Tennis: Graf announces her satisfaction

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The Independent Online
STEFFI GRAF was not simply smiling, she was positively beaming. For a change, the world No 1 was almost completely satisfied with her performance, writes John Roberts from Melbourne. There had been the odd blemish, she noted, 'but if you did not make a few errors, you would not be human'.

Her demeanour after demolishing Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-0,

6-2, in 57 minutes, was significant. There have been times when Graf has looked absolutely miserable during post-triumph interviews. Not here at the Australian Open. She had impressed the person hardest to please: herself.

The women's game is in a worrying state, lacking a depth of talent, but a one-sided match ought not to be devalued if a player's superiority is accomplished with the panache Graf displayed on Saturday.

Everybody, and Graf probably more than most, regrets that Monica Seles has been out of the game since she was stabbed last April. The one player who could be relied upon to counter Graf's power, and who defeated her in the final here a year ago, is in Florida, pondering when, or if, she will recover the nerve to step back on a court. Even Seles at her best might have struggled to contain Graf on Saturday's form.

'Awesome,' was the assessment of Geoff Pollard, the president of Tennis Australia. Chris Evert chose the same adjective to decribe Graf even before she was defeated by the German in the inaugural women's final at Flinders Park in 1988.

That year, Graf built on her success to achieve the 'Golden Grand Slam' of the Australian, French, Wimbledon and United States championships plus the Olympic title in Seoul. On Saturday, by adding the Australian title to the French, Wimbledon and United States championships she won last year, Graf became the first women in history to win the four Grand Slams consecutively twice in her career.

Technically, Graf's second set of majors does not constitute a Grand Slam, which traditionally has to be accomplished in a calendar year. 'To win four Grand Slams in a row at any time is incredible,' Graf agreed, 'but winning them in a year is harder.' She treated the media to another big smile: 'I don't mind if you are going to count this one, too.'

Graf believes she is a stronger, more complete player than in 1988. Rid of last year's injury problems, her confidence has been helped by rigorous training and faith in a new racket, a lighter model of the Wilson used by the men's finalists, Pete Sampras and Todd Martin.

Sanchez Vicario, who created one break point in each set, converting the second, was constantly pummelled by Graf's forehand. It was also evident that Graf's serve was generating greater power. Moeover, the German ended the match with the rare flourish of a topspin backhand winner.

Graf said she would not be averse to five-set matches being introduced to the women's game. Has the woman no mercy?