Perhaps the greatest game of them all

JOHN ROBERTS

Tennis Correspondent

Next time you have to wait 20 minutes because your train is delayed, or there is a problem with air traffic control, or the table you reserved has been given to somebody else, console youself. It is merely the time it takes to complete one game in a Wimbledon women's singles final. A unique game, it must be added, between a tall, athletic German and a short, lively Spaniard who looks as if she might have popped out of a bouncy castle.

Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario enraptured the Centre Court on Saturday in what ranks among the greatest of matches. It will be remembered for "The Game", which Virginia Wade encapsulated as "a match within a match", but there was much more to it.

The standard of play was high from start to finish, the ball driven or coaxed to the corners of the court, barely clearing the net - except when Graf was executing 11 winning smashes - and the players a blur of action, straining for the initiative. There were errors - how else would time have been found for the men's final yesterday? - but they were made chiefly in the quest for superiority, not because of a lack of nerve.

Graf triumphed after two hours and two minutes, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, but Sanchez Vicario finally had materialised as a major personality in the grass-court game, no longer the fringe figure at Wimbledon whose name seemed to attract an inordinate amount of attention when she competed in tournaments elswhere on the globe.

The 23-year-old from Barcelona repeated several times that she was proud of herself and considered herself unlucky not to have been presented with the Venus Rosewater Dish. Instead she added to the fun by pretending to steal the trophy from an opponent who had already won it five times.

Many voices tried to reassure the loser. The Prince of Asturias "told me it was only some points that Steffi was lucky to have" and the Duchess of Kent "said in the next few years I will lift the trophy up".

Sanchez Vicario tended to whinge about line calls which went against her, including one in "The Game". But Spanish observers were inclined to recount another of those 32 points - the fifth of her eight which which she might have won the game - when a backhand stop-volley carried a touch too much pace, enabling Graf to run the ball down and lash a backhand pass down the line.

The important thing was that Sanchez Vicario had convinced herself that the Wimbledon prize is now within the scope of her game, which previously had only prospered on slower surfaces. She has the necessary variety of shots, and had the confidence to go for them.

That is how she succeeded in winning an excellent opening set and was able to recover after being broken to 1-2 in the final set, extending the duel, which was being fought in hot, almost airless conditions. When Graf was about to serve, 4-5 down, an American colleague expressed the hope that the match would not end there and then, because it deserved a longer run. Little did we know.

After the mental and physical exertions of the epic 11th game, it may have seemed a formality for Graf when she served for the title at 40-0 in the concluding game, having drawn three errors from her opponent. The truth is she was trembling so much that she could hardly keep her racket still. "I had to say to myself, 'OK, OK, keep cool, now you have got it'."

The serve was deep, and strong enough to deny Sanchez Vicario options on the return, and when Graf punched a confident backhand volley, the Spaniard responded with a backhand which drifted beyond the baseline.

So ended the most wonderful women's match of my experience for all-round entertainment. Some would argue that Margaret Court's 1970 win against Billie Jean King, 14-12, 11-9, was better. All a matter of taste and opinion, of course. Laurie Pignon, a former colleague, has never enjoyed a final more, and his mind casts back as far as Alice Marble, in 1939.

Two cranes have presided over the All England Club's grounds during the fortnight, evidence that the future of the Championships is under way. It seemed appropriate to be reminded that the event is nothing without great matches, and that the women are determined to continue their contribution to the rich tapestry.

Incidentally, Graf and Sanchez Vicario are not the first women to find a place in the record books after disputing a point or two. Vicky Nelson and Jean Hepner would not let one go for 29 minutes. The ball crossed the net 643 times during a rally in a tie-break. Nelson won the shoot- out, 13-11, in an hour and 47 minutes. It brought her victory, 6-4, 7- 6, after six hours and 31 minutes.

But that was in a run-of-the- tour event in Richmond, Virginia, in 1984. This is the Big W.

TWENTY MINUTES THAT THRILLED THE WORLD

Saturday's 20-minute game between Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the women's singles final has passed into Wimbledon lore. It will be remembered alongside the 20-minute tie-break between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg in the fourth set of the 1980 men's singles final, which the American won 18-16, only to lose in the fifth set, and the 112-game match between Pancho Gonzales and Charlie Pasarell in 1969.

The contest between Graf and Sanchez Vicario stood at one set all and 5-5. This is how the points were decided.

0-15 Sanchez forehand long

15-15 Graf wide on forehand returning second serve

30-15 Netted forehand by Graf

30-30 Sanchez forehand over baseline

40-30 Sanchez forehand drop shot.

Deuce Graf forehand winner

Ad Sanchez Forehand pass down the line

Deuce Sanchez wide with cross-court backhand

Ad Sanchez Ace

Deuce Graf passes with cross-court backhand service return

Ad Graf Sanchez nets backhand

Deuce Graf hits forehand service return over baseline

Ad Sanchez Low backhand cross-court pass

Deuce Winning smash by Graf

Ad Graf Forehand cross-court pass

Deuce Sanchez low angled backhand drop shot

Ad Graf Sanchez nets forehand approach

Deuce Graf hits forehand long from deep Sanchez backhand

Ad Sanchez Forehand cross-court pass

Deuce Graf backhand pass from Sanchez stop-volley

Ad Sanchez Graf backhand wide from Sanchez backhand to corner

Deuce Sanchez wide with backhand down the line

Ad Sanchez Graf long with backhand service return

Deuce Graf forehand drive

Ad Sanchez Forehand pass

Deuce Sanchez wide with cross-court backhand

Ad Graf Sanchez wide with forehand

Deuce Forehand cross-court pass

Ad Graf Sanchez missed with backhand down the line

Deuce Sanchez backhand drop shot down the line

Ad Graf Graf intercepts Sanchez cross-court forehand with forehand volley

Game Graf Sanchez unable to control her backhand from Graf's winning cross-court forehand drive

Duration: 20 minutes

Points: 32

Deuces: 13

Break points: six

Game points: eight

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border