PALM DESERT — Debbie Graham is disappointed.
Not about her on-court performance, however. The Los Amigos High School graduate and NCAA singles champion moved into today's final of the National Collegiate Tennis Classic with a 6-4, 6-1 quarterfinal victory over California's Lisa Albano and a 6-2, 7-5 semifinal victory Saturday over fourth-seeded Julie Exum of Duke. The second-seeded Graham will face defending champion Trisha Laux of USC in the final at 2 p.m.
The source of Graham's disappointment is legislation passed at last week's NCAA convention reducing playing seasons in all Division I and Division II sports other than football and basketball, limiting how much time all athletes can devote to their sports, and a 10% cutback in scholarships for all sports.
"I can't believe they did it," Graham said. "It's going to discourage a lot of people from coming to college. We need to attract more really good players to college tennis. It's just starting to get built up."
Although Graham says the time constraints, most of which take effect in August, won't affect her. However, she believes college tennis' relatively limited schedule restricts her chances to improve.
"There's not really that many tournaments now and there's not enough practice hours or coaching time to get ready for the tournaments," Graham said. "It's really tempting to turn pro."
But the Stanford junior plans to stay in school.
"I've played the pro tour during the summer and a lot of the friends I've talked to don't have any time to take off and work on their games," Graham said. "A lot of the girls who rushed into the pro tour really wish they had time to take off to work on their games, but they don't because they're out there trying to pay bills and make money. I'm taking these four years as a developing period, and my game's improved a lot so far from when I was a freshman."
Graham also realizes that her collegiate success are not a guarantee of success on the pro circuit.
"I want to get my degree because I like to really play it safe when it comes to everything in life," said Graham, who hopes to attend law or business school after her professional playing career. "I've seen too many good players hurt themselves and get burned out. I don't want to go back to school when I'm 30 to get a degree and hang out with these 20-year-olds."
Trisha Laux, seeded third, upset top-seeded and 1989 NCAA singles champion Sandra Birch, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, in Saturday's other semifinal at Shadow Mountain Resort. . . . Graham and Birch, who have won this tournament's doubles title the past two years, will meet Arizona State's Jennifer Rojohn and Karen Bergan in a doubles semifinal at 10 a.m. today. Graham and Birch defeated Lisa Albano and Cara Abe of California, 6-1, 6-2, in a quarterfinal match Saturday. . . . In a men's doubles quarterfinal Saturday, Carl Chang, older brother of 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang, and California teammate Matt Lucena lost to Stanford's Jared Palmer and Glenn Solomon, 6-4, 6-2. Chang also lost to Palmer in a second-round singles match Friday.