Graf first among equals

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Steffi Graf, putting aside the problems in her private life, saved her best for last, the top seed scoring an emphatic 7-5, 6-4 victory over the second seed, Monica Seles, to claim her fifth US Open title last night.

Seles and Graf may be equal in the mind of the world rankings computer, but there was little sign of parity on the Flushing Meadow court, as the German repeated the success over Seles she enjoyed last year to retain the crown.

"I played my best today," Graf said before a downpour curtailed the presentation ceremony.

With possibly the most impressive performance from the service line in her long, brilliant career, Graf romped to her 21st Grand Slam singles title, three short of the all-time record. The victory, coming in Graf's 29th Grand Slam final, also marked the fifth year that the 27-year-old German has taken at least three of the four major titles.

Bothered by nagging injuries and worried about her father's tax evasion trial, Graf had struggled early to find her range and focus in nearly all her matches during her 13th US Open campaign. However, on Saturday, two days after the start of her father's trial on tax evasion charges, she managed to keep her focus on tennis long enough to score a 7-5, 6-3 victory over the Swiss teenager, Martina Hingis, and she came out firing winners last night.

Graf unveiled a new weapon in her Grand Slam arsenal against Seles, a Sampras style first serve. She produced 10 aces, all in the 100 mile per hour range and picked up a slew of other points with service winners.

"She kept the pressure on the whole time," said Seles, the Australian Open champion who had not faced Graf since last year's final here."Steffi was hitting tons of winners from the corners."

Seles may need surgery to repair a shoulder injury that hampers her own serve.

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