Sanchez ambushes Graf for 1st Open title

September 11, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, using every opening Steffi Graf gave her yesterday, claimed her first U.S. Open women's championship and ran into the arms of her mother in joyous celebration.

"My mom didn't have words and neither did I," said Sanchez Vicario, after winning her second Grand Slam title of the year with a three-set stunner over Graf, 1-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. "I am very proud and very happy."

It was a titan-like battle between the world's Nos. 1 and 2 players.

This time No. 2 won, but as Sanchez Vicario said, "Steffi is still No. 1 in the rankings."

There are those who are wondering how long those computer rankings will hold up. Sanchez Vicario, the first Spaniard to win the U.S. national women's singles championships in its 108-year history, was claiming her second Grand Slam win of the season, her third victory over Graf this season and her sixth tournament victory of the season.

"Maybe by the end of the year, I am No. 1 player," she said. "But even if I am still No. 2, I will be very happy with what I have done and will come back next year and try to beat Steffi again and earn No. 1."

When this match was history, Graf was visibly annoyed with herself, and if Sanchez Vicario and her mother had no words to describe what they felt, Graf did -- though she was reluctant to express them.

When asked on court how much her aching back, which had been aggravated in the second set, had contributed to this loss, the Stadium Court crowd booed before she answered.

"I will not say much about my back today," she told the crowd. "Arantxa was just better today and there was nothing I could do."

The crowd cheered.

Later, in her post-match interview, asked if this match had been a classic battle, she eventually said no.

"You don't want to hear my honest opinion on that one," she said, and then added when pressed, "I think it was -- obviously, it was a very close match and that is why people got excited and everybody got into it. But I don't think it was an exceptional level or even something like a match close to that. There have been great matches, but I don't think this has been one of those."

"What disappoints me is that I know I have more possibilities than I showed today. I mean, there is so much more I can do and I didn't show it."

Graf sprinted through the first set, blasting forehands and backhands at will for a 6-1 start.

But then, in the eighth game of the second set, her foot slipped while she was stretching for a backhand return. Though she won the point and the game to even the score at 4-4, Graf was never the same again.

"I don't like talking about it when I lose," she said, when asked what exactly happened.

Graf came into the tournament with lower-back trouble, spent much of each day in treatment and played each match with a brace.

Yesterday, her power serve began to desert her in the final set, as did her forehand.

Sanchez Vicario won the second set in a tiebreaker, and then Graf proceeded to play some of the worst points in the third set that anyone is likely to see from her.

After the players had broken each other twice, Graf was broken for a third time in Game 9 when she missed four straight forehands and then double-faulted on break point. That put Sanchez Vicario in position to serve out the match.

In that final, deciding game, it was again Graf's oh-so-reliable forehand that deserted her. She fought off two match points, but each time she gave back the advantage with a forehand that wound up slamming into the net tape and bouncing back.

And then, when the third match point came, it was her backhand that flew long and allowed Sanchez Vicario to burst into wild celebration.

"I was a little tentative in that first set," said the winner. "I thought, yes, she is starting great, but she has done that before and if I keep fighting and become more aggressive maybe I can make it a match. I think I played great, and, you see, I won!"


The statistics yesterday of No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario's 1-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 victory over No. 1 Steffi Graf for the women's singles championship of the U.S. Open:

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Sanchez.. .. .. .. .. . Graf

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Vicario

1st-serve pct. .. .. .. .. .. .64% .. .. .. .. .. .. .57%

Aces .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...1 .. .. .. .. .. .. ...2

Double faults .. .. .. .. .. ...3 .. .. .. .. .. .. ...3

DTC 1st-serve pts. .. .. .. .. .. .64% .. .. .. ... .. ..59%

2nd-serve pts. .. .. .. .. .. .39% .. .. .. .. .. ...55%

Winners .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..22 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..35

Unforced errors .. .. .. .. ...36 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..46

Break-pt. conver. .. .. .. ..4-12 .. .. .. .. .. ...5-12

Net approaches .. .. .. .. .21-33 .. .. .. .. .. ..21-29

Total pts. won .. .. .. .. .. .93 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..97

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