Monday, February 6, 2017

Common Denominator: Natasha Zvereva

"Double bageled by Graf in the 1988 French Open Finals. First player to win a set off her four years later."

That would be Natasha Zvereva. This poor lady was just a child in 1988 (Of 17 years old), as the great German Steffi Graf had all four Grand Slams and the Olympic Gold under her belt by the end of 1988. She wasn't in a giving mood that year.

Zvereva had an interesting French Open in 1988. She actually pulled off a pair of upsets. She beat Martina Navratilova in the round of 16, then took out Helena Sukova in the quarters. Nicole Bradtke was then eliminated in the semifinals. But when she won the twelve game of the third set of that match, she probably had no way of knowing that was the last game she'd win. Graf just pummeled her next. 6-0, 6-0.

Zvereva went on to the Eastbourne tournament next. The French Open was on clay, this was on grass. She had the same result, as in the finals. Navratilova beat here in straight sets, however, 6-2, 6-2. Despite two more appearances in finals that year, Natasha then forged onto a successful doubles career. Oh, she still played singles. But was unable to achieve the same kind of results she had in 1988.

By 1994, she was pretty much labelled a "Doubles Specialist." Still, she found herself in the hot Florida sun having a pretty good tournament in march of that year. Except for the last two sets.

Graf was playing some amazing tennis still by then. Her Australian Open triumph in January was too easy to talk about. At Tokyo, she beat the aging Navratilova 6-2, 6-4 in the finals. Indian Wells saw her beat Gigi Fernandez in the round of 32, Tracy Austin 6-0, 6-0, next. Then, some more domination. Steffi dropped 13 games in the next three matches, overwhelming Amanda Coetzer 6-0, 6-4 in the finals.

Delray Beach saw Sabine Hack upended for the lost of just three games in the quarters, Helena Sukova 7-5, 6-4 in the semis and finally Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-3, 7-5. Okay, the sets were getting closer, but four tournaments and 22 matches in, Graf had won 43 sets (Kimberly Po-Messerli retired down 2-0 in the second set of their first round match Down Under). The opposition? None.

More the same at the Lipton (Now Ericsson) down in Miami, Florida. Graf was just sizzling in the sun! She lost 9 games in he first four matches. Lindsay Davenport lost the first set 6-0, then came close in the second. Steffi won it, however 7-3 in the tiebreaker.

So in the finals it was Zvereva. This time, no 6-0, 6-0 score. No straight sets. Natasha came out and took the initiative, winning the first set 6-4. Wow! This 28th match of the year for Graf was actually interesting! The 54th set was lost!

Graf, of course, just turned it up a notch. The next two sets went to her, 6-1, 6-2. Still. At least she'd lost a set. Surprisingly enough, Graf lost some matches that year, most notably to Mary Pierce at the French Open, Lori McNeil in the first round at Wimbledon, and finally Sanchez-Vicario at the US Open.

Still, this was another impressive display of dominance from Graf. She ended the year with 7 titles, and while not quite as dominating the next year, in terms of straight setting 'em, she added three more Grand Slams.

But for those first four tournaments of 1994, you had to ask yourself:

Was this even fair? What sport was Graf playing? Super tennis?


Collins, Bud. The Bud Collins History Of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia And Record Book. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: New Chapter, 2010. Print.

SAP, Dubai Duty Free, IQYI, and USANA. "WTA." WTA Tennis. Women's Tennis Association, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017. <>.

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