Quick and deadly, Steffi Graf tightened her grip on the top of women's tennis Saturday.
Lashing out her always powerful forehand, Graf retained the women's championship at the French Open in a blowout of historic proportions and unusual quickness, beating Natalia Zvereva 6-0, 6-0."I'm very sorry it was so fast," Graf told the center court crowd, who cheered Zvereva on, trying to help her avoid the worst final defeat in the tournament's history.
"I saw her in the lockerrom and I said, `I'm sorry about it and I hope you get better,' " Graf said.
If Graf deprived the fans of a classic match, such as the tense three-setter in which she beat Martina Navratilova for her first Grand Slam title a year ago, she gave them one that will take its own place in tennis history.
Only once before, in 1911, had a women's Grand Slam final ended without the loser taking a single game. Never had it happened in Paris, where the worst previous drubbing was the 6-1, 6-0 defeat administered by the legendary Suzanne Lenglen to American Mary K. Browne in 1926.
The match lasted 32 minutes, just over half as long as the one-hour rain storm that interrupted play halfway through the first set. Officially, shorter Grand Slam finals have been played, but single points have taken almost as long. The time on court might have been the quickest ever.
"Last year was my first win for a Grand Slam championship. I was tired and exhausted and it took me longer to realize it," Graf said. "But this one wasn't routine. It's a Grand Slam final. OK, it's 6-0, 6-0, and it's a different dimension from last year, but it still means a lot to me."
After her victory in the Australian Open last January, the second consecutive French Open triumph kept Graf on course to be the first woman since Margaret Court Smith in 1970 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year.
On Sunday, Mats Wilander tries to keep his own hopes of sweeping the Grand Slam alive. The men's winner in Australia, he plays for his third French championship against France's Henri Leconte.
Zvereva, just turned 17, came out after the rain break wearing a new shirt but facing the same old problem. Graf was on the other side of the net, and the West German's forehand was as blistering as it had been throughout the tournament.
When the final point _ fittingly on a forehand cross-court winner _ fell in, Graf jumped for joy, then ran over to the stands and hugged her father, Peter Graf.
The quickness and completness of the defeat left Zvereva numb. Last year's junior women's champion in Paris and in only the third regular tournament final of her career, she declined the traditional chance to address the crowd and turned down requests for television intrviews. "I knew what to say, but I couldn't say anything," she said.
The architect of one of the biggest upsets of a tournament filled with surprises, a fourth-round victory over Navratilova, Zvereva finished her news confrence in tears.
Graf said she never expected it to be so easy.
"On clay courts, you always lose a couple of games," said Graf, who lost only 20 games in the tournament. She did not drop a set for her second consecutive Grand Slam tournament, having won the Australian Open crown last January while losing just 29 games.
With her own game in such good form and Zvereva 14 spots below her in the women's rankings, friends told Graf she had nothing to worry about.
In other championships decided Saturday, Lori McNeil of Houston and Jorge Lozano of Mexico defeated Brenda Schultz and Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-2 for the mixed doubles title, and Andres Gomez of Ecuador and Emilio Sanchez of Spain captured the men's doubles, defeating John Fitzgerald of Australia and Anders Jarryd of Sweden 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.