Steffi Graf started slow and finished fast at the Australian Open Thursday, deustralian Open molishing arch-rival Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina 6-3, 6-0 to reach her eighth straight Grand Slam final.
"Gaby was not physically there today," said Graf, who got in a groove after losing her first two service games. "She wasn't moving as fast as she can. I was fully there. I wanted to win very badly."After Graf broke for 2-all in the first set, Sabatini won only 14 points the rest of the match. Graf won all but eight points in the second set, which lasted just 19 minutes.
"I'm surprised at the way the match worked out," the West German said. "I played well and she was not at her very best."
Graf, who hasn't lost a set in the tournament, will go for her fifth consecutive Grand Slam title Saturday against fifth-seeded Helena Sukova, who downed unseeded Belinda Cordwell of New Zealand 7-6 (7-2), 4-6: 6-2 in the first semifinal.
Sabatini defeated Graf twice last year, but those are her only victories over her teen-age rival in 17 meetings.
"I couldn't do anything today," said Sabatini, now 0-5 against Graf in Grand Slam matches.
Sukova overcame her erratic groundstrokes to reach her third Grand Slam final in a match filled with 56 unforced errors, 15 double-faults and 11 service breaks, including four straight in the opening set.
On the men's side, where all the other top contenders have been eliminated, everyone expects Ivan Lendl to win - including Lendl.
"I feel if I keep playing like I did today, then it should be good enough," he said Wednesday after beating John McEnroe 7-6 (7-0), 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) in the quarterfinals of the Grand Slam event.
Lendl's next opponent is 11th-seeded Thomas Muster of Austria, who advanced when two-time champion Stefan Edberg of Sweden defaulted with a back injury. Friday's other semifinal pits ninth-seeded Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia against unseeded Swede Jan Gunnarsson.
Mecir made the final four Wednesday with a 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 victory over Yugoslav teen-ager Goran Ivanisevic, while Gunnarsson reached his first Grand Slam semifinal by beating countryman Jonas Svensson 6-0, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.