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Graf Not Expecting Challenge From East : Tennis: The world's top female player says changing political situation will make little difference in her sport.

December 13, 1989|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Will the Berlin Wall become a tourist trap?

Will there be reunification for Germany?

Will anybody beat Steffi Graf?

The wall came tumbling down, watched with interest by the most famous resident of Bruhl, West Germany. Graf, a 20-year-old who won $1.96 million in 1989, finished a year of virtual invincibility with a match record of 83-2.

And as welcome as a new government in East Germany may be, Graf does not foresee any great change in the professional tennis game because of the dramatic political upheaval going on around her.

If there are holes in the Berlin Wall, not too many tennis players are coming through them, Graf said. Apparently, developing tennis players was not a major concern of the ousted East German regime.

Graf said there are no East German women players who will make an impact on the pro tour, even if they are given greater opportunity to travel.

"There are none to speak of," Graf said.

As for the male players, Graf mentioned one, Thomas Emmerich, who telephoned her recently and told her he was ecstatic with the possibility of playing abroad, which he had never before enjoyed.

"He was never allowed to go out," Graf said. "So for him, it has meant a big change."

The No. 1 player in the world for the last 2 1/2 years, Graf played Zina Garrison Tuesday night at the Forum as part of the Michelin Challenge exhibition series.

Graf came from behind in both sets to defeat Garrison, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5). Garrison led, 3-1, in the first and 5-2 in the second.

In the first match, former Stanford All-American Jeff Tarango of Manhattan Beach defeated national 18-and-under champion Chuck Adams of Pacific Palisades, 6-4, 6-3.

Graf said that liberalization of East Germany might help other players, even if it would have no effect on her.

"If you are good at something, you should see how you compare," she said. "It's a great thing. I didn't expect to see it for a long, long time. No one did. All the people, how they stood up for it."

Graf, who also maintains a residence in Delray Beach, Fla., lost only to Gabriela Sabatini in the Amelia Island final and to Arantxa Sanchez in the French Open final. She won 14 tournaments, three of them Grand Slam events, her sixth, seventh and eighth Grand Slam victories in three years. Graf is 158-5 in the last two years.

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