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Graf, Down 4-0, Turns It Up to Win : Women's tennis: She rallies for three-set victory over Sanchez Vicario.


CARLSBAD — For most tennis players, losing the first four games of a match means a head start toward oblivion.

For the woman ranked No. 1 in the world, Steffi Graf of Germany, it simply means the time has come to turn up her play a notch or two. She did just that Sunday when she won the $375,000 Mazda tennis tournament with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain before 5,800 at La Costa.

Sanchez Vicario, seeded second and ranked third in the world, began the match as though she would run away with it. She broke Graf's serve in the first and third games and built a 4-0 lead.

Graf retaliated by winning seven consecutive games. Then, after Sanchez Vicario had taken the second set, Graf made short work of the third.

Graf, 24, earned $75,000 and a Mazda sports car for her sixth tournament victory of the year and 75th of her 11-year career. Sanchez Vicario, 21, collected $30,000.

Sanchez Vicario shook her head as she talked about her frustration.

"I think I didn't miss one ball in the first four games," she said. "But Steffi is so great under pressure. All of a sudden, she hit all her shots. She's so good when she has to be. That's why she's No. 1."

Graf has beaten Sanchez Vicario 20 times in 25 meetings, including four of six this year, and has won 24 matches in a row since losing to Sanchez Vicario in Hamburg on May 2.

"I'm getting close," Sanchez Vicario said. "I'm not disappointed at all. I'm proud of myself."

During the awards ceremony, Graf told the crowd, "The first few games, I was not quite on the court yet. When it was 4-0, I thought maybe I'd be able to catch the 2:40 plane."

Later, she said: "I was letting time pass without knowing what to do. Whatever I did was wrong. When it was 4-0, I got more aggressive."

Although the third set turned out to be one-sided, it might have been different if a controversial call had gone Sanchez Vicario's way in the fourth game.

With Graf leading, 2-1, and the score at deuce on Sanchez Vicario's serve, a shot by Graf that appeared out was called good. Sanchez Vicario questioned the decision, and the crowd chanted, "Out, out, out."

After that, it was all Graf. She won the next point to make it 3-1 and breezed from there.

"The shot was definitely out," Sanchez Vicario said. "The call wasn't right. But that wasn't the reason I lost. I had my chances in the first set."

Said Graf: "I thought it was good. but when everybody started booing, I thought to myself, 'Please don't call it out.' That service break was important. But there were a lot of close calls, and a lot of bad ones."

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