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September 7, 1996

Steffi Graf


Q. The way you came back today after being 3-5 down, you have got to be proud of yourself?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah, actually even if I really haven't been not starting too well, the way I always come back, it is pretty amazing and being down 5-4, 40-Love, that was even more difficult in the other matches and the way she was playing. But I just told myself to play every point and just try not to make any unforced errors; to let her win the point and it worked out the right way.

Q. You have been threatened by a lot of others. To us, it must be scarier. I don't think it is scary to you, but did you feel a real threat from this kid today?

STEFFI GRAF: She was really playing great out there. She didn't give me many easy points. I really had to play them. I mean, I worked her around the court a lot. Obviously, whenever I was trying to be aggressive, I was making a lot of mistakes, but on the other hand, she didn't really give me anything and she made some incredible down-the-lines. I was really amazed that she was able to keep that high intensity for almost the whole match just in the beginning of the second set when she had for the first time a few unforced errors, but until then, she didn't give me anything.

Q. Did you think it was over when at 6-5, suddenly momentum started to shift; she looked tired, frustrated?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah, but I knew -- I saw it. She was probably letting up a little bit, but she didn't let up for too much. But then again, after she was down 3-1, maybe I didn't play games at that stage until 3-2, but she was hanging in there and she tried really hard and didn't let up to much.

Q. Does a match like this - really your first tough match of the tournament - is it accelerating to be in a match like that to really have to give everything Steffi Graf has to give?

STEFFI GRAF: Absolutely. I have been in quite a lot closer situations during these six matches, but I have been - I have been playing well when I need to and haven't lost a set with it yet, but definitely today, I really had to step up quite a bit and I thought it was a really good match.

Q. When you are playing her, does it stir any memories of when you were 15 and how would you compare you at 15 and her at 15?

STEFFI GRAF: I hope they are getting older soon so I don't have to answer that question anymore. Not really. It doesn't come to mind a lot because especially with her, the way she has been playing, you can't really look at her as a 15 year old. She has been playing so well and with the way, you know, she plays the point, it doesn't seem like you have got somebody really that young across the net.

Q. Do you think she is better than you were at that age?

STEFFI GRAF: She has a totally different game and I mean, the way she played today, I am sure I wasn't as consistent as she was at that age. Maybe I was taking more risks, but she was really solid.

Q. This whole tournament, you have had a lot of first set errors and then you began to work into it towards the end of the first set. I think you had 27 unforced errors in the first set. Have you ever had a stretch like this where you just needed to work into the match rather than come out --


Q. Have you ever had a stretch of matches in a tournament where you needed to -- needed about a set or so to work in with rather than start out fast?

STEFFI GRAF: No, I haven't really had very often. I am usually somebody that starts well from the beginning on, so that is not my character.

Q. Monica said yesterday that she doesn't really think it matters when she plays you in a match. It is just having a good match or an exciting opponent. Do you believe that and do you feel the same way or do you like having a rivalry, a specific rivalry?

STEFFI GRAF: It is difficult to know what she is trying to say with that. I mean, at least I don't get it. But I think it is something, you know, if you play the top players or you play somebody that has been playing well in the tournament, I think it is pretty exciting to go play that person.

Q. But do you like having a rivalry that continues with one person? Do you consider her your rival?

STEFFI GRAF: No, I consider Arantxa a rival because I played her like 40 times or something, that is, for me, a rival. Even if I have played Martina quite a bit now, but I think it needs a couple of more years to feel like a rivalry.

Q. No, this was Monica yesterday.

STEFFI GRAF: Oh, Monica! I thought you said Martina.

Q. Okay, start all over.

STEFFI GRAF: Talking about Monica. We haven't played that much either. I mean, there haven't been a lot of matches, but the matches we have played, they were some great finals, so I think you can see a rivalry there, yeah.

Q. What are your thoughts looking ahead to tomorrow's final, Steffi?

STEFFI GRAF: It should be hopefully a good one. What can I say? I just -- it is difficult to talk about it the day before because you don't know what to expect, really.

Q. You had a taste last night of what to expect in this match in that first game. What were you thinking when you left here and kind of how did you change your mind over the night and into this morning's match?

STEFFI GRAF: Well, I didn't really have to change my mind about anything. I was disappointed I couldn't play yesterday. I mean, I wanted to play yesterday even in the night. It didn't care to me. But, you know, I expected a good match and that is why I just focused on it this morning and was just hoping it wasn't going to rain. That is all I was thinking about.

Q. Steffi, is she the most intelligent player that you are facing now and do you enjoy intellectual matches like we saw today?

STEFFI GRAF: There are some players around there that they use the court really well, but the thing is, you can be intelligent and don't have the shots for it, and -- but she has a lot of shots that she can use and that is why she can use her sense out there and many others, just don't have it. So, I think it is a combination of the possibilities to use them and having the mind for it. She really has both of them.

Q. When you and Monica met last year in the finals, there was all the talks about the resumption of the rivalry. Did you ever think at that point that you wouldn't see her again across the net for a whole year? That is kind of odd.

STEFFI GRAF: It is. Very. No, I didn't expect it at all. I thought we will probably meet up quite a few times. So it is pretty surprising that it took us another year to match up again.

Q. Do you wish you had seen her a couple of more times just to get the feel again of how she hits the ball?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah, it would have been nice. It would have been nice.

Q. A year ago when you played here, one of the most noticeable things about her game was how much stronger her service was - a big weapon for her. How does it change your game plan tomorrow from say today?

STEFFI GRAF: It is difficult to say. I haven't really played her since last year. I have seen a little bit of her matches, not very much. You know, obviously if she wouldn't serve as hard, it will probably be an advantage to me, so I just have to see how it is going to go.

Q. Do you think you can get off to a start like you have been in these matches with every serve being a little bit off that you can afford to have a slow start?

STEFFI GRAF: I don't think so. Because my opponents, I don't think they served that much better and I have still been struggling with it. So I don't think it will probably be that much of a factor if I would be starting slow or fast. I think it is really me that is going to put my mind on the court.

Q. Did you watch Sampras's match and do you think it was said that if any other one person in tennis could have done that it might have been you, I mean, do you see yourself --


Q. -- With that kind of mental strength to do that?

STEFFI GRAF: Well, how he pulled through was just basically incredible. I saw it from the fourth set, the end of the fourth set on and he was struggling, it seemed, in the fourth set, so to pull a match through like that, that is, I mean, the tennis wasn't what it was all about out there. So I mean, if you think that I am the other person who can do it, it is an honor to say that.

Q. Can you see yourself in that situation?

STEFFI GRAF: I don't want to (audience laughter).

Q. Did you watch the whole thing?

STEFFI GRAF: I watched it 'til the end, yes, I did.

Q. Have you ever felt like that on the court?

STEFFI GRAF: No, I mean, he felt sick. I mean, I have felt pain, but I haven't felt sick, so -- but just different, I guess.

Q. When you save all the set points in the first set, does that say something in particular about experience and mental toughness and maybe her inexperience?

STEFFI GRAF: Actually, I don't think those points were about inexperience on her part because she did exactly what she did at the point. It was just that I was trying to do more with it and at that point I didn't. Just basically at that time cut down on the unforced errors, so it is kind of maybe my experience, but I don't think really her inexperience.

Q. This is your 8th final and 13 trips to the U.S. Open. What special feeling do you have when you go out on the court for the final at this tournament and how do you think you will feel tomorrow when you walk on to the court?

STEFFI GRAF: I am sure when I get out there I will be -- it will be just as exciting as it has been. I really hadn't had too much time yet to think too much about the finals, but, you know, that is something that I started the tournament with hoping it would happen, and I am just going to go out, enjoy it and hopefully play well.

Q. Steffi, you see a lot of young players come out. You see a lot of players who are just in awe to be on the court with you and you know that it is going to be a relatively easy day. Did you -- or well -- is there a sense with somebody like Martina that this kid is not afraid of me and that I have -- what goes through your head at this point it is like?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah, I think because we have played quite a few times, maybe that was a little bit in the beginning the case, but as while she has been playing the last few months, I think that she realized that she can beat the top players. She did it here quite a few times. She has been beaten me before. Now she has gotten the sense that she can beat everybody. I think that is why she is going out there and thinking she can win and is not afraid of it anymore.

Q. This is the last year in the stadium. What is your most fondest memory of playing here at Louis Armstrong?

STEFFI GRAF: Center Court or which court?

Q. Center Court.

STEFFI GRAF: I have to say it was Martina's match I played. I lost 7-6 in the third. I think that match probably -- I don't know for what reason, but it stands out the most to me. It is strange even though you have won the Grand Slam here the final tournament, but this match probably stands for me out.

End of FastScripts...

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