Graham Wins Singles as Stanford Sweeps : Tennis: Sophomore from Fountain Valley won’t be overlooked anymore after rolling to NCAA championship without losing a set.
Stanford’s Debbie Graham, a sophomore from Fountain Valley, won the singles final in straight sets Thursday and the Cardinal became the first team to sweep all three titles at the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships.
The sixth-seeded Graham beat seventh-seeded Nicole Arendt of Florida, 6-3, 6-3. In the doubles final, Meredith McGrath and Teri Whitlinger of Stanford rallied to defeat teammates Graham and Sandra Birch, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Last weekend, the Cardinal won its seventh NCAA team title. Stanford is the first team in the nine-year history of the event to capture the team, singles and doubles championships in the same year.
Graham, a graduate of Los Amigos High School, pulled away from a 3-3 tie in the first set by winning 12 of the final 13 points from Arendt.
“The first set was so important for me to win,” Graham said. “I knew if I played a very aggressive game, kept the pressure on her and worked her nerves a bit, I could get up on the first set.”
Big ground strokes and timely passing shots helped Graham take a 4-0 lead in the second set and she broke serve twice to clinch the victory.
“She just outsmarted me,” Arendt said.
Until this week, Graham didn’t even rate as second fiddle at Stanford. Most of the attention went to McGrath, ranked atop the rankings most of the season, and reigning national singles champion Sandra Birch. But McGrath lost in the tournament’s second round and Graham upset Birch in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Graham, who did not lose a set during the tournament, said being overlooked was a motivating factor.
“Whenever anyone ever thinks about Stanford tennis, it’s always Sandra and Meredith and I’m sitting at number three.” Graham said. “I wanted to prove to everyone that Stanford is not just its one and two players.”
The top-seeded doubles team of McGrath and Whitlinger, who entered the tournament with a 26-0 record, lost the first set and trailed, 4-1 and 5-4, in the second set before they rallied.
“When we lost the first set, we were both thinking how terrible it would be to come this far and have just one loss, in the national championship,” McGrath said. “When we were down, we concentrated not so much on playing great shots, but on playing more consistently, and that got us back on track.”