illness have left Steffi Graf looking old beyond her 29 years and
hardly a picture of health ahead of the Australian Open title in
Melbourne next week.
But Graf, a winner of 21 Grand Slam titles, believes she has the
game to worry the top seeds and the legs to carry her through seven
rounds in a fortnight.
``I couldn't ask for any more than where I am right now,'' Graf
said Friday, after losing 6-2, 7-5 to world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport
at the Adidas International.
Graf scored tough three-set wins against Serena and Venus
Williams on consecutive days before falling to Davenport in
Davenport had too much class and accuracy Friday but the loss
was probably better for Graf than another three-setter and a final
``It's good that I'm not going to do anything tomorrow, I'll
relax and regain some energy and I should be fine for the
tournament,'' said Graf.
While Graf rests, Davenport and No.2 Martina Hingis will beat
each other up for the Sydney title.
``It's gone exceptionally well this week. Looking back a week
ago I didn't plan on playing and I've been in hard situations which
have turned out well,'' Graf said.
A week earlier she was forced out of the final of a Hong Kong
exhibition tournament because of a stomach illness. She would not
elaborate on the exact problem but it clearly affected her more
than she acknowledged in Sydney.
``I've felt good about the way I was playing and the way I was
getting through them,'' Graf said. ``And it's a lot easier in
Melbourne, rather than playing day after day here.''
Graf's victories over the Williams' sisters took all her fight
as they tried to hammer her out of the tournament.
She is coming back after major knee and wrist surgery in the
past two years and if she enjoys success in Melbourne it would stem
from her efforts late last year.
``I've pretty much beaten everybody in the last few tournaments
and that gives me a good outlook for what's coming,'' Graf said.
She played Davenport five times last year for a 2-3 record,
winning two of the last three. Graf won her only meeting against
Hingis in 1998 and holds a 7-1 career advantage.
``She played very well to get to the semis and was probably a
little worn out today,'' Davenport said Friday. ``She can be
unbelievable at times and when you've won 21 Grand Slams, you've
got to count her as a favorite no matter what.
``I was just relieved to see her on the other side of the
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Byron P. McCrae