Graf's great expectations ease pressure on Novotna

July 03, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- When Steffi Graf walks on to Centre Court today for the 100th Wimbledon women's final, it will be her sixth in seven years.

She will face Jana Novotna, who will be playing for the championship for the first time.

It would appear to be the perfect setup for Graf.

But Graf shook her head in disagreement.

"I think when you reach the final for the first time, you are just so happy to be there that there is no pressure," said the defending Wimbledon women's champ.

And that's how she expects Novotna to be, even though Graf has dominated their matches, 16-3.

But for Graf, it will be another story.

"It will never be routine," said Graf, who lost in her first final at Wimbledon to Martina Navratilova, 7-5, 6-3, in 1987. "Every time I get into a final, it is more nerve-racking than the last one."

Graf has eliminated Novotna from Wimbledon competition twice: the round of 16 in 1987 and in the quarterfinals in 1990.

But Novotna is a more self-assured and mature grass player.

She ousted Gabriela Sabatini and Martina Navratilova in stunning back-to-back matches that left both losers predicting she can win this championship if she can maintain her level of play and concentration.

"If she plays like she did [Thursday], she can definitely win in the final," Navratilova said. "I don't think the occasion will overwhelm her. I think she'll put on a really good show."

"I know what to expect," said Novotna, 24. "I'm just going to take it easy for another day and we will see how I do. I certainly am playing well right now. We'll see."

Graf has barely been tested, needing only 1 hour, 15 minutes to eliminate her toughest challenger, semifinalist Conchita Martinez, in two sets, 7-6 (7-0), 6-3.

"I think, as you get older, you worry about not taking advantage of being in a Wimbledon final," said Graf, 24. "Every one becomes more and more precious."

WOMEN'S ROAD TO THE FINALS

# STEFFI GRAF (1) Rd. .. Opponent .. .. .. .. Score

. .. Kirrily Sharpe .. .. 6-0, 6-0

2 . .. Clare Wood ... .. .. 6-2, 6-1

3 . .. Helen Kelesi . .. .. 6-0, 6-0

4 . .. Meredith .. .. .. .. 6-1, 6-4

... .. McGrath

QF ... Jennifer .. .. .. .. 7-6 (7-3),

... .. Capriati .. .. .. .. (7) 6-1

SF ... Conchita .. .. .. .. 7-6 (7-0),

... .. Martinez .. .. .. .. (6) 6-3

$ JANA NOVOTNA (8) 1 . .. Emanuela Zardo .. .. 6-1, 6-3

. .. Ines Gorrochategui . 6-0, 7-5

. .. Marianne Werdel . .. 6-3, 6-1

4 . .. Miriam . .. .. .. .. 7-5, 4-6,

... .. Oremans ... .. .. .. 6-4

... Gabriela .. .. .. .. 6-4, 6-3

... .. Sabatini (4)

SF ... Martina ... .. .. .. 6-4, 6-4

... .. Navratilova (2)

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