Originally Posted by Andy T
Somewhere on these threads, there's a long discussion between Alfajeffster and myself on this subject. Basically, I don't think there's any evidence that Martina actively avoided Steffi during the period mentioned. Most of the time, she didn't get to play Steffi because she (or occasionally Steffi) went out early.
On the other hand, it's clear that Martina was not confident playing Steffi during that time: twice in their three matches, she was up a set and a break only to lose and in the 89 Wimbledon final she almost blew a 5-2 lead in the second set. Steffi's performance in the 88 Wimbledon final was awesome and Martina was not playing anywhere near well enough to stay with her once she broke free but at the 89 US Open Martina could have won.
Were it not for the fact that Martina incurred unexpected losses to other players during this time, you could zargue that dshe was scared of Steffi but I would go with the argument that she had lost that swagger which she had during her invincible period and was vulnerable to on-form players period.
I was hoping you'd chime in on this one, Andy- and I remember both our discussions on this in person, and your very effective research presented in that thread on Martina's schedule during the period 1989-1994, coupled with her knee injuries/rehabilitation, and basically a great woman nearing the end of her singles playing days selectively prioritizing her schedule to conform to the reality that it all must some day come to an end (in singles). I remember Martina being interviewed after her 1990 Wimbledon win, where she stated what she and Billie Jean discussed after losing to Graf the year before, basically stating that BJK told her "okay, 365 days to go until your next match". There was a twinge of fear in that assessment, in that she was very concerned mentally about whether or not her body would hold up, and I am very sure (although admittedly, it's based on assumption), that she was very glad that Zina Garrison took Steffi out before she had to play that final again.
Martina Navratilova, probably more than any other opponent Graf faced throughout her career, knew how to beat Steffi. People forget just how grafic (pun intended) the mapped strategy was- attack the backhand at all cost, and force her into errors off that side. Simple strategy, complicated somewhat by the fact that in Graf, even more so than Evert (only slightly, daze, but still, more so), Navratilova had the most determined baseliner she had ever seen (Seles was yet to come), and someone who could match her attack with a more than ample attack of her own with a complimentary strategy- a simple one at that. There were very few surprises between them when they did meet, and that made the rare occasions when they did between 89-94 electric. I still think the best match they ever played was the 1989 Virginia Slims Championships Final. It could be argued that by that time Martina wasn't as sharp or focused, but if you watch the match again, you'll see that she executed very well, on one of her favorite surfaces, and was simply beaten by an inspired and youthful performance from Graf that night. I think if we must compare champions, Navratilova was a bit more selective with her schedule toward the end of her career than someone like Margaret Court was. Margaret basically went out there and played everywhere, and as a result lost most of her matches to both Evert and Navratilova toward the end of her great career. Similarly, it could be argued that toward what we thought was the end of Billie Jean's singles career in the mid to late 70s, she selectively avoided playing Margaret Court from 73-77.