March 19, 1999
By J. Fred Sidhu
Indian Wells, Ca. ... The future of women's professional tennis took center stage here last week as a new star met an old champion in the finals of the $1.3 million Evert Cup tennis tournament.
Seventeen-year-old Serena Williams won her second consecutive tournament as she defeated former number one, Steffi Graf, in a tense 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory last Saturday in the Evert Cup final at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort.
"This is the biggest tournament I ever won," Williams
said after her win. "I know that I can win the big ones now."
After splitting the first two sets, Williams asked for an injury timeout early in the third set. She received treatment for inflammation in her right knee. After getting her knee wrapped, the match continued with Graf serving at 2-1.
Graf held serve to take a 3-1 lead and looked in control of the match until Williams rallied to tie the third set at 4-4.
Williams not only matched Graf stroke from stroke from the baseline throughout the match, but she also blasted 35 winners past the 29-year-old German.
Williams broke Graf's serve at 6-5 in the final set to win the title and the $200,000 winner's check. Her ranking jumped from 21 to 16 as her 1999 record improves to 14-2.
"It (the win) means a lot to me because Steffi is a great champion. I had a tough match against her earlier this year in Sydney (Australia). I knew today was going to be a tough match.'' Williams added.
Williams began the week by defeating 1998 Evert Cup finalist, Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 6-2 in the first round. She then defeated Cara Black; Mary Pierce and Sandrine Testud in straight sets to reach the final. "She (Williams) didn't make that many mistakes," Graf said, as she described Williams' play during the final. "She was really forcing the shots, being aggressive most of the time.''
Graf, the tournament's number five seed, dropped only six games in her first three matches which included a 6-2, 6-0 win over 1998 Wimbledon champion, Jana Novotna. Graf received $86,000 for her runner-up finish.
EVERT CUP NOTES
American Chanda Rubin had an impressive run last week in Indian Wells. Rubin, who was unseeded, reached the semifinals of the Evert Cup before being eliminated by Steffi Graf in a tough three-set match. During the tournament, Rubin knock-ed off 14th seeded Conchita Martinez; seventh seeded Amanda Coetzer. In her quarterfinal match, she ousted defending champion and top seed Martina Hingis with a thrilling 6-3, 7-6 win.
Back in 1996, Rubin reached the semifinals at the Australian Open. But later that year she fractured a bone in her right hand and underwent surgery.
Since then, Rubin has been trying to regain her winning form which took to a career high ranking of number six in the world.
"I'm back," Rubin said during her run to the semifinals last week, "I felt very good coming into the tournament and felt like I was hitting the ball well enough to play with anybody and to beat anybody.''
Rubin called her win over Hingis the best of her career to date.
Hingis, Kournikova win doubles
Even though Martina Hingis failed in her bid to win the singles title, she did win the doubles title as she teamed with Russian Anna Kournikova to defeat Mary Joe Fernandez and Jana Novotna, 6-2, 6-2.