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International Players Championships : As Usual, Evert Has Her Way in Florida

Times Staff Writer

Chris Evert, more Florida than orange juice, reached one more final with a victory Thursday night, but is that really news?

Evert has never missed the final of the Lipton International Players Championships, so it was no surprise that she got there again.

Nor did she have to do much to score a 6-3, 6-1 semifinal victory over Zina Garrison, who admitted she played dreadfully.

“It was just horrible,” said Garrison, who held serve only once in the match. “I didn’t even give her a workout.”

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That comes later for Evert, 34. She will play Gabriela Sabatini in the final Saturday. Sabatini eased past a fading Helena Sukova, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, in Thursday’s other semifinal.

Even though Evert has been in the final four other times, she has won only once, when she defeated Steffi Graf in 1986. Luckily for Evert, Graf isn’t playing here this year, although she was in Miami this week filming a scene in a West German movie called “Otto III.” It is billed as a comedy.

What happened to Garrison wasn’t very funny, but she managed to smile about it afterward.

“I’ll go home and sulk for a couple of hours, then get over it,” she said.

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“I don’t think Chris had to do anything. I gave her 90% of the points. She kept the ball over the net and I missed everything.”

Early in the second set, for example, Evert hit four volleys in succession right in front of Garrison. On the fourth, Garrison netted an easy backhand under no pressure.

It was so easy for Evert that even after she had five match points at 5-0 in the second set and wasted them all, she was hardly rattled.

Was she concerned that Garrison could come back? “No,” Evert replied. “All I had to do was get the ball on the court. I didn’t have to do anything special.”

She may be required to produce something more against the quiet Argentine teen-ager.

And now, a word from Sabatini.

Make that two words, Sukova said, who claimed recent reports that Sabatini is opening up to the other players on the women’s tour may have been stretching it a bit.

“How can you say she is more friendly when she never speaks?” Sukova said. “OK, before she used to say one word. Now, maybe she says two words. That’s about it.”

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Sabatini, asked if she was shy, said: “Yes.”

No matter. Sabatini’s racket was quite eloquent in the muggy, breezy conditions at Stadium Court, where she lost her first set of the tournament in a loosely played tiebreaker, then made her 6-foot-2 opponent pay for coming to the net.

Sukova had a volley for all occasions in the early going. She won the tiebreaker, 7-2, on a series of volleys, some hit while lunging, others hit flat-footed, but each and every one of them at an angle bouncing away from Sabatini’s racket as it scraped the court.

“In the first set, I was not feeling the ball,” Sabatini said. “In the tiebreaker, I didn’t do anything.”

That soon changed. While Sabatini stuck with her usual baseline tactics, Sukova wilted in the heat.

“I was not as quick getting to the ball,” she said.

A step slower, Sukova’s aggressive policy began to cost her as Sabatini began to hit the right spots with her passing shots. Then, Sukova abruptly stopped coming in at all, and she traded service breaks with Sabatini in the third set.

At 3-4, Sabatini held two break points, but Sukova saved them both with an ace and a backhand volley winner. She managed to hold her serve, but she was getting shaky.

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With Sukova serving at 4-5 to stay in the match, she played three terrible points to fall behind, 0-40.

Sukova missed a forehand volley wide on her approach, tried to pick off a moonball with her backhand and sent it into space instead, and drove a forehand into the net.

Sabatini gave back one match point with a wide backhand down the line, but Sukova did not get much of a reprieve. Sukova sailed a backhand approach long and with it went her chance for an upset.

But most of all, Sukova was angry with herself for the ease in which Sabatini won the final game.

“That shouldn’t have happened,” she said. “The whole match was very tough, and the last game was very easy. But that’s the way it goes.”

Tennis Notes

Ivan Lendl’s appearance in the semifinals marks the fourth consecutive year the top-seeded player has made it that far. Lendl, 17-0 on hardcourts this year, meets 13th-seeded Kevin Curren, 2-6 against Lendl in his career. Lendl is the only player who hasn’t lost a set. No one has won more than five games in one set against him. Curren, 31, is the oldest semifinalist and is 12-4 this year, 11-3 on hardcourts. Seventh-seeded Thomas Muster and 12th-seeded Yannick Noah meet in the other semifinal. Muster has won five Grand Prix titles, but all on clay. Noah is the only male player in this tournament’s five-year history to reach the quarterfinals or better each year.


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