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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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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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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.

SEEDINGS

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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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 . . ."
25.05.1996
Focus

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

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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Just about the only mention of "the history books" and tying Moody.

GRAF CHASES HISTORY'S BEST
The Miami Herald
May 26, 1996
MERI-JO BORZILLERI Herald Sports Writer

In light of Steffi Graf's two startling losses in the weeks leading up to the French Open, you'd think Graf would be worried about this major.

But the top-seeded Graf, who plays Larisa Neiland in the first round, doesn't find the defeats -- to 15-year-old Martina Hingis in the Italian Open and to Kimiko Date in April's Federation Cup -- troubling.

"I just didn't play as I am used to playing, so actually I haven't been upset about the losses that I have had," Graf said. "I was really surprised about the two wins that I have had (The Lipton Championships and Indian Wells)."

With Monica Seles hurting, a healthy Graf is the favorite to win her fifth French Open. If she does, Graf would make a significant move in the sport's history books. With 19 Grand Slam titles, she would leapfrog Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Graf's 19 titles would move her into a second-place tie with Helen Wills Moody, and five behind all-time leader Margaret Smith Court. Graf, 26, would need the upper hand in her rivalry with Seles to pass Court.

The French is Graf's most challenging tournament because her emotions tug her two ways.

"It is the first Grand Slam that I have ever won," Graf said. "So it is always special to me. On the other hand, it is the least favorite surface of mine. . . . I am really not known for a lot of patience, so it is a little bit of an adjustment."
 

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AT A GLANCE
The Miami Herald
May 26, 1996
MERI-JO BORZILLERI, Herald Staff

* What: French Open.

* When: Monday through June 9.

* Where: Paris.

* Top seeds: Men -- 1. Pete Sampras; 2. Thomas Muster; 3. Andre Agassi; 4. Michael Chang. Women -- co-1. Steffi Graf; co- 1. Monica Seles; 3. Conchita Martinez; 4. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

* Defending champions: Men -- Thomas Muster (d. Chang); women -- Steffi Graf (d. Sanchez Vicario).

* Prize money: Men -- $5.47 million ($665,189 winner); women -- $4.54 million ($621,254 winner).

* Draw: 128 singles; 64 doubles.

* Surface: Red clay.

* TV: (Early rounds) Monday through Friday -- 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (live), 1-4 p.m. (taped), USA. Saturday -- (Third round) 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (live), NBC. Next Sunday -- (Fourth round) noon-3 p.m. (live), NBC. Monday, June 3 -- (Men's fourth round) 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (live), 1-4 a.m. (taped), USA. Tuesday, June 4 -- (Men's, women's quarterfinals) 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (live), 1-4 a.m. (taped), USA. Wednesday, June 5 -- (Men's quarterfinals) 9 a.m.-noon (live), 1-4 a.m. (taped), USA. Thursday, June 6 -- (Women's semifinals) 9 a.m.-noon (live), 1-4 a.m. (taped), USA. Friday, June 7 -- (Men's semifinals) 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (live), NBC; 3-6 p.m. (taped), USA; 1-4 a.m. (taped) USA. Saturday, June 8 -- (Women's final) noon-3 p.m. (live), NBC. Sunday, June 9 -- (Men's final) 9 a.m.-2 p.m. (live), NBC.

MEN'S PICKS

* Thomas Muster. Twisted ankle or no, he is 96-3 on clay since early 1995.

* Michael Chang. 1989 champion, 1995 finalist has disposition to win, but has played only one match on red stuff this spring.

* Andre Agassi. Where have you gone? Two-time finalist is 1-1 on clay this year.

* Pete Sampras. Top seed, unlikely champion. 0-1 on clay, back hurts, coping with death of Coach Tim Gullikson.

Dark horses

* Jim Courier. Two-time champion (1991, 1992), needs to get on a hot streak. And we're not talking temper.

* Alberto Costa. Led Muster, two sets to one, in 1995 quarterfinals.

* Alex Corretja. Clay-court specialist was finalist at German Open.

* Marcelo Rios. "Chilean Agassi" broke into top 10 just weeks ago.

WOMEN'S PICKS

* Steffi Graf. Despite two rare losses in past month, four-time champion should repeat.

* Monica Seles. Recurrence of shoulder injury weakens, if not jettisons, chances.

* Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. With Seles hurting, the two-time champion presents the field's biggest threat to Graf.

* Conchita Martinez. Italian Open champion, pushed Graf in 1995 French semifinals but longest of the Grand Slam tournaments will test her commitment.

Dark horses

* Iva Majoli. Last year's quarterfinalist moved into the world's top five this year. Reached Rome semifinals, beat Seles in February.

* Anke Huber. Gave Seles pause in Australian final, Graf the same treatment at WTA Tour Championships in November. Can she win big on clay?
 

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Mustering support for Thomas
Ashley Browne
May 26, 1996
The Age
Melbourne, Australia

Paris, Sunday.

It is the tennis championship of France that is up for grabs at Roland Garros over the next fortnight, but it is an Austrian who will likely prove to be the darling of Paris.

Thomas Muster owns this town. The Parisians are fiercely parochial and protective of their beloved claycourt tennis, as is Muster. So while the rest of the tennis world finds whatever reasons it can to dislike the dour left-hander, the French have embraced him.

And despite an ankle sprain that forced him out of the St Poelten tournament in his home country last week, there is little to suggest that Muster won't successfully defend his 1995 championship when the 128 players take to the court tomorrow.

With only three losses from his past 100 outings on clay, Muster is carving for himself the most imposing record on the red dirt since Bjorn Borg in the late '70s. Eleven of Muster's 12 tournament victories last year came on clay, and already this year, he has added another five trophies for his mantelpiece.

But there can be no comparison with Borg, who proved just as handy on grass and on hardcourts as he was on clay. Muster has lost in the first round in each of his four appearances at Wimbledon and so far has not progressed past the quarter- finals at either the Australian or US opens.

And it is for that reason that most of his peers on the circuit, particularly the Americans, have never warmed to the 28-year-old. To their way of reckoning, the great players win consistently on a variety of surfaces and they will sit in judgment of Muster until that happens. For his part, Muster doesn't really care. There was little emotion and few expressions of joy when for a time earlier this year, he was elevated to the No. 1 ranking on the ATP computer. After all, his job is to win tennis matches.

The under-current of tension between Muster and the Americans will provide much of the drama at Roland Garros during the next two weeks.

It has been a particularly distracting few weeks for the leading Americans, which is why not even his injury discounts Muster from tournament favoritism. Pete Sampras is carrying a back injury, Andre Agassi has been out of sorts for more than six months, while Michael Chang has also been injured.

Given that clay is usually more demanding on the mind than the body, it is remarkable just how many players have been afflicted by injury in the build-up to the French Open. And not just in the men's draw. Monica Seles is nursing a shoulder injury dating back to the Australian Open, while Gabriela Sabatini and Chanda Rubin have been forced to withdraw.

Certainly, injuries do open the field somewhat. Second only to Muster in terms of pre-tournament publicity is Marcelo Rios, the temperamental Chilean whose fame is rapidly spreading beyond his homeland where it outstrips that of even the leading soccer players. Boris Becker, who fell to Rios in the third round at Monte Carlo, is among the fan club.

''He is a player who has a gifted hand and good vision. He's a very good counter-puncher. He plays with the power of the other guy, takes the ball early and has a very good feel for the court. On a good day he can be excellent and the surface doesn't matter," Becker said.

Given that it is the French Open that has made grand slam champions out of previous unknowns such as Chang, Andres Gomez and Sergi Bruguera, a dark horse such as the ninth-seeded Rios can never be discounted, particularly given that on form and health, there is little to recommend many of those seeded above him.

Despite years of having little to cheer about at Roland Garros, there is growing optimism in the Australian camp that there might be one or two survivors into the second week. Jason Stoltenberg is the form player, while Scott Draper and Patrick Rafter can each boast of having made the final 16 here in the past two years. Mark Woodforde remains Australia's best-credentialled claycourter, but by his own admission has not played enough matches in the past few weeks, while either Todd Woodbridge or Mark Philipoussis is likely to be hugely disappointed after having lost to the other in the second round.

Seles hurts every time she serves and hits a backhand - hardly the ideal state in which to approach a grand slam event.

But despite the strong temptation to dismiss her chances, it is worth noting that of the four times she has entered the championship she emerged the winner on three. Graf has won here four times and incredibly, is about to embark on her 14th French Open campaign.

Barring a miraculous recovery from Seles, she is the logical favorite to make it No. 5. None of the other challengers inspires great confidence.

Conchita Martinez boasts the pedigree to win the French title but has yet to make even the final; Anke Huber has bowed out in the fourth round for each of the past two years, while Arantxa Sanchez Vicario has won often enough on clay but seems to have slipped a little behind the benchmark set by Graf and Seles.

Should Seles withdraw, it might prove a small bonus for Rennae Stubbs, who is in the same part of the draw. Unfortunately for Stubbs, who has taken to her singles career with a renewed sense of gusto in the past six months, her first-round opponent, Sabine Appelmans, is ranked about 50 places above her.

Nicole Bradtke will likely run into Graf in the second round, while Kristin Godridge will face Karina Habsudova - ranked 78 places above her - in the first round.

For the women, it will be the same old story: wait until Wimbledon.

FOUR WHO CAN WIN - MEN.

THOMAS MUSTER (Austria).

Like Optus Oval for Carlton, clay courts offer Muster the same sort of home ground advantage. He might hail from Austria, but Roland Garros is his turf and it will take a very switched- on opponent playing at the peak of his capabilities to beat him.

ANDRE AGASSI (US).

Has been in something of a form funk since a stomach injury late last year. Never really clicked into gear at the Australian Open and has done little of note since. But rarely does a grand slam pass without Agassi making news one way or another and this should prove no exception. Won Wimbledon in 1992 when least expected to. Why not here?

MARCELO RIOS (Chile).

Has already declared that no matter the result here, he won't be a starter at Wimbledon. Just imagine all the fuss and self- righteous tummy thumping from the Brits and the Americans if indeed he does win here and then heads home. His is an all-court game, but the clay particularly suits.

MICHAEL CHANG (US).

Won here in 1989 when just a babe. Has been around long enough to mesh together the talent he showed then with the experience he boasts today.

. . . AND TWO WHO CAN'T.

PETE SAMPRAS (US).

His back is sore, he has yet to win on clay this year, and faces a difficult draw. Sampras will win the French title one day, but not this year.

GORAN IVANISEVIC (Croatia).

Goran always finds a way to lose, and usually in the most unimpressive manner. Few players can look so good in the tournaments which don't really count. Fewer fail to disappoint so regularly when the stakes are high.

FOUR WHO CAN WIN - WOMEN.

STEFFI GRAF (Germany).

With four titles already, Steffi knows clay. The personal and injury problems which dogged her late last year and early in 1996 seem to have disappeared, and while not quite the imposing force of yesteryear, she remains the one to beat.

ARANTXA SANCHEZ-VICARIO.

Sanchez-Vicario loves to keep the ball in play - a prerequisite for success on the clay, but the only doubt is whether she has slipped a notch in talent.

CONCHITA MARTINEZ (Spain).

Consistent and certainly very much at home on the clay. But Roland Garros has been something of a stumbling block, having never made the final here.

IVA MAJOLI (Croatia).

With a ranking of four, is ready to make her mark, and her ability to rally will prove a critical factor over the next few weeks.

. . . AND TWO WHO CAN'T.

MONICA SELES (US).

Always foolish to tip against the best player in womens tennis but if we take her on her word, she is unable to serve properly nor hit a decent backhand because of the shoulder injury. Pulled out of the Spanish Open last week.

MARY PIERCE (France).

Pierce is in the doldrums. Expect the local heroine to lift in front of the adoring crowds, but the truth is starting to emerge - with Graf and Seles both absent, she may have earned more credit than she deserved for winning the Australian Open last year.
 

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HANDICAPPING THE SEEDS
The Dallas Morning News
May 26, 1996
Darryl Richards, Staff Writer

HANDICAPPING THE MEN'S SEEDS

Staff Writer Darryl Richards handicaps the 16 seeded men for the French Open. The player's finish from the past two years also are listed (Odds are by Las Vegas oddsmaker Michael Roxborough):

Seed, Player '95 finish '94 finish Odds Comment

1. Pete Sampras 1st round quarterfinals 12-1 No. 1 but not on this surface

2. Thomas Muster champion 3rd round 8-5 The king of clay

3. Andre Agassi quarterfinals 4th round 7-2 Wants it badly, but ill-prepared

4. Michael Chang runner-up 3rd round 6-1 Wrist a concern

5. Goran Ivanisevic 1st round quarterfinals 25-1 Cooled down since hot start

6. Yevgeny Kafelnikov semifinals 3rd round 10-1 Time for breakthrough

7. Jim Courier 4th round semifinals 25-1 Always a threat here

8. Thomas Enqvist 1st round 1st round 25-1 Get ready for Wimbledon

9. Marcelo Rios 2nd round 2nd round 25-1 Will be a factor

10. Wayne Ferreira 3rd round 1st round 18-1 Usually slammed in slams

11. Arnaud Boetsch 3rd round 3rd round 50-1 Local boy doesn't do good enough

12. Alberto Costa quarterfinals 1st round 30-1 Well-prepared

13. Richard Krajicek 2nd round 3rd round 12-1 Knows how to play on clay

14. Marc Rosset 2nd round 1st round 12-1 No roses here

15. Michael Stich 4th round 2nd round 12-1 Injuries have slowed him

16. MaliVai Washington 2nd round 1st round 12-1 Could surprise

HANDICAPPING THE WOMEN'S SEEDS

Staff Writer Darryl Richards handicaps the 16 seeded women for the French Open. The player's finish from the past two years also are listed (Odds are by Las Vegas oddsmaker Michael Roxborough):

Seed, Player '95 finish '94 finish Odds Comment

Co-1. Steffi Graf champion semifinals 8-5 Grande Dame of Grand Slams

Co-1. Monica Seles DNP DNP 6-5 No Grand Slam this year

3. Conchita Martinez semifinals semifinals 4-1 This is the one she should win

4. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario runner-up champion 8-1 Reached semis every year since '91

5. Iva Majoli quarterfinals 4th round 50-1 Oncoming talent

6. Anke Huber 4th round 4th round 20-1 Pay attention to this German, too

7. Kimiko Date semifinals 1st round 50-1 Solid Grand Slam performer

8. Brenda Schultz-McCarthy 2nd round 3rd round 25-1 Not her slam

9. Lindsay Davenport 4th round 3rd round 50-1 Needs to show patience

10. Jana Novotna 3rd round 1st round 25-1 Threat on any surface, but aging

11. Mary Joe Fernandez 1st round 3rd round 50-1 Good surface for her

12. Mary Pierce 4th round runner-up 25-1 Trying to rebound from '95

13. Magdalena Maleeva 2nd round 1st round 35-1 Has talent to reach quarters

14. Amanda Coetzer 2nd round 4th round 25-1 Reached a slam quarters once

15. Martina Hingis 3rd round DNP 40-1 Rising star could shine here

16. Barbara Paulus 1st round DNP 25-1 No Austrian sweep this year
 

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TOP 10 MEN AND WOMEN TO WATCH
The Dallas Morning News
May 26, 1996
Darryl Richards, Staff Writer

TOP 10 MEN TO WATCH

THOMAS MUSTER

* SEED: 2

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner in 1995.

* ANALYSIS: Regarded as the best player in the world on clay, Muster is the defending champion and has the most to lose if he doesn't repeat.

PETE SAMPRAS

* SEED: 1

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Quarterfinalist '92-94.

* ANALYSIS: Does not feel very comfortable on clay but gained some confidence by winning three matches against Russia in Davis Cup last December on clay. Has extremely difficult draw, with four players who have won a combined seven French Open titles in his quarter of the draw.

MICHAEL CHANG

* SEED: 4

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner in 1989.

* ANALYSIS: Reached the final last year before being destroyed by Muster in the final. Has been a consistent semifinal performer in every Grand Slam the last year except Wimbledon.

ANDRE AGASSI

* SEED: 3

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Finalist in 1990 and '91.

* ANALYSIS: Should be a favorite but has been hard to figure out since losing to Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open final. Has battled injuries and has won only one tournament since last summer. That was the Lipton Championships, when Goran Ivanisevic retired after three games with a stiff neck.

JIM COURIER

* SEED: 7

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner in 1991 and '92.

* ANALYSIS: Two-time French Open champion could get on a roll and win this event. The French love him because he speaks the language, can be aloof and respects the clay-court game.

SERGI BRUGUERA

* SEED: None

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner in 1993 and '94.

* ANALYSIS: Two-time French Open champion has fallen out of the top 10 but certainly has a comfort zone in Paris. Perfect surface for his heavy topspin.

GORAN IVANISEVIC

* SEED: 5

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Quarterfinalist in 1990, '92 and '94.

* ANALYSIS: His best Grand Slam has been Wimbledon, but Ivanisevic grew up playing on clay and feels comfortable on the surface. Has won three clay-court titles in his career.

MARCELO RIOS

* SEED: 9

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Second round in 1994 and '95.

* ANALYSIS: Considered the South American Andre Agassi, although not as talented. He certainly has more hair than Agassi now. Best surface is clay and has had good results in the last six months, but may not be mentally ready or consistent enough to win here.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV

* SEED: 6

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Semifinalist 1995.

* ANALYSIS: Great all-around player, but has not had the mental toughness to get to the final of a slam.

THOMAS ENQVIST

* SEED: 8

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: First round '93-'95

* ANALYSIS: Has tremendous ability and is considered the next great Swede. But to be the next great Swede (e.g. Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg), he has to do much better in Grand Slams.

TOP 10 WOMEN TO WATCH

STEFFI GRAF

* SEED: Co-No. 1

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner 1987, '88, '93, '95.

* ANALYSIS: Hasn't lost a Grand Slam tournament she has entered since 1994 U.S. Open. Her streak isn't likely to end here.

MONICA SELES

* SEED: Co-No. 1

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner 1990-'92.

* ANALYSIS: It's certainly fair to question her match fitness, but Seles was able to get to the final of last year's U.S. Open despite playing only one tournament in the previous 27 months. The points on clay will be much longer, and that could wear on Seles, who has played in one tournament since February.

CONCHITA MARTINEZ

* SEED: 3

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Semifinalist in 1995 and '94.

* ANALYSIS: Only Grand Slam title is 1994 Wimbledon, but most experts thought she would win here first. Her extreme topspin gives her a chance to win here. Has 12 clay-court titles in her career.

ARANTXA SANCHEZ VICARIO

* SEED: 4

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Winner in 1994 and '89.

* ANALYSIS: Best wheels in women's tennis and is most comfortable on clay. Has two French Open titles and is capable of beating any player on this surface.

MARY PIERCE

* SEED: 12

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Finalist in 1994.

* ANALYSIS: Her career moved in opposite direction since winning 1995 Australian Open. Her desire came into question after being unceremoniously dumped by coach Nick Bollettieri. Considers France her home country, so she should have the fan support.

IVA MAJOLI

* SEED: 5

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Quarterfinalist in 1995

* ANALYSIS: Only 18, Majoli is constantly improving. Has defeated Jana Novotna, Mary Pierce, Conchita Martinez, Magdalena Maleeva and Gabriela Sabatini on clay. Has reached at least the fourth round in her three French Open appearances.

LINDSAY DAVENPORT

* SEED: 9

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Quarterfinalist in 1994

* ANALYSIS: Has shown some signs of improvement and has lost some weight since last year. Still looking for Grand Slam breakthrough.

KIMIKO DATE

* SEED: 7

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Semifinalist in 1995

* ANALYSIS: Better on hardcourt, but recent win over Graf could give her confidence. Keeps the ball in play, which should keep her in many points here.

MARTINA HINGIS

* SEED: 15

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Third round 1995

* ANALYSIS: Recently beat Graf on clay in a match in which Graf admitted she was clueless. The next great star in women's tennis is ready to take the next giant step.

JENNIFER CAPRIATI

* SEED: None.

* BEST FRENCH PERFORMANCE: Quarterfinalist in 1992 and '93

* ANALYSIS: Like, um, no way.
 

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French Open: How they'll fare
The Tampa Tribune
May 26, 1996
H.A. BRANHAM, Tribune Staff Writer

[] Where/when: Stade Roland Garros, Paris. Monday-June 9

[] Defending champions: Steffi Graf and Thomas Muster

[] Top seeds: Steffi Graf (women) and Pete Sampras (men)

Men's draw Comment Odds

1. Pete Sampras Tough draw; could be gone early 8-1

2. Thomas Muster Ankle sprain only question mark 2-1

3. Andre Agassi Hard to imagine him winning here 5-1

4. Michael Chang With Muster hurt, the smart choice Even

5. Goran Ivanisevic Neutralized by the red dirt 10-1

6. Jim Courier This is the place, if not time, for comeback 3-1

7. Yevgeny Kafelnikov If he wins Grand Slam, it'll be the French 4-1

8. Thomas Enqvist Best of the Swedes, but no Borg 12-1

9. Marcelo Rios Will win here eventually 6-1

10. Wayne Ferreira Could be first seed to fall 20-1

11. Arnaud Boetsch French No. 1 could surprise -- for awhile 15-1

12. Alberto Costa A shiny dark horse 15-1

13. Richard Krajicek '93 was an anomaly for this big server 25-1

14. Marc Rosset Might make third round this year 30-1

15. Michael Stich '95 Davis Cup choke ruined him for clay 30-1

16. Mal Washington Playing well, not well enough to threaten 30-1

[] First-round highlight: Pete Sampras-Magnus Gustafsson.

Dangerous non-seeds: Alberto Berasategui, Sergi Bruguera, Roberto Carratero.

Dark horse: Marcelo Rios.

H.A. Branham's pick: Michael Chang.

Women's draw Comment Odds

1. Steffi Graf With Seles shaky, should cruise Even

2. Monica Seles Too much down time lately 3-1

3. Conchita Martinez Semis again 3-1

4. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario If Graf doesn't do it, she could 2-1

5. Iva Majoli A semi loser to Graf 2-1

6. Anke Huber Challenge possible, not probable 6-1

7. Kimiko Date Beat Graf recently, but not here 6-1

8. Brenda Schultz-McCarthy Big serves, no chance on clay 20-1

9. Lindsay Davenport She must get smaller to win big ones 15-1

10. Jana Novotna Evolving into doubles specialist 20-1

11. Mary Joe Fernandez Sadly, no majors for Mary Joe 15-1

12. Mary Pierce New coach (Brad Gilbert) gets 1st test 10-1

13. Magdalena Maleeva Saddlebrook trainee is slumping 25-1

14. Amanda Coetzer Could surprise somebody 25-1

15. Martina Hingis Recent upset of Graf no surprise 10-1

16. Barbara Paulus Good clay-courter, will justify seeding 30-1

[] First-round highlight: Anke Huber-Gigi Fernandez.

Dangerous non-seeds: Jennifer Capriati, Karina Habsudova, Irina Spirlea.

Dark horse: Hingis.

H.A. Branham's pick: Steffi Graf.
 

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FRENCH OPEN PREVIEW
St. Petersburg Times
May 26, 1996
DARRELL FRY

The tournament begins Monday in Paris. Here are breakdowns on some of the top players at the tournament by Darrell Fry of the Times.

MEN

PETE SAMPRAS: Tampa.

AGE: 24.

RANK: 1.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 29-3 (before World Team Cup) (1-1 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Quarterfinalist, '92, '93, '94.

THE LINE: It may be asking too much for Sweet Pete to win Paris this year. Not only has he never won this Grand Slam event, but he's also been slowed by the death of his coach, Tim Gullikson, recently. Don't be surprised if he bows out in the opening rounds as he did here a year ago.

THOMAS MUSTER: Austria.

AGE: 28.

RANK: 2.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 37-7 (29-1 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Champion, '95.

THE LINE: As usual, he has been trampling the rest of the tour during the clay-court season. His Italian Open championship May 19 stamped him as the overwhelming favorite for Paris. Unless someone can derail him early, he's looking at back-to-back French titles. C'est la vie.

ANDRE AGASSI: Las Vegas.

AGE: 26.

RANK: 3.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 18-5 (1-1 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Finalist, '90, '91.

THE LINE: Agassi should be well rested after taking the past few weeks off. That should make him eager to get back in the mix, particularly at a grand venue like Roland Garros. Then again, the lack of clay matches could make him sluggish. The thinking is, the deeper he gets in the draw, the more dangerous he becomes.

MARCELO RIOS: Chile.

AGE: 20.

RANK: 10.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 29-11 (16-4 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Second round, '94, '95.

THE LINE: He's the fastest rising kid on the tour these days, having gone from No. 107 in '94 to No. 25 last year to No. 10. He has classic clay-court strokes and a forehand big enough to blow just about anybody off the court. If he can hold himself together in the big matches, he might be pushing everything from Rolex watches to Evian spring water.

WOMEN STEFFI GRAF: Germany.

AGE: 26.

RANK: 1.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 18-1 (7-1 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Champion, '87, '88, '93, '95; finalist '89, '90, '92.

THE LINE: The foot injury that had slowed her seems fine. She bagged the German Open two weeks ago, although not in her typical impressive fashion. Still, this is a biggie, and nobody plays the biggies better than Graf.

MONICA SELES: Sarasota.

AGE: 22.

RANK: 1.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 12-1 (0-0 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Champion '90, '91, '92.

THE LINE: She's just coming back from the shoulder problem that had sidelined her since February. She withdrew from Madrid last week because of pain in the shoulder. If anyone can return to top form in an instant it's Seles. Have you forgotten how she returned from the stabbing incident and dominated the Canadian Open?

CONCHITA MARTINEZ: Spain.

AGE: 24.

RANK: 3.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 22-6 (12-3 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Semifinalist, '94, '95.

THE LINE: She has been solid if not astounding these days. She has won on clay but has had trouble breaking through the semifinals at major events. If she can snap that jinx and make it into the final, her natural clay-court instincts could be enough to take her the extra step.

IVA MAJOLI: Croatia.

AGE: 18.

RANK: 4.

1996 MATCH RECORD: 23-6 (8-4 on clay).

FRENCH OPEN HIGHLIGHTS: Quarterfinalist, '95.

THE LINE: She's unquestionably the least known of the contenders, but she's definitely legit. She has been loosely compared with Seles. She has enough weapons to handle the competition, but perhaps not enough experience. If she can catch a break somewhere along the way, she might surprise.

- Statistics do not include World Team Cup or Madrid Open results from Tuesday-Saturday.
 

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Charles Elmore of The Palm Beach Post also picked Steffi. Monica Mania had worn off.

French Open favorites: Muster, Graf
The Post and Courier
Charleston, SC
May 26, 1996
JAMES BECK, the Post and Courier

Is Monica Seles back? Is Thomas Muster for real?

With those thoughts, I'll give you my picks for the French Open. If I were a betting man, I'd go with the defending champions, Muster and Steffi Graf.

Muster, even though he's hurting, is so much of an animal on clay that he might just walk right through the men's field, even with the sore ankle that caused him to withdraw from his last tournament. Some said his success on clay last year was a fluke, but he's retracing his 1995 tracks with the same type of success.

Andre Agassi and Michael Chang might be the only players who stand a chance of overcoming the Austrian on the red clay of Roland Garros Stadium. Chang tried it last year, but failed. Maybe Agassi will get that chance in the next two weeks.

Boris Becker is out even earlier than expected due to injuries amd will continue his search elsewhere for his first Grand-Prix title on clay. On a given day, Pete Sampras, who's also hurting, might be the best player on any surface - including clay - but over a two-week period he loses his invincibility.

As for the women, Seles may have a more difficult time in this second comeback - after four months off instead of two years - than she did in the first. I think it would be amazing if she won the French Open.

Graf is a different matter. She's not that far from top form. Of course, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Conchita Martinez and Iva Majoli all are capable of winning the French, along with Seles.

[...]
 

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Graf assures a well-stocked A&P
The Star-Ledger
Newark, NJ
May 26, 1996B
AL PICKER

Steffi Graf's final tuneup for the 1996 Olympics will be in front of a New Jersey audience.

Promoter John Korff has Graf lined up for the A&P Tennis Classic July 14-21 at the Crossroads Corporate Center in Mahwah. Don't be confused by the name of the event, this is the same tournament long known as the Pathmark Classic.

Graf certainly won't be confused by the name change for the summer tournament now in its 19th year. The German star keeps coming back because she enjoys the atmosphere of the northern New Jersey community and its proximity to her New York City home. And, the lure of playing in front of appreciative fans who never seem to tire in seeing her win year after year is also a factor. "Why should they?" asked Korff. "Fans enjoy seeing the best in action. And Steffi is the best."

Graf has been ranked No. 1 longer than any other tennis player of the modern era. A total of 334 weeks starting tomorrow. Not consecutively, but despite the interruptions, mostly by Monica Seles and briefly by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, that's still more than six years.

No one has won the title in Mahwah more than twice, except Graf. And her record is five triumphs in six final-round appearances.

"She's No. 1 and that tells it all," said Korff. "Steffi is the Michael Jordan of tennis. What player has done more in a decade? She's won more than anyone when it comes down to winning Grand Slams. She's got 18, no less than four in each of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

"That descriptive term used in boxing, `Pound for pound the best in the world,' certainly can be applied to her."

Korff admitted he considered Seles as his 1996 tournament headliner, but backed off when Monica went off the circuit earlier this year due to injuries. "If I got Seles and she pulled out due to an injury, nobody would have believed that there had been an actual commitment. I didn't want that situation hovering over our tournament."

Though there's no doubt of Graf's commitment to the invitational event, especially since her appearance guarantee is probably a hefty $400,000. But, with the Olympics tennis beginning only a couple of days after the conclusion of the A&P final, she will carefully watch her health.

The German ace has signed on in the past to appear in Mahwah and missed appearances due to injury or illness. In 1987, she bowed out to severe dental problems. And, last year, her chronic back problem flared and she withdrew.

Graf clearly demonstrated as a 16-year-old that she would cast a long shadow in the women's ranks. Kathy Rinaldi won the tournament in 1985 by scores of 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, but one could see that the runnerup's talent was deeper, her forehand already being recognized as a ferocious weapon. She would never lose another final here.

The 1986 crown went to Graf, a 7-5, 6-1 winner over Molly Van Nostrand. In 1988, the year of Graf's "Golden Grand Slam," and the Olympics' gold medal, she limited Nathalie Tauziat's title-round appearance in Mahwah to 41 minutes. Graf crushed her French opponent, 6-0, 6-1.

The tournament will begin on Sunday, July 14, with the men's special, the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation exhibition. Headlining the four-player charity event will be former No. 1, Jim Courier.

For ticket information for both events, call the box office at 201-825-9100 or TicketMaster.
 

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"Let's see that !^@#ing helicopter find me up here!"

Steffi's sun spot
The Sunday Telegraph
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
May 26, 1996
MICHAEL IDATO

WORLD hotel chain Sofitel is moving further into Australia this time claiming Melbourne's Regent as one of its own. The change of hands has been a source of much reminiscing for staff at the hotel, one of whom revealed the following snippets from its history:

* Steffi Graf is the only guest the hotel ever allowed to sunbake on the roof;

* Dean Cain was so afraid of heights, his top-floor room had to be moved a long way down before he would check in;

* Luciano Pavarotti ordered custom-made pillows and consumed "gallons and gallons" of pasta there; and

* Linda Evangelista liked her sink so much she had it pulled out of the wall and took it home with her.
 

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Red: He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn't normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place.

----The Shawshank Redemption, Castle Rock Entertainment/Columbia Pictures, 1994

Surface and draw threaten Sampras dream - Tennis
Prospect of stirring Graf-Seles final dominates women's singles interest in Paris

The Times
London, England
May 27, 1996
David Miller, in Paris

THE Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) may huff and puff in their ongoing rivalry with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), yet the grand-slam events, the bedrock of the ITF's existence, retain their pre-eminence. The French Open, which begins here today, is as glorious a tennis occasion as it ever was in the prime of Lenglen and the four musketeers.

Contrary to what some agents would have us believe, the four grand-slam tournaments remain bigger than the players, never mind the millions that they may earn elsewhere on the dollar roundabout. Only winning a grand-slam event truly establishes a player. Ask Thomas Muster, the defending French Open men's singles champion.

If the players are truthful, they will admit that Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon and New York are paramount in their ambitions: for the thrill, for the recognition by both peers and public, and not least for the opening of commercial doors hitherto marked ''exclusive".

Pete Sampras, though less than fit and facing the probability of slow clay courts which are unhelpful to his game, is desperate to join the pantheon of those who have won all four grand-slam events by succeeding here for the first time. It means as much to him as trying to win Wimbledon did to Ivan Lendl. Sampras begins today against one of the least accommodating of opponents, Magnus Gustafsson, the Swede ranked No33 in the world.

How much it matters to Muster, ranked second, the No2 seed and with a 97-3 win-loss record on clay, was apparent from his withdrawal from a tournament in Austria last week with an alleged ankle injury. Nobody with a bad ankle would be practising seriously again within 48 hours as Muster was at Roland Garros.

He admitted yesterday that the twist did not occur when taking his full weight and looked decidedly unworried about his first-round meeting tomorrow with Frederick Fetterlein, of Denmark.

Despite official statements that she would not make a decision until yesterday, Monica Seles had notified the organisers on Friday that she was fit to play, whatever the state of the shoulder problem that kept her out of action after winning the Australian Open.

Seles, like Muster, wants to win here, for the fourth time, at least in part to exorcise the lingering anguish over her stabbing in Hamburg three years ago. To beat Steffi Graf, four times previously champion and the innocent, indirect provocateur of the attack by a crazed German follower, would doubly gratify Seles, who succumbed to Graf in last year's US Open final.

A stirring Graf-Seles final would uplift the women's game at a time when there is minimal threat to the top four, the other members of which are Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. That is why the withdrawal of the exciting Chanda Rubin, the 20-year-old from Louisiana who was a quarter-finalist here last year after defeating Jana Novotna, is more disappointing than that of Boris Becker, also injured. The top flight of the men's game is 20-deep, the women's barely ten.

Graf yesterday sauntered through her one-set practice match on the charity day, marred by grey skies and occasional rain. Beaten in Rome by the teenager, Martina Hingis ''my worst form in years" Graf recovered to win the German Open. Yesterday she looked slim and relaxed; so fit, she reflected, in the light of her past troubles, that it almost worries her.

One marvels at the outward equanimity which hides the pain of her father's arrest on taxation charges. At 26, she retains a charming freshness, almost an innocence. She now deserves happiness rather than success.

There was an openness in her comments yesterday about the possibility of meeting Seles. ''We've both been struggling with injury ... hopefully, we'll both do well. I'll be looking forward to playing her again. I know how difficult it is with injuries ... I hope she'll be able to play free."

The torments within Seles's head are as severe, maybe worse. After withdrawing on Friday from Madrid, her first tournament since Australia, she talked of the emotional strain of returning for the first time onto vivid red clay, with all the memories of leaving it [in Hamburg], and how she hoped the happier memories of Paris would be therapeutic. She is postponing until after the US Open the probability of a shoulder operation, the injury apparently affecting her service action, though not her ground strokes.

Does anyone know what is in Andre Agassi's head? Even Agassi? He was booed off court in Monte Carlo for a sloppy performance. Earlier, declining to appear for the United States in the Davis Cup in Prague where they lost he was to be seen instead at a soft drinks sponsor's advertising launch in London. Commercial prudence determined for Agassi that he needed Wimbledon more than Wimbledon needed him, yet so erratic has his behaviour become that there must be doubt how long he will retain his No3 ranking and his reputation. A French Open finalist in 1990 and '91, he opens today against Jacobo Diaz, of Spain.

Another match catching the eye today features Javier Sanchez, of Spain, against Sergi Bruguera, the champion of 1993 and 1994, now ranked 23, unseeded here, and prospectively offering an uncomfortable second round for Sampras.

Britain's young hope, Tim Henman, plays his first French Open match against Kris Goosens, of Belgium, ranked 48 places below him, while Greg Rusedski meets a qualifier, Grant Doyle, of Australia.

SINGLES DRAWS FOR FRENCH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

Number in bracket denotes seeding Men

(1) P Sampras (US) v M Gustafsson (Swe); J Sanchez (Sp) v S Bruguera (Sp); J-P Fleurian (Fr) v M Wilander (Swe); K Carlsen (Den) v T Martin (US); B Black (Zim) v S Draper (Aus); G Schaller (Austria) v S Simian (Fr); J Tarango (US) v M Damm (Cz); F Squillari (Arg) v (16) M Washington (US); (10) W Ferreira (SA) v G Kuerten (Br); G Etlis (Arg) v S Dosedel (Cz); B Steven (NZ) v G Carraz (Fr); J Golmard (Fr) v R Furlan (It); R Carretero (Sp) v K Kucera (Slovakia); M Hadad (Col) v M Filippini (Uru); S Matsuoka (Japan) v D Rikl (Cz); A Olhovskiy (Russ) v (7) J Courier (US).

(3) A Agassi (US) v J Diaz (Sp); C Woodruff (US) v V Spadea (US); T Champion (Fr) v S Stolle (Aus); F Dewulf (Bel) v J Bjorkman (Swe); N Kulti (Swe) v T Woodbridge (Aus); M Philippoussis (Aus) v A Volkov (Russ); T Carbonell (Sp) v T El Sawy (Egypt); S Noszaly (Hun) v (13) R Krajicek (Hol); (12) A Costa (Sp) v F Meligeni (Br); J Van Herck (Bel) v F Clavet (Sp); T Henman (GB) v K Goossens (Bel); A Chesnokov (Russ) v G Forget (Fr); D Dier (Ger) v F Mantilla (Sp); M Woodforde (Aus) v A Corretja (Sp); H Leconte (Fr) v T Johansson (Swe); G Blanco (Sp) v (6) Y Kafelnikov (Russ).

(5) G Ivanisevic (Cro) v J Arrese (Sp); D Wheaton (US) v G Raoux (Fr); B Ulihrach (Cz) v F Montana (US); N Lapentti (Ecu) v A Medvedev (Ukr); A Gaudenzi (It) v K Tiilikainen (Fin); B Karbacher (Ger) v G Perez-Roldan (Arg); Y El Aynaoui (Mor) v P Haarhuis (Holl); J Palmer (US) v (11) A Boetsch (Fr); (14) M Rosset (Switz) v C-U Steeb (Ger); J Novak (Cz) v N Pereira (Ven); J Hlasek (Switz) v M Larsson (Swe); J Siemerink (Holl) v H Gumy (Arg); K Alami (Mor) v S Edberg (Swe); C Moya (Sp) v P Rafter (Aus); R Fromberg (Aus) v O Delaitre (Fr); D Prinosil (Ger) v (4) M Chang (US).

(8) T Enqvist (Swe) v R Reneberg (US); C Pioline (Fr) v J Frana (Arg); A Berasategui (Sp) v M Tebbutt (Aus); H Dreekmann (Ger) v C Ruud (Nor); F Fontang (Fr) v L Roux (Fr); S Pescosolido (It) v P Korda (Cz); J Kroslak (Slovakia) v J Stoltenberg (Aus); M Joyce (US) v (9) M Rios (Chile); (15) M Stich (Ger) v P Fredriksson (Swe); G Doyle (Aus) v G Rusedski (GB); D Norman (Bel) v M Knowles (Bah); M Tillstrom (Swe) v C Costa (Sp); A Voinea (Rom) v M Goellner (Ger); S Schalken (Holl) v D Vacek (Cz); M Ondruska (SA) v G Solves (Fr); F Fetterlein (Den) v (2) T Muster (Austria).

Women

(1) S Graf (Ger) v L Neiland (Lat); N Bradtke (Aus) v J Watanabe (US); L Golarsa (It) v P Kamstra (Holl); P Langrova (Cz) v N Arendt (US); L Lee (US) v J Halard-Decugis (Fr); G Pizzichini (It) v K Kschwendt (Ger); P Schnyder (Switz) v H Nagyova (Slovakia); M Grzybowska (Pol) v (11) M J Fernandez (US); (16) B Paulus (Austria) v N Kijimuta (Japan); K Boogert (Holl) v A Montolio (Sp); K Nagatsuka (Japan) v K Adams (US); N Miyagi (Japan) v A Gavaldon (Mex); M De Swardt (SA) v P Suarez (Arg); V Ruano-Pascual (Sp) v S Testud (Fr); R Grande (It) v S Cacic (US); S Meier (Ger) v (5) I Majoli (Cro).

(3) C Martinez (Sp) v E Callens (Bel); A-G Sidot (Fr) v R Zrubakova (Slovakia); A Grossman (US) v Y Kamio (Japan); N Dechy (Fr) v J Husarova (Slovakia); F Labat (Arg) v A Serra-Zanetti (It); N Zvereva (Belo) v D Van Roost (Bel); F Lubiani (It) v C Porwik (Ger); A Sugiyama (Japan) v (14) A Coetzer (SA); (9) L Davenport (US) v F Perfetti (It); M Endo (Japan) v Park Sung-hee (S Kor); M Werdel-Witmeyer (US) v Y Basuki (Indo); L Courtois (Bel) v M J Gaidano (Arg); L Wild (US) v R Hiraki (Japan); S Cecchini (It) v M McGrath (US); T Jecmenica (Yug) v S Hack (Ger); A Carlsson (Swe) v (7) K Date (Japan).

(6) A Huber (Ger) v G Fernandez (US); A Temesvari (Hun) v S Stafford (US); N Feber (Bel) v H Sukova (Cz); R McQuillan (Aus) v S Pitkowski (Fr); K Habsudova (Slovakia) v K Godridge (Aus); A Miller (US) v N Tauziat (Fr); P Begerow (Ger) v C Singer (Ger); B Schett (Austria) v (15) M Hingis (Switz);

(12) M Pierce (Fr) v M Schnell (Austria); D Randriantefy (Mad) v J Nejedly (Can); K Studenikova (Slovakia) v B Rittner (Ger); J Capriati (US) v Yi Jing-Qian (China); M Sanchez Lorenzo (Sp) v A Cocheteux (Fr); J Wiesner (Austria) v E Likhovtseva (Russ); V Martinek (Ger) v J Kandarr (Ger); A Glass (Ger) v (4) A Sanchez Vicario (Sp).

(8) B Schultz-McCarthy (Holl) v A Dechaume-Balleret (Fr); A Mauresmo (Fr) v B Reinstadler (Austria); C Cristea (Rom) v S Farina (It); I Spirlea (Rom) v C Mothes (Fr); E Makarova (Russ) v N Baudone (It); A Fusai (Fr) v P Hy-Boulais (Can); Shi-ting Wang (Tai) v A Smashnova (Isr); L Richterova (Cz) v (10) J Novotna (Cz); (13) M Maleeva (Bul) v L Raymond (US); T Whitlinger-Jones (US) v E Wagner (Ger); M Oremans (Holl) v L Ghirardi-Rubbi (Fr); I Demongeot (Fr) v R Bobkova (Cz); R Dragomir (Rom) v A Frazier (US); S Appelmans (Bel) v R Stubbs (Aus); N Sawamatsu (Japan) v K Nowak (Pol); C Dhenin (Fr) v (2) M Seles (US).
 
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