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TENNIS WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT AT LOS ANGELES : Graham Unable to Cut Her Losses Immediately

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The high cost of college? Since Debbie Graham is an economics major at Stanford, she had a clear idea of how much it was costing her to stay in school--exactly $81,982.

There were thousands and thousands of reasons for Graham to turn professional, and every one had dollar signs in front of them, so the 20-year-old tennis player from Fountain Valley decided to join the Kraft tour.

Graham, who could have kept the more than $80,000 in prize money she had won had she not been an amateur, made the decision to play for pay this week at the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles, where she met Gabriela Sabatini in the third round Thursday.

Sabatini, who has about a $3-million lead on Graham in the deposit-slip race, ended Graham’s first pro tournament with a 6-3, 6-1 victory at Manhattan Country Club.

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“I had a lot of nerves, my first tournament as a pro,” Graham said. “There were a lot of things to think about.”

With nine double faults, Graham’s account was overdrawn at the service line, but Sabatini said she still had to give Graham credit, even if she didn’t know much about her.

“She doesn’t play much tennis,” Sabatini said. “She plays for the university? She has a very big serve. I was very surprised.”

On the whole, surprises were few on the fourth day of the $350,000 event. Top-seeded Monica Seles swept past Amanda Coetzer, 6-4, 6-1, in 57 minutes but wasn’t really happy with the way she played.

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Maybe that was the reason Seles showed up for her postmatch interview in an all-black ensemble.

“It’s kind of neat to wear black . . . but it’s kind of hot,” Seles said.

Seles said she was unhappy because she didn’t hit the ball hard with any degree of consistency.

“I have those days sometimes,” she said.

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Jo Durie remained fairly warm, following up her upset of Zina Garrison with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gretchen Magers, but seventh-seeded Amy Frazier cooled considerably.

Frazier had eight double faults in a 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 loss to Mercedes Paz.

Helena Sukova served 12 aces in a 6-7 (7-4), 6-2, 6-2 victory over Mary Pierce. Sukova’s quarterfinal opponent is Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who got ready to face her big serve by disposing of Pascale Paradis-Magnon, 6-1, 6-3.

“This was a good match for preparation for Sukova because she is also always going to hit good serves and come to the net all the time,” Sanchez Vicario said.

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Graham is hoping her serve will help her now that she is a pro, although she had no idea that a radar gun was measuring the speed of her serves during her match with Sabatini.

“Actually, I didn’t notice they were clocking it until the second set when I was sort of losing it,” Graham said. “My mind was sort of wandering then. I’d say, ‘Oh, a 90-m.p.h. serve.’ ”

In the fall, Graham will return to Stanford to finish the last quarter necessary for her degree, which will cost $7,000 in tuition and books. Last week in a tournament at La Costa, Graham had to turn back $5,000 in prize money.

Sabatini, only 21 but a pro since she was 15, remembers the first tournament she played after giving up her amateur status. In 1985 in Brazil, Sabatini defeated top-seeded Raffaella Reggi.

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“I had no pressure, I was just playing my tennis,” Sabatini said.

Graham said she was probably feeling much the same way in the matches before her debut as a pro.

“You don’t worry if you win or lose, you don’t have any bills to pay,” she said.

Tennis Notes

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A year ago, Debbie Graham lost to Martina Navratilova, 6-2, 6-1, in this tournament, but Graham said she was not unhappy to meet Gabriela Sabatini. “I think this was a good draw,” she said. “I’d much rather play Sabatini than Martina. Sabatini is more my age.” Sabatini is three months older than Graham. Navratilova is 14 years older. “I have seen (Navratilova) play since I was 8,” Graham said. . . . Yayuk Basuki, who had 12 aces in her first two matches, managed only one in a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Kimiko Date. Date will meet Jo Durie in the quarterfinals.


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