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Australian Open Tennis Championships : Graf Is Overpowering, but Sabatini, Garrison Struggle in 3-Set Wins : Australia’s Cahill Upsets Fifth-Seeded Hlasek in First Round; No. 10 Krickstein Advances

Times Staff Writer

Top-seeded Steffi Graf, as usual, had no problem in her match Wednesday afternoon at the Australian Open, but 2 of her closest challengers did.

Both Gabriela Sabatini and Zina Garrison dropped sets against unheralded opponents before managing to win in three sets.

Sabatini, seeded third, advanced to the third round with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over 16-year-old Conchita Martinez of Spain in a center court match Wednesday night.

Earlier, the sixth-seeded Garrison defeated Sandra Wasserman of Belgium, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, after being down, 4-2, in the third.

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But fifth-seeded Jakob Hlasek was not as fortunate. In the night’s final match on center court, Hlasek was ousted by Australian Darren Cahill, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.

Hlasek, who was the last seeded player to play his first-round match, became the third to lose, following Frenchmen Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah.

“It’s a long year, so I mean, nothing happened,” Hlasek said. “I just lost the match.”

Sabatani might have, too. In the first game of the third set, her serve was broken by Martinez, whose best tournament was last year’s French Open when she advanced to the fourth round as a qualifier. But Sabatini said she always felt in control.

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“I never thought I was going to lose the match,” Sabatini said. “I didn’t play very well that game, and when I concentrated later on, I didn’t have any problem.”

Graf’s graph shot off the chart once again Wednesday afternoon, and not one person was surprised. Impressed, maybe, but not surprised.

Graf’s upward spiral through the women’s singles draw continued unimpeded on center court, mindless of a 23-year-old named Rene Simpson who was placed in Graf’s path.

There seems to be no one capable of blocking Graf’s progress until the semifinals, where she has a possible match against Sabatini, who has already announced that she covets Graf’s No. 1 ranking.

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Simpson, ranked No. 132 in the world, was no problem for Graf, who dispensed a methodical 6-0, 6-0 defeat in only 51 minutes, or exactly 60 seconds longer than it took her to beat Kerry-Anne Guse in the first round.

“It was a little fast,” Graf admitted.

Next up for Graf in the third round is Marianne Werdel, ranked No. 113, a 21-year-old who lives in Bakersfield.

Graf said she plays no differently in her early matches than she does in the later ones when the competition is presumably tougher.

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“I’m still going for my first serve, still trying to win the same kind of points I do in the difficult matches,” she said.

With such speedy matches, Graf has had some spare time, so she has seen two movies.

“I saw the worst movie I have ever seen,” Graf said. “It was ‘Moonwalker.’ I am a big fan of (Michael) Jackson, but it was terrible.”

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” wasn’t bad, said Graf, who thinks she has enough to do with tennis.

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“I’ll leave that (the film criticism) to someone else,” she said.

Garrison said she coached herself a little bit at 2-4 in the third when she was staring at a second-round defeat for the second straight year.

“At that point, I just said to myself: ‘Hang in there.’ ”

So she did, although Garrison admitted she was rusty from not playing any singles matches since the Virginia Slims Championships in November.

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“It was something of a gamble not playing last week (at Sydney),” she said. “I could have played and been a little more familiar with this surface.”

The surface was certainly good to Aaron Krickstein, seeded 10th, who advanced to a second-round match against Jeff Tarango by defeating West German Udo Riglewski, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Krickstein served only one ace, but he didn’t need a big serve, only to hit the ball over the net. Riglewski made 49 unforced errors.


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