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Graf Makes It Look So Easy : Tennis: Amanda Coetzer is no factor from baseline in 6-0, 6-4 final.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Steffi Graf wrapped up career title No. 82 by winning the Evert Cup on Sunday, packed up the Golden Retriever puppy she bought last week at a local shopping mall and headed to Delray Beach, Fla., where she is expected to dominate yet another tournament field.

Is it becoming boring?

“To you?” Graf asked a reporter. “I’m not bored.”

Graf, who has not dropped a set in 17 matches this year, earned another $80,000 by defeating Amanda Coetzer, 6-0, 6-4, in 57 minutes in the final at Hyatt Grand Champions.

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“I didn’t really have too much difficulty this week,” said Graf, who spent more than an hour on the court in only one of five matches, needing 79 minutes to eliminate Ginger Helgeson in the quarterfinals.

Graf spent most of her time pampering her puppy, which she named Joshua in a nod to the trees that dot the Mojave Desert landscape.

“Sure, sometimes you want to be in a tighter situation or have to work a little bit harder, but if that’s not the case, you’ve just got to concentrate and continue your match,” Graf said.

She does that better than anybody else in women’s tennis.

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In three finals this year, the WTA Tour’s top-ranked player has yet to spend more than an hour on the court, routing second-ranked Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 57 minutes at the Australian Open and defeating fourth-ranked Martina Navratilova in 60 minutes at Tokyo.

“The last three tournaments, I haven’t really been close to feeling I’m not playing well,” Graf said. “I’ve been very confident, I’ve been playing so well.

“It’s been three tournaments without having problems with my matches. I think that’s a pretty good accomplishment.”

The sixth-seeded Coetzer upset second-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez, the defending champion, in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals to advance to the final for the second year in a row, but neither of those players prepared her for Graf.

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The South African all but acknowledged as much afterward.

Part of her strategy against Graf, Coetzer said, was to “just be patient and not be intimidated by the way she plays.

“I don’t think I was really thinking of beating her. I was more focused on every point and just trying to stay with her, at least for a while.”

As a baseliner, Coetzer realized she was in trouble.

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“To beat her from the baseline, you really have to hope for a bit of an off-day (by Graf),” she said. “You’re not going to beat her often from the baseline. I really think you have to be able to come to the net and attack the backhand, which is not really one of my strong points.”

Unable to change her style, Coetzer took her lumps.

“Everybody tries to do what they’re used to and what they’re best at,” Graf said. “It’s difficult for some players to change. For example, Amanda, she’s not someone who’s going to hit the balls away (for winners) or can come in (to the net). She’s not that type of player. Unless you’re somebody who’s used to doing the right thing against me, it’s difficult.”

Graf closed out the first set by winning the last 14 points and led in the second, 5-2, before faltering slightly. Coetzer’s service break in the ninth game of the second set was only the second of the week against Graf.

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“I didn’t finish (the match) very well,” said Graf, ever the perfectionist. “But when it mattered, I played well again.”

The German has won 65 of her last 67 matches and 11 of her last 12 tournaments, including all four Grand Slam events.

After winning $2,821,337 last year, she already has won $544,063 this year. Only Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong Cawley have won more tournaments, but Graf is only 24.

“I’m happy about the way my life is going for quite some time,” Graf said. “The last thing I was missing was being injury-free and I’ve got that this year. So, I’m lucky and happy.”

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And not at all bored.


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