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FRENCH OPEN / WOMEN : New-Look Fernandez Faces Graf

June 05, 1993|THOMAS BONK

PARIS — Mary Joe Fernandez, about to play in her first French Open final, runs into Steffi Graf, who has sort of a regular role starring in the women's final of the world's premier clay-court tournament.

Graf is making her sixth appearance in the final today and is a two-time winner, which means that she will be the heavy favorite to carry another silver trophy back home.

Graf's numbers in Grand Slam tournaments are spectacular: 19 finals, 11 titles. What's more, she is 10-0 against Fernandez and has lost only one set to her.

Whereas Graf has won 72 tournaments, Fernandez has won three and went two years without a title until she won the Matrix Essentials-Evert Cup in March at Indian Wells.

But Fernandez may feel better, knowing that it was the same in 1989 for Arantxa Sanchez Vicario before she upset Graf.

Fernandez also has momentum as a result of her newly aggressive style of play, as instructed by Harold Solomon, her coach.

"All of a sudden, she believed in herself," said Solomon, a French Open finalist in 1976. "She thought, 'If I'm going to go down, I'm going down in a blaze of glory and just start whaling the ball.' "

For Fernandez to win, Solomon said Fernandez must hit her forehand hard, take the balls on the rise and be aggressive because she is not as good an athlete as Graf.

"She can't be a retriever," Solomon said.

With Graf poised to collect another title, Fernandez must be a stopper instead.

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