Tennis: Graf tackles her tax as sponsors rally round

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The Independent Online
Tennis

JOHN ROBERTS

reports from Brighton

Steffi Graf, whose father is in prison accused of tax fraud of tens of millions of marks on her earnings, has engaged Price Waterhouse, one of the world's biggest financial consultants.

"This includes assisting her in all tax matters relating to the current investigation and representing her interests with the tax authorities," a spokesman at the company's Berlin office said. Price Waterhouse's other clients include Lloyds Bank, House of Fraser, Burtons, Mirror Group, Guinness and Esso.

Graf was interrogated twice by the German tax authorities before competing in the international women's tournament here this week, a visit which ended abruptly when the 26-year-old Wimbledon champion was eliminated in her opening match by Mariaan de Swardt, a South African qualifier, ranked No 54 in the world.

Although Graf will lose her pounds 700,000 sponsorship deal with Opel, the car company, at the end of the year, she has been promised continued annual support by Adidas sportswear (pounds 900,000), Rexona deodorants (pounds 400,000), Wilson rackets (pounds 300,000) and Toa racket strings (pounds 65,000), who have all added to her career prize money of more than pounds 11m from tennis. "We think Steffi is a victim in this affair," a Rexona spokesman said.

The 18th and last Brighton tournament has rumbled on in Graf's absence. De Swardt treated us to another impressive demonstration of her might before losing in the quarter-finals yesterday, breaking the strap in the centre of the net when double-faulting in the concluding game of her match against Kristie Boogert, of the Netherlands.

De Swardt amused the crowd by flexing her muscles while the court maintenance crew repaired the damage. But the tale of the tape did not have a happy outcome for the South African, who slipped from 30-15 to lose the contest.

Boogert skipped for joy after completing a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 victory with a forehand winner. In the semi-finals today, Boogert plays the American fourth seed, Mary Joe Fernandez, a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 winner against Barbara Paulus, of Austria.

Magdalena Maleeva, the third seed, appears to have devised a personal handicapping system, twice recovering from opening sets of 1-6 en route to the semi-finals. Having turned events in her favour when playing Germany's Barbara Rittner on Thursday, the Bulgarian made a similar comeback against Helena Sukova yesterday, defeating the sixth seed, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Although no longer troubled by a back injury which threatened her participation here, Maleeva's serve is suffering from a lack of practice.

n Michael Stich, the German player ranked No 12 in the world, was carried off the court on a stretcher after tearing a ligament in his left ankle at the CA Trophy men's indoor tournament in Vienna yesterday.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 31

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