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Tennis Roundup : Graf and Sabatini to Meet in Final

November 22, 1987|From Times Wire Services

A pair of precocious teen-agers will preview the future of women's tennis in today's final of the Virginia Slims Championships at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Steffi Graf, 18, and her doubles partner, Gabriela Sabatini, 17, advanced to the best-of-five title match with victories Saturday.

Graf, seeded No. 1, beat West German countrywoman Sylvia Hanika, 6-1, 6-4, while sixth-seeded Sabatini, of Argentina, downed No. 8 Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Graf has a 10-0 record against Sabatini, but seven of the matches have gone three sets and only one was a blowout.

Graf had been looking forward to playing Martina Navratilova in the final of the $1-million tournament, but the four-time defending champion was upset by Sabatini Friday night.

"I think I would have liked to play Martina, but I don't mind playing Gaby," Graf said. "It still means a lot to win such a big tournament."

Graf needed only 19 minutes to win the first set against unseeded Hanika but struggled in the final set, losing her serve twice.

Hanika, who upset Chris Evert in the first round, fell behind, 4-1, in the second set before cutting Graf's lead to 5-4. But Graf held serve easily in the 10th game to win the match.

Graf, who has won 10 tournaments and 74 of 76 matches this year, has already clinched the No. 1 ranking for 1987.

The Sabatini-Maleeva match was a two-hour baseline duel.

There were five straight service breaks in the third set, with the last one giving Sabatini a 5-3 lead. She then held serve to win the match.

Sabatini won despite seven double faults, including one at match point in the final game.

Saturday's paid attendance of 17,312 was the largest ever for a single session of a women's tennis event. It broke the record of 17,128 set at last year's Slims semifinals.

In the doubles final, the top-seeded team of Navratilova and Pam Shriver routed second-seeded Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany and Helena Sukova of Czechoslovakia, 6-1, 6-1.

Third-seeded Brad Gilbert defeated Andres Gomez of Ecuador, 6-4, 6-1, to join top-seeded Pat Cash of Australia in the final of the $375,000 South African Open at Johannesburg, South Africa.

Cash, the reigning Wimbledon champion, beat fifth-seeded Amos Mansdorf of Israel, 6-3, 7-6.

The winner in today's final will earn $46,400.

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