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U.S. OPEN : Graf’s Hold on Top Spot Still Strong : Women’s final: She rolls over Sukova, 6-3, 6-3, to win third major championship since Seles was sidelined after being stabbed.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Steffi Graf Open closed a successful run Saturday when her chase of another Grand Slam title ended in only 66 minutes.

Graf bagged her third U.S. Open title by making short work of the tallest player on the women’s tour, constructing a 6-3, 6-3 rout of Helena Sukova and once again reminding everyone of her dominance of the game in the absence of Monica Seles.

For Graf, it was almost a routine triumph, but that has come to be expected since Seles was forced to the sidelines after she was stabbed in the back during a match in Hamburg, Germany, nearly 4 1/2 months ago.

Graf is 36-0 in tournament play since she lost to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the Hamburg final and has won the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open to give her 14 Grand Slam titles in all. She has won eight tournaments this year, including six in a row.

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What’s more, nobody on the court can touch her.

“I mean, I feel confident and when I am playing well as I have been and when I realize how well I am playing, then it is really difficult to do something against me because I know . . . it will happen,” Graf said.

With Seles sidelined, it has been happening a lot lately. Tennis courts around the world have belonged to Graf, who noted Seles’ absence from the Grand Slam events during her remarks to the crowd after the match.

“It’s a fact, really, I mean, it is nothing that I had (planned),” Graf said. “I mean, it’s just obvious.”

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It’s just as obvious that there isn’t much competition for Graf with Seles out, although Graf said she really doesn’t need Seles to come back to speed her improvement.

“I mean, I am not quitting on or letting go to try to improve, but sure, it helps if you have a player who pushes you more,” Graf said.

“I mean, obviously, you are trying harder and you work harder, but I am not necessarily a person who needs it too much because I like to push myself.”

Sukova didn’t do much pushing. Even at 6 feet 2, she clearly was not up to the task.

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Sukova dropped her serve five times, missed three break points for a chance to pull even in the first set and generally played like someone whose lone victory against Graf came when Graf was 14 years old.

Graf is 20-1 against Sukova, who said she did as well as she could.

“I am very disappointed because I thought I had a good shot at this one,” said Sukova, who also thought chair umpire Sandy French should have corrected a couple of line calls that might have made an impact.

“It makes a difference in a match like this because all the pressure was on her, not on me, but this is the way to take the pressure off her completely,” Sukova said.

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“I was telling the umpire, ‘OK, go ahead and give her 30-love in every game.’ ”

Then again, maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference. After all, it was Graf’s 21st Grand Slam final and Sukova’s fourth. Sukova hadn’t been in position to win a major tournament since 1989, when Graf defeated her in straight sets in the Australian Open final.

It’s clear that the U.S. Open was strictly no contest for Graf this year. She lost only 26 games in seven matches, one of them a walkover, and only one set.

As she accepted the silver U.S. Open trophy, posed for the photographers and walked around the court to show it to the fans, Graf looked serene. Winning three Grand Slam titles in one year may have that effect, but Graf said she really doesn’t feel she is that much better than anyone else on the court.

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“I never feel I am above everybody else or I am better than everybody else,” Graf said. “I don’t feel that way, even if I keep winning the way I’ve been doing lately.

“I don’t recognize myself like that.”

Others do it for her.


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