Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mono-Graf: Steffi Leaves Her Mark; Romps to Title

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mono-Graf: Steffi Leaves Her Mark; Romps to Title

Article excerpt

In her most sublime moments Saturday, Steffi Graf slammed shots as perfectly as she ever has.

The result was a third U.S. Open and third successive Grand Slam title. But something - someone - was missing.

No tension, no throb of excitement ever intruded upon Graf's 6-3, 6-3 victory over Helena Sukova. This was the day, more than any other in the two-week tournament, when 1991 and 1992 Open champion Monica Seles was missed dearly - by the fans and by Graf.

"It was an incredible year, and I'm very happy about it," Graf told the crowd of 20,000 after receiving the trophy and $535,000 first prize. "But one player who has not been around for the last three Grand Slams - that's Monica - I hope she'll be back soon."

The top-ranked Graf thrives on a challenge, wants the competition, but there's no one out there close to her level. She's won six successive tournaments, hardly breaking a sweat along the way.

"Sure it helps to have a player who pushes me more," Graf said. "But I'm not necessarily a person who needs it, because I like to push myself. When I realize how well I'm playing, it's really difficult to do something against me."

From the first point in the final, when Graf drilled a forehand into the corner, to the last, when Graf whacked a backhand volley that Sukova slapped wide, the only question was exactly how long the inevitable would take. The answer, on a chilly, blustery afternoon, was 66 minutes, a brief interlude between the men's semifinal matches.

Graf simply picked her spots to send winners screaming past Sukova. Graf would run around the ball to hit forehands down the line or across the court, and the net-charging Sukova would watch them go by like speeding cars on an expressway.

Sukova hadn't beaten Graf in 10 years, since Graf was 14. Graf has won all 20 of their matches since then.

Just as she did before Seles came along, Graf is ruling women's tennis. Most observers figured she could have been handed the trophy and check at the start of the tournament.

Graf swept the Grand Slams in 1988, won the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the French Open the following year and held the No. 1 ranking for a record 186 weeks until Seles took over the top spot for more than two years. …

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