Make Way For Steffi

Tennis Magazin
December 1984
By Marita Weber

The scene touched the souls of the 2200 spectators in the Filderstadt tennis
hall: When the metallic beige Porsche worth 75,000 Marks rolled past Steffi
Graf on the main court, the applause was meant almost exclusively for the
15-year-old from Brühl near Heidelberg. Admittedly, Steffi couldn't be given
the ignition key, because for that to happen, she would have needed to get
to work a little more successfully in the final.

But although she had lost 1-6, 4-6, against Catarina Lindqvist, the
21-year-old Swede from Malmö, currently ranked #25 in the world, she was the
private champion of an exciting week of tennis for the Swabian tennis
community. After all, Steffi was the first German player ever to reach the
final in Filderstadt, and aside from the likewise 15-year-old Tracy Austin
in 1978, she was the youngest player ever in the history of the tournament.
For Steffi Graf, for her father Peter, and above all for tournament promoter
Dieter Fischer, everything was just fine with the world again.

The pharmacist Fischer beamed with pleasure because the financing of the
Filderstadt tournament worked out well even without the financial loss
guarantee from the German Tennis Federation thanks to Steffi Graf's success.
The tennis instructor Peter Graf beamed because his daughter brought home
around 42,000 Marks, and important WTA ranking points, which promoted her
from #44 on the computer to #25.

And in the end, the Los Angeles Olympics champion smiled herself, because
she could outperform six established colleagues from her own country in
front of 13,500 spectators in her own country.

There were the four higher ranked German women: Hanika, who lost in the
second round, and Kohde, Bettina Bunge, and Eva Pfaff, who both lost in the
quarterfinals after initially strong performances. Consolation for Claudia
Kohde: She won the doubles final with Helena Sukova against the team of
Bunge and Pfaff. Thus, four German women in the finals in Filderstadt.
Compliments to them!

But back to Steffi Graf: First of all she eliminated Andrea Temesvari,
ranked 22 places ahead of her in the world rankings, in the first round in
three sets. The Hungarian currently works harder on her liaison with Bill
Scanlon than she does on the practice court. Then Steffi Graf outperformed
Iva Budarova of Czechoslovakia, #46 in the world (6-1, 6-1). As usual with a
dangerous slice backhand, that one can tell where it is going only at the
last second, with spirit, concentration, and excellent footwork.

That Steffi showed how good she was against, of all people, the
higher-ranked Claudia Kohde in three sets (6-2, 2-6, 6-2), was a bitter
experience for the Saarbrück resident. After all, the world's #8 had been
victorious in each of the previous two encounters (in Berlin and Paris).

The secret of Steffi Graf's success doesn't lie solely in her shots. The
frail girl with the thin arms and legs still has weaknesses in that respect.
For example, when someone plays high to her backhand, as the Princeton
student Andrea Leand from Baltimore, USA, did in the semifinal, though only
just in the third set when Steffi was already on the road to victory. The
Swede Catarina Lindqvist showed in the final what the young German still
lacks: A reliable topspin backhand, in order to put pressure on from both
sides. Mentally, Steffi Graf is already amazingly tough: she survives on
intelligent tactics, even in critical situations in the match.

Peter Graf thinks that it will be three years until his daughter reaches the
top five in world rankings. It's clear that Steffi herself wants to be
number one. Father and daughter evaluated the loss in the final
realistically: "Steffi was worn out by the long three set match the day
before. In the final, she lacked stamina." That is correct, yet for the
public "little Steffi" was nevertheless number one.

As mentioned, the scene nearly recalled past days, because Tracy Austin won
the "the most popular regular tour tournament in the world" four times in a
row. But in the meantime, she had to pay dearly for those feats with
physical and emotional injuries. Steffi Graf should have allowed herself to
take the break that her promised her after the final. But nothing became of
that. Two days later, Steffi lost in the first round at the $175,000
tournament in Brighton. The irony of fate: Her opponent was Catarina
Lindqvist of all people, though she had considerably more trouble this time,
4-6, 6-4, 7-5. One sees that Steffi is by all means adaptable.


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