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U.S. OLYMPIC FESTIVAL : Graham Is as Good as Gold in Tennis Final

July 22, 1987|ROBYN NORWOOD | Times Staff Writer

DURHAM, N.C. — On her own side of the net in the women's singles final of the U.S. Olympic Festival tennis competition Tuesday, Debbie Graham had her 5-foot 11-inch height, a powerful, angling serve and newly returned confidence.

On the other side, she had an opponent who had that morning played a three-set doubles final in the Carolina heat, then spent the rest of the day in drug testing, finally finishing the process just more than 30 minutes before her second match.

It took only about twice that time for Graham, the La Quinta High School player who was the top seed here, to defeat second-seeded Stacey Martin of Largo, Md., 6-1, 6-1, and win the gold medal on the Duke University tennis courts.

Martin, 16, won the doubles gold, teaming with Debbie Moringeillo of North Brunswick, N.J.

Graham, of Fountain Valley, and Patti Urban, of Aurora, won the bronze in straight sets, losing only two games.

Neither Graham nor Martin--who was held up by the testing process and not a problem with its results--had lost a set en route to the final here. But the match was far from the battle Graham had expected and Martin had hoped for.

So well did Graham play Tuesday afternoon, Martin would have had trouble even had she been fresh.

Graham, 16, who won both the 1986 USTA Junior nationals singles and doubles titles, used her powerful serve to dominate Martin early, allowing her only one break point in the first set.

Graham broke in the fourth and sixth games of the first set and in the first and fifth of the second set.

"Even if I had played well myself, it would have been tough to beat her," Martin said. "(Graham) played extremely well today. She's so strong on her serve."

In contrast to her usual style, Graham stayed largely away from the net, and did not try many of the drop shots she normally uses.

"My plan was to keep her back and overpower her," Graham said of the much smaller Martin, who is 5-3. "I felt like I was in control."

Earlier this year, Graham, who said she has been bothered by ankle injuries, had to default in both the Fiesta Bowl 18-and-unders and the Omega Easter Bowl. She also lost earlier than expected in Seventeen Magazine's Tournament of Champions.

"Now I've got my confidence back," Graham said. "Before, I was so afraid I would hurt my ankle more."

In August, Graham will play in the 18-and-under nationals for the first time, and expects to be seeded around eighth.

This event, she said, was more fun-filled than pressure-filled.

"I liked this event because it's like the Olympics," said Graham, who is disappointed that professional players can play in the Olympic games.

"That kind of bugs me. I don't think it's really fair," she said. "If it were only amateurs, it might be a reason to stay amateur."

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