupp

Yesterday, Steffi Graf crowned her appearance at the 89th German Open with her overall ninth victory. In her eleventh overall final in Berlin, she defeated the Slovak Karina Habsudova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

"The applause which I received again, makes me break down again." The 98th tournament victory of Steffi Graf at the 89th International Tennis Championships of Germany became too moving a moment for the 26 year old. The world's number one needed to fight back her tears once again during her victory speech, just as she did at the beginning of the week after her first win when she was honored as "Athlete of the Year" for 1995.

The tournament at the Rot-Weiß Tennis Club in the Grunewald confirmed anew that the German Open in Berlin is the favorite tournament of Steffi Graf. Her decision to play in the tournament after all after her cancellation proved to be a stroke of luck not just for the tournament organizers. After she initially looked fragile and admitted to have had "fear of playing in Berlin," she rapidly stabilized her performances, and also her psyche. She described the decision "to have found the way here" as one of her most important experiences of the German Open.

In Berlin, she was spared questions about her imprisoned father, the sport stood at the forefront completely so, as is always wished for.

The Brühl resident was seriously challenged only in the final by her unseeded Slovakian opponent. In succession, the 54th ranked Karina Habsudova eliminated Martina Hingis from Switzerland, who had dumped Steffi Graf out of the recent tournament in Rome, then last year's Australian Open champion Mary Pierce, and finally Ludmila Richterova from the Czech Republic.

Only in the final, the 22-year-old then had to submit to Steffi Graf, although she put up considerable resistance. Three times in the first set alone, she broke Steffi Graf's serve, owing to her hard and well-placed ground strokes. Had she herself not had problems with her nerves and displayed weaknesses, above all with her own serve, Steffi Graf surely would have had more difficulty winning.

At any rate, the world's number one displayed amazement that her opponent, who was out of action for three months last year due to pneumonia, again and again answered her severely underspun balls with winning shots. "I had some highs and lows, that's why I'm especially happy about this win," she said.

She set the course for that when she broke her opponent's serve immediately at the beginning of the second set as well as the third. Nonetheless, it became close once more, above all at the end of the third act. Just as Steffi Graf served for the match, the Slovak would have to succeed in gaining a break once more to even the match at 5-5. Returning the favor, Steffi Graf, for her part, was able to break Karina Habsudova's service. "The decisive factor was my somewhat more aggressive shots," said Steffi Graf.

Later, respect was shown for the nearly unknown player from Slovakia even by president Roman Herzog, who had followed the match from the stands. "She played magnificently, her courage was admirable."

With her 98th tournament win -- she celebrated her first ten years ago in Berlin against Martina Navratilova [sic] -- Steffi Graf draws a little bit closer to the magical frontier of 100 successes. But for the time being, she didn't want to hear anything about new records. "Every tournament win is something special for me. Tonight, I'll celebrate."

The psyche of the woman from Brühl is still battered, but athletically, she leaves Berlin strengthened. She must be afraid of only a few opponents. But she herself is probably still her own biggest opponent. Just like with her loss a week ago to Martina Hingis, the 15-year-old wunderkind from Switzerland who played in the doubles final with Helena Sukova yesterday but just barely lost. Her thoughts aren't on the matter at hand on court, the level of her performance on the court is clearly lower. The French Open, which begins on Whit Monday in Paris, is the first Grand Slam tournament of 1996 for Steffi Graf. As the defending champion, she must show how strong she really is.

Dem Sieg folgten die Tränen
Tennis: Steffi Graf gewinnt zum neunten Mal die German Open
Reinhold Schnupp

Steffi Graf hat gestern ihren Auftritt bei den 89. German Open mit dem insgesamt neunten Sieg gekrönt. In ihrem insgesamt elften Endspiel in Berlin schlug sie die Slowakin Karina Habsudova 4:6, 6:2, 7:5.

"Der Applaus, den ich jetzt gerade wieder bekommen habe, macht mich schon wieder fertig." Der 98. Turniersieg von Steffi Graf bei den 89. Internationalen Tennis-Meisterschaften von Deutschland wurde für die 26jährige zu einem bewegenden Moment. Die Weltranglisten-Erste mußte bei ihrer Siegesansprache erneut mit den Tränen kämpfen, so wie zu Beginn der Woche, als sie nach ihrem ersten Sieg als Weltsportlerin des Jahres 1995 ausgezeichnet worden war.

Das Turnier beim LTTC Rot-Weiß im Grunewald bestätigte aufs neue, daß die German Open in Berlin das Lieblingsturnier Steffi Grafs sind. Ihre Entscheidung, nach der Absage das Turnier schließlich doch zu spielen, erwies sich nicht nur für den Veranstalter als Glücksfall. Nachdem sie anfangs zerbrechlich wirkte und zugab, "Angst vor einem Start in Berlin" gehabt zu haben, stabilisierte sie zusehends ihre Leistungen, aber auch ihre Psyche. So bezeichnete sie den Entschluß "hierher gefunden zu haben", als eines der wichtigsten Erlebnis der German Open.

Fragen nach dem inhaftierten Vater wurden ihr in Berlin erspart, der Sport stand im Vordergrund, ganz so, wie es sich immer wünscht.

Ernsthaft gefordert wurde die Brühlerin nur im Finale von ihrer slowakischen Gegnerin, die als Ungesetzte das Endspiel erreichte. Nacheinander eliminierte die Weltranglisten-54. Karina Habsudova Martina Hingis aus der Schweiz, die zuletzt in Rom Steffi Graf aus dem Turnier geworfen hatte, dann die letztjährige Australian Open-Siegerin Mary Pierce und schließlich Ludmila Richterova aus Tschechien.

Erst im Finale mußte sich die 22jährige dann Steffi Graf beugen, allerdings leistete sie erheblichen Widerstand. Dreimal allein im ersten Satz nahm sie aufgrund ihrer harten und plazierten Grundschläge Steffi Graf den Aufschlag ab. Hätte sie selbst nicht Probleme mit ihren Nerven bekommen und Schwächen vor allem beim eigenen Aufschlag gezeigt, wäre der Erfolg Steffi Graf wohl noch schwerer gefallen.

Die Weltranglisten-Erste jedenfalls zeigte sich verblüfft, daß ihre Gegnerin, die im letzten Jahr durch eine Lungenentzündung für drei Monate außer Gefecht war, immer wieder ihre stark unterschnittenen Bälle mit "Winner-Schlägen" beantwortete. "Ich hatte einige Höhen und Tiefen, darum bin ich über den Erfolg besonders glücklich", sagte sie.

Die Weichen dafür stellte sie, in dem sie ihrer Gegnerin gleich zu Beginn des zweiten als auch des dritten Satzes den Aufschlag abnahm. Dennoch wurde es vor allem im dritten Durchgang am Ende noch einmal eng. Ausgerechnet als Steffi Graf zum Matchgewinn aufschlug, gelang der Slowakin noch einmal ein Break zum 5:5-Gleichstand. Postwendend konnte Steffi Graf Karina Habsudova ihrerseits das Service abnehmen. "Den Ausschlag", so Steffi Graf, "haben meine etwas aggressiveren Schläge gegeben."

Respekt vor der nahezu unbekannten Spielerin aus der Slowakei zollte später auch Bundespräsident Roman Herzog, der das Spiel auf der Tribüne verfolgt hatte. "Sie hat großartig gespielt, ihre Courage war bewundernswert."

Mit dem 98. Turniersieg - den ersten hatte sie vor zehn Jahren in Berlin gegen Martina Navratilova gefeiert - ist Steffi Graf der magischen Grenze von 100 Erfolgen ein weiteres Stückchen näher gekommen. Doch von neuen Rekorden wollte sie vorerst nichts hören. "Jeder Turniersieg ist etwas Besonderes für mich. Heute abend wird gefeiert."

Die Psyche der Brühlerin ist weiter angeschlagen, doch sportlich verläßt sie Berlin gestärkt. Nur einige wenige Gegnerinnen muß sie fürchten. Mehr aber wohl noch sich selbst. So wie bei der Niederlage vor Wochenfrist gegen Martina Hingis, das 15jährige Wunderkind aus der Schweiz, das gestern das Doppel-Finale mit Helena Sukova bestritt, aber knapp verlor. Ist sie mit ihren Gedanken nicht bei der Sache, schlägt sich das deutlich auf die Leistungen auf dem Platz nieder. Die French Open, die am Pfingstmontag in Paris beginnen, sind für Steffi Graf das erste Grand Slam-Turnier 1996. Als Titelverteidigerin muß sie zeigen, wie stark sie wirklich ist.
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post #40 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2016, 08:48 PM
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Sampras seeded first at French Open
Houston Chronicle
May 21, 1996
Houston Chronicle News Services

PARIS - Pete Sampras, the top-ranked player in the world who is still seeking success on clay, was seeded No. 1 in the French Open on Monday, but defending champion Thomas Muster is still the favorite.

Steffi Graf*and Monica Seles were top-seeded on the women's side. The pair share the top spot in the world rankings.

The organizing committee for the two-week tournament that opens May 27 went along with the tennis rankings of the professional tennis associations despite Muster's dominance of the clay courts. Sampras' tournament victories are mostly on fast surfaces.

Muster won his fifth clay tournament this year Sunday by capturing the Italian Open again. He is 98-3 over the past two seasons on clay.

"We have to rank our players according to the ATP statistics or else the decision could become too subjective," said Gilbert Ysern, chief referee of the tournament.

The draw for the tournament will be held Friday.

Behind Sampras, Muster is No. 2 followed by Andre Agassi and Michael Chang. Muster beat Chang in the final at Roland Garros in 1995.

Boris Becker will be fifth-seeded, followed by Goran Ivanisevic, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Jim Courier, who won in 1992 and 1993.

Graf, who won last year for the fourth time, and Seles, a three-time winner before the layoff that resulted from her being stabbed in 1993, are co-ranked No. 1.

"We're going to flip a coin to decide who gets the first draw." explained Ysern.

Seles will be making her comeback at Roland Garros, where she dominated from 1990 through 1992, winning 21 straight matches.

Rosset leads Switzerland -Marc Rosset upset Boris Becker in straight sets to pace Switzerland over Germany in the opening round of the World Team Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, while Spain beat Sweden 2-1.

Rosset beat Becker 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 and Jakob Hlasek sealed the victory by defeating David Prinosil 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 as Switzerland avenged its Davis Cup defeat against Germany earlier this year by winning 3-0.
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post #41 of 1428 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2016, 11:04 PM
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Injuries, adversity can't slow genial Graf
The Washington Times
May 23, 1996
Josh Young

Steffi Graf is the Michael Jordan of women's tennis. She's conquered her sport, endured personal hardship and conquered her sport again. And she's done it with dignity.

On Monday, Graf goes to Paris for the French Open as she has done the last week in May since 1983. She won the first of her 19 Grand Slam singles titles at the 1987 French Open. This year she tries for her fifth French Open title, and she'll probably get it even though the red clay is her least-favorite surface.

"I don't like calling [the French Open] 'love/hate,' but it is a little bit like that, just that the hate is not as strong," Graf said in a teleconference from Berlin.

She reached another milestone last week when she broke Martina Navratilova's record of 331 weeks at No. 1.

"I don't go really or drive for records, but this is one of them that will always stand out," she said.

Graf, who turns 27 next month, could have packed up her rackets and gone home a long time ago. Like the great Suzanne Lenglen, the 1925 French Open and Wimbledon champion, Graf constantly plays injured and seldom complains. Her ailments have ranged from a broken finger to sinus problems to a bone spur in her foot (corrected by surgery last December) to a chronic back injury that cannot be treated.

The thing is, tennis is still challenging to Graf. It's still a reason to get up in the morning, a chance to constantly test mind and body against whoever, wherever.

"Outside of my tennis, it's all kind of a mystery," Graf said earlier this spring. "I want to see what I'm going to do with the rest of my life now. And with all the problems I'm always having, tennis is still a challenge."

Life also has been a challenge for Graf. Last year was particularly tough, although you wouldn't know it from her record. She lost just two matches, and she won all three Grand Slams she entered, including her sixth Wimbledon.

Graf's father, Peter, and the family tax adviser, Joachim Eckardt, were jailed while German authorities investigated whether or not they failed to report $35.2 million of Graf's income over a period of several years. Her father remains in custody because he has been deemed a flight risk.

The entire situation is wildly ironic and very troubling to Graf. Unlike most other world-famous German athletes, she has continued to live in her native land. Boris Becker has lived in tax-free Monte Carlo for years; Michael Stich resides in Austria.

But Graf has kept her composure. "It's been interesting but depressing," she said. "Playing has actually brought me some relief."

Tennis, of course, is not a team sport like basketball, but Graf has surrounded herself with a loyal team since the beginning of her career. Relative to the other top players, she has had few coaches. She has had the same agent, Phil de Picciotto of McLean-based Advantage International, since the beginning.

The first time I met Graf she was a scrawny 15-year-old kid who practiced constantly and didn't talk much. It was 1984 and I was staying in the same condo development with her and her father in Amelia Island, Fla. A colleague of de Picciotto's pointed to Graf and said that the firm had just signed her.

"She's going to be great one day," the agent said.

"They're all going to be great," I shot back.

"No," he said, "she is for real."

MUSTER SPEAKS AND SPEAKS - Thomas Muster says the top American players can dish it out, but they can't take it.

The French Open champion, favored to repeat, criticized the Agassis and Samprases of the tour for skipping the Italian Open because of injuries. Earlier this year, he got into a war of words with Andre Agassi over who deserved to be No. 1 and suggested that Agassi had been eating too many mad-cow hamburgers.

"It's very unlikely that all the guys are injured at the same time of the year," Muster said. "When you go to the States, they say, 'Muster just plays on clay.' Well, they only play on hardcourts."

Todd Martin defended his compatriots.

"It's bad for tennis when Thomas criticizes the other top players," he said.

Muster's response?

A hearty chuckle and, three days later, the championship trophy, his fifth of the year.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Toshiba lures most top names, but not Graf or Seles
The San Diego Union-Tribune
May 24, 1996
Don Norcross, STAFF WRITER

Steffi Graf looks like she'll miss this summer's Toshiba Tennis Classic. Ditto for Monica Seles.

But Conchita Martinez will defend her title. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will be playing her relentless baseline game. And Gabriela Sabatini will return to the La Costa tournament for the first time in four years.

The Women's Tennis Association yesterday announced the tentative lineup for this year's Toshiba Tennis Classic, and the field includes six of the Top 10 women in the world.

There's Martinez at No. 2, Sanchez Vicario at No. 3, Iva Majoli at No. 4, Chanda Rubin at No. 6, Sabatini at No. 7 and Kimiko Date at No. 9. Graf and Seles are co-ranked No. 1.

Asked if she's disappointed that neither Graf nor Seles would commit to play here, co-promoter Raquel Giscafre said: "I'm not disappointed at all. I'm ecstatic to have such a good field."

Both Graf and Seles have played limited schedules this year because of injuries. Seles is playing this week in Madrid for the first time since February, when she suffered a torn shoulder ligament. Graf has missed much of the season after foot surgery.

Graf, who has won at La Costa all four years she's played here, was entered to play last year, but pulled out a couple of weeks before the tournament.

"We didn't think that was a very positive thing for the tournament," Giscafre said. "Given (Graf and Seles' injury) history, we'd rather have players not enter than pull out."

Giscafre is holding out hope that Graf, Seles or Jennifer Capriati still will enter the tournament. The tournament is withholding a wild-card entry. While visiting with Graf in March at the Evert Cup at Indian Wells, Giscafre let the German know she'd love to have her in the field.

"I reminded her she's never lost a match here," Giscafre said. "I told her all the good things we have to offer. She just laughed, pushed me and said, 'You're always talking about the same thing.' "

This year's Toshiba is scheduled for Aug. 19-25, after the Olympics and the week before the U.S. Open. As a lure to players, Toshiba officials have arranged that the finalists won't play in the U.S. Open until the following Wednesday.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Everybody noticed Sampras' tough draw, but nobody seemed to catch on to the oddity that Steffi would have to beat the Nos. 2-4 ranked players in order to win.

Doubts over Seles add to French Open injury woes - Tennis
The Times
London, England
May 25, 1996
Alix Ramsay

THERE are two days to go before the start of the French Open tennis championships and Roland Garros is a hive of activity, but the busiest people in Paris are the physiotherapists, trying frantically to patch up the ailing limbs of the world's leading players. The list of walking wounded grows ever longer and, after the withdrawal of Boris Becker (pulled thigh muscle), Gabriela Sabatini (pulled stomach muscle) and Chanda Rubin (wrist injury), there are now doubts over Thomas Muster and Monica Seles.

Seles withdrew from the Madrid Open yesterday before her semi-final match, complaining of a recurrence of the shoulder injury that has been plaguing her since the Australian Open. It was her first tournament in three months and was her first appearance in Europe since she was stabbed in Hamburg three years ago. She had wanted to overcome the mental barrier of playing in Europe again before going to the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the French Open, where she is due to play Caroline Dhenin, of France.

It may be three years since Gunter Parche almost destroyed Seles's career, but the scars are still as deep as ever. Parche attacked Seles in order that Steffi Graf could be No1 in the world again, and that fact still places a huge divide between the players. ''We don't really have any contact," Graf said. ''Perhaps we are both a little afraid."

Muster, however, has nothing but happy memories of the clay courts of Europe. He is the No2 seed and defending champion in Paris, but his chances of reclaiming the title are hampered by an ankle injury sustained on Thursday during a warm-up session during the Raiffeisen grand prix event in Austria. Muster is undergoing regular treatment for the sprain, but may ask for a Tuesday start to his singles campaign.

Things are not looking too promising for Pete Sampras, the No1 seed, either. He had to pull out of his World Team Cup match in Dusseldorf suffering from back spasms, his first tournament since the death of Tim Gullikson, his coach, but, regardless of his mental or physical state, he will have his work cut out.

Last year he fell at the first hurdle to Gilbert Schaller, and this year he will have to engage top gear from the first day to get much further. His opening match pits him against Magnus Gustafsson, with the possibility of meeting Sergi Bruguera, the winner in Paris in 1993 and 1994, in the second round.

After that, Mats Wilander or Todd Martin could provide his next challenge and, should he survive that section of the draw, Jim Courier, another player to have won the title twice, is seeded to meet him in the quarter-finals.

Andre Agassi, the No3 seed, has an easier start against a qualifier as he strives to face Sampras in the semi-finals, while Michael Chang, a finalist last year and seeded No4, opens up against David Prinosil.

The British contingent may not be around long. Tim Henman faces Kris Goossens, of Belgium, in the first round before perhaps meeting Andrei Chesnokov or Guy Forget. Greg Rusedski does not have it much easier, with a qualifier in the first round and a probable meeting with Michael Stich after that.


MEN: 1, P Sampras (US); 2, T Muster (Austria); 3, A Agassi (US); 4, M Chang (US); 5, G Ivanisevic (Cro); 6, Y Kafelnikov (Russ); 7, J Courier (US); 8, T Enqvist (Swe); 9, M Rios (Chile); 10, W Ferreira (SA); 11, A Boetsch (Fr); 12, A Costa (Sp); 13, R Krajicek (Holl); 14, M Rosset (Switz); 15, M Stich (Ger); 16, M Washington (US).

WOMEN: 1, S Graf (Ger); 2, M Seles (US); 3, A Sanchez Vicario (Sp); 4, C Martinez (Sp); 5, I Majoli (Cro); 6, A Huber (Ger); 7, M Maleeva (Bul); 8, K Date (Japan); 9, L Davenport (US); 10, J Novotna (Cz); 11, B Schultz-McCarthy (Holl); 12, M Pierce (Fr); 13, M J Fernandez (US); 14, A Coetzer (SA); 15, M Hingis (Switz); 16, B Paulus (Austria).
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

They Have Sympathy For Me
FOCUS Magazine
May 25, 1996

Steffi Graf on her relationship with Germany, Monica Seles, her problems with the media, and her hopes for the French Open.

FOCUS: In large, raw cities like New York, Berlin, or now Paris, you seem to feel especially happy ...

Graf: The reason for that is obvious: I enjoy it immensely if I can spontaneously go to a musical, concert, or play in the evenings. I enjoy the variety, the different facets of these cities -- and just the freedom to be able to fulfill my short-term needs and desires.

Moreover, during a Grand Slam tournament like the French Open, I'm not on the court every day -- there remains some time for private business.

FOCUS: Can Steffi Graf the superstar move about without disturbance in a metropolis?

Graf: Yes, well ... though of course, I'm recognized in New York or Paris, and it sometime happens that I am asked for an autograph at dinner. But that doesn't particularly bother me -- I have learned how to handle it.

FOCUS: Nonetheless, it was a bit of an effort of will for you to compete again in Berlin last week ...

Graf: It was a difficult decision to play in Germany again after two years. I knew that the public would be behind me just as before -- but I was afraid of the media, of new, mean-spirited punches below the belt.

FOCUS: The fans apparently separate the private problems and the sporting successes of Stefanie Graf?

Graf: No, not at all. I think the reason I received special encouragement was that the people feel just how unfair the reports about myself and my father have oftentimes been in these last months. The great support that I recently felt is certainly because the people have sympathy for me.

FOCUS: You will represent your native country at the Olympics in Atlanta ...

Graf: I'm looking forward to playing for a medal for Germany for the fourth time.

But it's a shame that it will hardly be possible to get a sniff of the Olympic atmosphere because the tennis stadium is quite a ways out of the city. Therefore it is hardly possible for us players to stay in the Olympic village. The German Tennis Federation will need --for good or ill-- to find accomodations more near to the tennis facility.

FOCUS: You have been at the top of the rankings for almost seven years. Is it mostly a feeling of joy, or do you also think about the poor competition in women's tennis?

Graf: Year in, year out, you must motivate yourself anew for the same tournaments, meanwhile you have private highs and lows -- so I am naturally incredibly proud that I have held the top spot for so extraordinarily long.

On the other hand, it is quite strange that 1995 of all years, when I was often handicapped by my back and foot injuries, I was able to celebrate the most successful year of my career. I thought that winning should have been made more difficult.

FOCUS: Why is it, then, that there is a large gap after you?

Graf: I don't understand it, either, why the pressure on me isn't greater. When I watch the young players like Chanda Rubin or Iva Majoli, I think they practice even longer and harder than I do.

Maybe it's because of nerves or that they get hardly any mental distance from tennis in their freetime, can't unwind.

Though it is also quite noticeable that the young generation is hardly in the position to tactically vary their play. My backhand slice, which was often smirked at before, has in the meantime become a weapon which only a few players have something to counter it with.

FOCUS: Who will be your toughest competition for the title at the French Open?

Graf: In Paris, Monica Seles will certainly be the one to beat, although she needed a four month break due to a shoulder injury. I believe Conchita Martinez is likewise capable of quite something. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is also very strong on clay, although recently she has lost some consistency like a few other older players.

FOCUS: How is your relationship with Monica Seles?

Graf: Actually, we have no contact. During the tournaments, she is always only at the facilities quite briefly, clears out right after her match, and trains very early in the morning.

There was actually a first cautious overture during the US Open last year, though there hasn't been an open discussion yet. Maybe we both are a little afraid and therefore haven't rectified the situation yet.

FOCUS: Shortly before Wimbledon, an autobiography about Monica Seles was published about the attack and the controversial sentence of the Steffi-Graf-fan Günter Parche. Are you afraid of a new fuss?

Graf: I'm incredibly sorry about what happened to Monica in 1993. I don't think she reproaches me in her book. But it helps neither of us when this more-than-three-years-old story is stirred up again.

FOCUS: The contract with your management firm Advantage runs out at the end of this year. Will Ion Tiriac then manage your business affairs?

Graf: I have very definite ideas about how I would like my business to be handled in the future. Currently, I'm intensely considering just who could help me do that the best -- I have not yet made a final decision.

It is correct that Ion Tiriac recently advised me, but there is no contract for anything yet.

FOCUS: In Berlin, your mother Heidi, brother Michael, and your boyfriend Michael Bartels sat in the stands and rooted for you ...

Graf: Although I've been on the tour for a long time, this support is quite important to me. Of course I'm glad if my boyfriend can make the trip on short notice despite his racing obligations.

"Sie haben Mitleid mit mir . . ."

Steffi Graf über ihr Verhältnis zu Deutschland, Monica Seles, ihre Probleme mit den Medien und die Hoffnungen für die French Open

FOCUS: In großen, rauhen Städten wie New York, Berlin oder jetzt Paris scheinen Sie sich besonders wohlzufühlen . . .

Graf: Die Gründe dafür liegen auf der Hand: Ich genieße es ungeheuer, wenn ich abends spontan in ein Musical, Konzert oder Theaterstück gehen kann. Ich genieße die Vielfalt, die unterschiedlichen Facetten dieser Städte - und eben die Freiheit, mir kurzfristig Wünsche und Bedürfnisse erfüllen zu können.

Während eines Grand-Slam-Turniers wie den French Open stehe ich zudem nicht jeden Tag auf dem Platz - da bleibt einige Zeit für private Unternehmungen.

FOCUS: In einer Metropole kann sich der Weltstar Steffi Graf ungestört bewegen?

Graf: Ja, also . . . natürlich werde ich auch in New York oder Paris erkannt, und es kommt schon mal vor, daß ich auch beim Essen um ein Autogramm gebeten werde. Aber das stört mich nicht sonderlich - ich habe gelernt, auch damit umzugehen.

FOCUS: Trotzdem hat es Sie einige Überwindung gekostet, in der vergangenen Woche wieder in Berlin anzutreten . . .

Graf: Es war eine schwierige Entscheidung, nach zwei Jahren wieder in Deutschland zu spielen. Ich wußte, daß das Publikum nach wie vor hinter mir stehen würde - aber ich hatte Angst vor den Medien, vor neuen bösartigen Tiefschlägen.

FOCUS: Die Fans trennen offenbar zwischen den privaten Problemen und den sportlichen Erfolgen der Stefanie Graf?

Graf: Nein, keineswegs. Ich glaube, daß ich gerade deshalb besonderen Zuspruch erfahren habe, weil die Menschen genau spüren, wie unfair oftmals in den vergangenen Monaten über mich und meinen Vater berichtet worden ist. Die große Sympathie, die ich jetzt gespürt habe, rührt sicherlich auch daher, daß die Leute inzwischen Mitleid mit mir haben.

FOCUS: Sie werden Ihr Heimatland bei Olympia in Atlanta vertreten . . .

Graf: Ich freue mich darauf, zum viertenmal für Deutschland um eine Medaille zu kämpfen.

Es ist nur schade, daß es kaum möglich sein wird, die olympische Atmosphäre zu schnuppern, weil das Tennisstadion doch ziemlich weit außerhalb der Stadt liegt. Es ist für uns Spieler deshalb kaum möglich, im Olympischen Dorf zu wohnen. Der Deutsche Tennis-Bund wird - wohl oder übel - ein Quartier in der Nähe der Anlage suchen müssen.

FOCUS: Sie stehen bald sieben Jahre an der Weltspitze - überwiegt die Freude, oder sind Sie auch nachdenklich, was die geringe Konkurrenz im Damentennis betrifft?

Graf: Du mußt dich jahrein, jahraus für die gleichen Turniere neu motivieren, privat durchlebst du währenddessen Höhen und Tiefen - da bin ich natürlich wahnsinnig stolz, daß ich mich schon so außergewöhnlich lange an der Spitze halte.

Andererseits ist es schon verwunderlich, daß ich ausgerechnet 1995, als ich wegen einer Rücken- und Fußverletzung oftmals gehandicapt war, das erfolgreichste Jahr meiner Karriere feiern konnte. Ich dachte, daß man mir das Siegen schwerer machen würde.

FOCUS: Woran liegt es denn, daß hinter Ihnen die große Lücke klafft?

Graf: Ich verstehe das auch nicht recht, warum der Druck auf mich nicht größer ist. Wenn ich mir die jüngeren Spielerinnen ansehe, wie Chanda Rubin oder Iva Majoli, glaube ich schon, daß sie sogar länger und härter trainieren als ich.

Vielleicht liegt es an den Nerven oder daran, daß sie in der Freizeit kaum mal geistige Distanz zum Tennis gewinnen, mal abschalten können.

Auffällig ist allerdings auch, daß die junge Generation kaum in der Lage ist, das Spiel einmal taktisch zu variieren. Mein Rückhand-Slice, der früher oft belächelt wurde, ist inzwischen eine Waffe geworden, der nur wenige Spielerinnen etwas entgegenzusetzen haben.

FOCUS: Wer sind die härtesten Konkurrentinnen um den Titel bei den French Open?

Graf: In Paris wird sicher eine Monica Seles zu schlagen sein, obwohl sie wegen einer Schulterverletzung vier Monate pausieren mußte. Conchita Martinez traue ich ebenfalls einiges zu. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario ist auf Sand ebenfalls sehr stark, obwohl sie in letzter Zeit, wie einige andere ältere Spielerinnen, an Konstanz verloren hat.

FOCUS: Wie ist Ihr Verhältnis zu Monica Seles?

Graf: Wir haben eigentlich keinen Kontakt. Während der Turniere ist sie immer nur ganz kurz auf der Anlage, verschwindet gleich nach dem Match und trainiert sehr früh am Morgen.

Es gab zwar mal eine erste vorsichtige Annäherung während der US Open im vergangenen Jahr. Ein offenes Gespräch gab es bislang allerdings noch nicht. Vielleicht haben wir beide ein wenig Angst davor und deshalb diese Situation noch nicht so richtig gesucht.

FOCUS: Kurz vor Wimbledon erscheint ein autobiografisches Buch von Monica Seles über das Attentat, das umstrittene Urteil gegen den Steffi-Graf-Fan Günter Parche. Fürchten Sie neuen Wirbel?

Graf: Es tut mir wahnsinnig leid, was Monica 1993 für ein Leid zugefügt wurde. Ich glaube nicht, daß sie mir in ihrem Buch dafür Vorwürfe machen wird. Es hilft doch auch keinem von uns, wenn diese mehr als drei Jahre zurückliegende Geschichte neu hochgekocht wird.

FOCUS: Der Vertrag mit Ihrer Managementfirma Advantage läuft Ende dieses Jahres aus. Wird Ion Tiriac dann Ihre Geschäfte organisieren?

Graf: Ich habe sehr konkrete Vorstellungen, wie ich meine Geschäfte in Zukunft handhaben möchte. Augenblicklich denke ich gerade intensiv darüber nach, wer mir dabei am besten helfen könnte - eine endgültige Entscheidung habe ich noch nicht gefällt.

Richtig ist, daß Ion Tiriac mich zur Zeit berät, einen Vertrag darüber gibt es aber auch noch nicht.

FOCUS: In Berlin saßen Ihre Mutter Heidi, Bruder Michael und Ihr Freund Michael Bartels auf der Tribüne und haben die Daumen gedrückt . . .

Graf: Obwohl ich schon lange auf der Tour bin, ist mir diese Unterstützung ganz wichtig. Besonders freue ich mich natürlich, wenn mein Freund, trotz seiner Rennsport-Verpflichtungen, kurzfristig anreist.
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Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3

Much-anticipated Seles-Graf showdown at mercy of doctors
Houston Chronicle
May 26, 1996

After last year's U.S. Open, fans of women's tennis were looking forward to what should have been one of the best French Opens in recent years.

But Monica Seles' withdrawl from the Madrid Open with a recurring shoulder injury means it could be just another in a series of lopsided Grand Slam events since Seles was stabbed three years ago in Hamburg, Germany.

Seles' return to Grand Slam action last year in New York made it the single most exciting women's final in the last three years. With Steffi Graf missing this year's Australian Open with an injury, the French appeared to be the next opportunity for the two co-ranked No. 1 women to meet in competition.

"I can play, but there is pain when I hit backhands, and serving is still very difficult," Seles said Thursday when she pulled out of Madrid. "I just hope it gets better in time for the French Open next week."

Graf, too, has been injured much of the season, but she says she is relatively pain-free at the moment. With Seles injured, Graf is clearly the favorite to win a fifth French Open title.

"I think there are quite a few names you can throw out," Graf said when asked to rank the field. "I think Conchita Martinez will be, for me, one of the tough ones. Obviously, Monica is always difficult to judge. I haven't seen her play for a long time. Arantxa (Sanchez Vicario) always plays well at the French."

Neither Graf nor Seles has had much preparation on the clay due to injuries. Graf won her ninth German Open title since 1986 when she beat unseeded Karina Habsudova last week. Seles made her first return to European red clay since her stabbing three years ago at last week's Madrid Open.

"A few times I was embarrassed because this wasn't the level of tennis that I should be playing here today," Seles said in Madrid. "I'm not sure I deserved to be out there the way I was missing a lot of shots." Seles hadn't played since Feb. 2 when she lost to Iva Majoli in the quarterfinals of the Pan Pacific tournament in Tokyo. She has played sparingly due to injuries since making her return to professional tennis at last summer's Canadian Open.

If she can play, Seles will be making her comeback at Roland Garros, where she dominated between 1990 through 1992, winning 21 straight matches.

"I knew coming in it was going to be tough emotionally, and it was," Seles said of her return to the European clay-court circuit. "But it's great to put another step behind me. Gamewise, it was not one of the highlights of my career, but it's good to get it over with and move on. It was a step forward again.

"One of the reasons I wanted to play here is to go through the things I will have to go through at the French Open."

Sanchez Vicario, who won in Paris twice, will be second seeded. Martinez, a four-time Italian women's champion, is seeded third. Majoli, Anke Huber, Chanda Rubin and Kimiko Date, are seeded fourth through seventh, respectively. Gabriela Sabatini would have been the seventh seed, but she withdrew with an injury.

Graf won two of the last three French Opens without Seles in the field, though clay is admittedly her least favorite surface. .

"It is just a mental thing," Graf said. "I think my game is suited for a lot of surfaces, and also clay. But I've got to play my game a little bit differently with my patience and I am really not known for a lot of patience, so it is an adjustment for me. For example, in Rome (where she lost to 15-year-old Martina Hingis), when things don't go the right way and if I am not mentally 100 percent, it is difficult to push myself to be more positive. But these are things that I have to work a little bit more on when I get to clay."
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