20160311

TENNIS

The U.S. Women's Hardcourt Championships was first played in 1948. The tournament had since then been on the shelf from 1970 to 1987. Then it was revived in 1988. Steffi Graf won 3 of the 5 times it was played at the McFarlin Tennis Center in San Antonio, Texas. 

In March 2016, the U.S. Women's Hardcourt Championships returned to San Antonio, Texas as one of the 8 Women's Tennis Association (WTA) 125K Series. The WTA website explained the WTA 125K Series as "tournaments to provide an opportunity for new markets to showcase a professional women's tennis product and offer lower-ranked and up-and-coming players additional opportunities to compete and earn prize money and ranking points." 

Chris Hoffman of 'News 4 San Antonio' had reported, "With the inaugural San Antonio Open, the McFarlin Tennis Center went through a face lift, with all 22 courts being resurfaced, locker rooms remodeled and the addition of a player's lounge and cafeteria."  

As noted, one of the best tennis matches played at the McFarlin Tennis Center between 1988 and 1992 was in 1991 when the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the women's tennis world met in the championship match. At the beginning of the tournament, Monica Seles told the press she was looking forward to playing all the top players before the start of the 1991 French Open "just to see how they are doing." 

On March 11 1991, Monica Seles became the youngest women's tennis player at the time to ascend to the No. 1 world ranking ending Steffi's 186-week reign in the women's tennis world. Both players downplayed the importance of the championship match with Steffi saying, "It's not winning a tournament or winning against someone special. It's me I'm concerned about. I just want to do well." Monica insisted, "I told myself just to play January to December as if nothing happened last year (1990)."  

In 1988, "Steffi Graf stayed at the baseline much of the (final) match, skillfully changing the pace on her groundstrokes to win many of the points with powerful forehand shots." In 1991, Steffi also relied on her trademark forehand groundstokes and finding the range on her passing shots. After falling behind 4-1 in the first set, Steffi came back to win the set with a lob that landed on the baseline. In the second set, Steffi hit a down-the-line winner to lead 5-2 then a cross-court winner to win the match. 

'The New York Times' summed up, "For Steffi Graf, the victory was her first tournament title of the season and it provided her with the only ingredient still missing from her game: confidence. That confidence had been shaken at the start of the year as she proceeded to come up short in 4 tournaments. Graf had been working on her backhand attempting to develop topspin and learn a net attack. But in the end, she returned to a familiar style: running around her backhand and pounding forehand winners across the court and down the lines to defeat Monica Seles in 1 hour 11 minutes."

At the time, the tournament total prize money was $225,000. The winner of the singles final earned $45,000 and 240 World Tour points and the runner-up 170 points. It was pointed out, "Steffi Graf has narrowed Monica Seles' lead in the computer ranking from 23 points to 16 in a system that averages out performances over the past year. Because the U.S. Women's Hardcourt Championships is only a 32-player draw, Graf will not overtake Seles in the computer rankings."

In the post-match interview, Monica observed, "I think Steffi just had the big advantage on her serve. She pulled out a lot of points on her serve. I just couldn't convert those important points. My serve has not been going that great. She was hitting the ball well, and I had to keep hitting great shots back, but that's hard to do constantly."

Martina Navratilova won the singles championship in 1992. Then ranked No. 4 in the world Martina Navratilova "topped the weakest field since the tournament was revived in 1988 after 18 years (1970-1987). In the past 4 years (1988-1991), the tournament drew higher-ranked contenders. Steffi Graf won in 3 of those 4 years, with Monica Seles taking the 1990 crown when Steffi was absent with a broken thumb, but they are no-shows this year (1992)."

On reflection Martina confessed, "I wasn't really pressed. It was a comfortable week for me, like in the old days when I rolled over people. But it doesn't happen very often, so it felt good this week." In the 1988 San Antonio tournament "Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Gabriela Sabatini and Pam Shriver all passed up the tournament." On February 17 1992, Martina Navratilova broke Chris Evert all-time career singles titles record of 157 by winning the Virginia Slims of Chicago. The U.S. Women's Hardcourt Championships "increased her career singles title record to 159."

Michael Chang told Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press after reaching the 4th round of the 1992 U.S. Open tennis championships, "I feel that I have learned quite a bit. How much you believe in yourself really plays a very, very important role in anyone's life. Tennis is such a mind game. You think it is just backhands and forehands and big serves. Actually, it is your mind that puts everything together. If your mind is not there, it doesn’t matter how good you are or how talented you are, you are not going to be out there and playing your best tennis."

Michael Chang maintained the difference between the top players and the lower-ranked players was "far more mental than physical." Of the best players' attitude, "It is not so much a cockiness or conceitedness, it is more of an assurance of, like, 'I am one of the best in the world, and I deserve to be here.'"

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