Tennis: Graf's edgy victory

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The Independent Online
Steffi Graf ended Jana Novotna's 14-match unbeaten run to reach today's final of the year-ending Chase Championships in New York, though her 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory once again leaves question marks over Novotna's brittle temperament.

Novotna freely admits she is playing the best tennis of her career, but she is less free in admitting to her mental frailties, which have to take at least part of the blame for her defeat.

Novotna won the first set 6-4 on the basis of the sole break in the fifth game, but she was clearly winning her serve more easily and was not allowing the champion any time to settle.

Graf broke in the fourth game of the second set and went on to lead 5- 2, but Novotna rallied, broke Graf for 4-5 and then should have held her serve. Yet at 30-15 she scooped a forehand volley into the tramlines, at 30-30 she put an otherwise comfortable backhand volley over the baseline with an open court beckoning, and with Graf at set point Novotna dropped a backhand volley into mid-court allowing Graf to send a forehand past her to level the match.

Novotna led 2-0 in the final set, but again her nerves failed her. Graf broke back for 2-2, and at 3-2 Novotna served two double faults, the second on break point to give Graf what proved to be the decisive break.

In today's final, the only match on the women's tour to be the best of five sets, Graf will play Martina Hingis, 11 years her junior. The 16-year-old Swiss beat Iva Majoli of Croatia 6-2 4-6 6-1 to reach the biggest final of her two-year-old career.