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U.S. Open Women’s Matches : Graf Doesn’t Waste Time Against Minter

Special to The Times

The first match of 19-year-old Steffi Graf’s final step toward a Grand Slam had about as much suspense as the outcome of Mike Tyson’s last fight.

Correction. Give the nod to Tyson’s last unofficial meeting--that being the one at 4:30 a.m. last week in front of an all-night clothing store in Harlem.

That, supposedly, was a surprise meeting and a one-sided beating.

Graf, however, was expected to meet--and beat--99th-ranked Elizabeth Minter of Australia, which she did, 6-1, 6-1, in the first round of the U.S. Open Wednesday at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow.

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It was one-sided, too. The outcome left the winner saying it wasn’t even a good match. As for the loser, Minter appeared disoriented playing Graf and sometimes forgot the score, according to Graf.

“It was nothing special,” Graf said of the 41-minute victory. “It was hard for me to play well because she didn’t play well. It was hard for me to show some good points.

Speaking of points, it was amazing Minter could even string together a few good ones to win two games. Afterward, Minter said she hadn’t expected to win.

“I was just going to go out and have a good time,” Minter said. “I was hitting the ball reasonably well before the match, so I just said I’d have a good time. It’s on video. Something to show the grandkids.”

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It may be on video, but the Graf-Minter contest definitely won’t be filed in the classics department.

Wednesday, Graf had this round won before she stepped onto the court.

“You could see the way she was intimidated,” Graf said. “She sometimes didn’t know she was supposed to serve. She didn’t know the score and she wasn’t concentrating in between.”

Which is what has happened to most of Graf’s opponents in her three other Grand Slam victories--the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon--this year. At least, Minter has distinguished herself from the other tennis-playing Minter, her sister Anne, by having the potential to become the answer to a trivia question.

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Question: Who did Steffi Graf beat in the first round of the U.S. Open on her way to winning the Grand Slam?

Answer: Elizabeth Minter.

Add Graf: The West German, practical as ever, is taking all this Grand Slam stuff in stride. She knows that only Don Budge, Rod Laver, Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court have won the Slam, taking all four titles in the same calendar year. But Graf claims the Grand Slam isn’t on her mind, just the business of hitting forehands and backhands.

“It is the U.S. Open I am trying to win,” she said. “I have to think about every match. If it would be, it would be.”

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If Graf isn’t talking about the Slam, the stop Steffi troika--Chris Evert, Navratilova and Pam Shriver--as well as other players are finding extra motivation for the 1988 U.S. Open.

“The girls are talking about it,” said Evert, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Spain’s Conchita Martinez.

“It is a real exciting year for all the players. The girls are aware of it. They are alert and getting their games sharp. Nothing personal. But I think the players will play really well this tournament because of Steffi going for the Slam.”

The other seeded women had little difficulty in advancing to the second round as No. 6 Manuela Maleeva, No. 7 Helena Sukova, No. 9 Lori McNeil, No. 14 Katerina Maleeva and No. 15 Sylvia Hanika all won in straight sets.

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Once again the Women’s International Tennis Assn. has managed to surpass last year’s effort in the calendar department. Each year, the group issues a calendar featuring 12 of the world’s top female players wearing enough makeup to keep the cosmetic sponsor’s stockholders happy.

In 1989, tennis fans will see a new degree of questionable taste. Gabriela Sabatini, clad in about as much zippered leather as Michael Jackson, is posed getting out of a car.

Or perhaps she’s getting ready to meet Jana Novtona’s motorcycle gang. Novotna, is featured standing next to a cycle with a helmet in her hand, looking like a poorly dressed new-waver.


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