LIKE CLOCKWORK : Graf Wins in 44 Minutes; Sabatini Has Tough Time but Prevails

Times Staff Writer

Steffi Graf wasted no time Wednesday in reaching the U.S. Open semifinals.

After 44 minutes, Graf was off the court and on to a semifinal matchup with third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini.

Graf, who made short work of Helena Sukova, 6-1, 6-1, has taken no longer than 76 minutes to win any of her five matches. Three have taken 45 minutes or less.

And the top-seeded Graf admitted that she has taken a peek at the scoreboard clock a time or two.

"It's not easy to overlook (the clock) because it's on the court," Graf said. "But I'm not trying to play in an hour or anything within a specific time. . . . I don't care."

Someone jokingly suggested to Graf that she seemed to be a machine.

"Yes, I am a machine," Graf said.

Right, a clock.

As for Sabatini, the last time she played Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, two weeks ago in Toronto, Sabatini was one set up and led, 5-1, in the second, but lost.

So Sabatini was just a little bit worried when Sanchez Vicario won the first set Wednesday.

"Of course it was on my mind, that moment, and I said to myself that I have to concentrate and try to win it here because the same thing could have happened," Sabatini said.

But Sanchez Vicario, the French Open champion, is not yet as accomplished a hard-court player as Sabatini, who used her looping topspin to drive Sanchez Vicario deep to the baseline.

From there, Sabatini used the angles to her advantage. She broke Sanchez Vicario's serve eight times and eventually closed out the match in 2 hours 17 minutes, winning, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Said Sanchez Vicario: "I play a great tournament and next time I play Sabatini, I try again," she said. "Maybe next year, I am going maybe semifinals."

In the other women's semifinal to be played Friday, second-seeded Martina Navratilova will meet fifth-seeded Zina Garrison.

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