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Graf Comes Back To Defeat Rubin

March 12, 1999

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) _ Steffi Graf survived her first real test of the tournament, coming back from a shaky start to defeat Chanda Rubin in Thursday’s Evert Cup semifinal.

Graf, who needed less than an hour each to beat her first three opponents earlier in the week, got her groundstrokes working late in the second set against Rubin and went on to take a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

The fifth-seeded Graf, a two-time Evert Cup champion and a loser of just one of her 15 previous matches in the tournament, will face the winner of Friday’s Serena Williams-Sandrine Testud match in Saturday’s final.

In the Newsweek Champions Cup, running concurrently with the women’s tournament at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Tim Henman defeated Greg Rusedski 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; Richard Krajicek defeated Jan Siemerink 6-4, 6-4; and Karol Kucera defeated Nicolas Kiefer 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

In another third-round match, Chris Woodruff beat Felix Mantilla, who had upset world No. 1 Pete Sampras the night before, 7-5, 7-5.

Graf’s victory ended a string of upsets by Rubin, who seemed early in their semifinal as if she were on her way to knocking off another ranked player. Ranked 26th in the world, she beat No. 14 Conchita Martinez, No. 7 Amanda Coetzer and No. 1 Martina Hingis on her way to the match against Graf.

The 29-year-old Graf, whose 106 career victories include 21 Grand Slam titles, showed her experience as she shook off a miserable start against Rubin.

Rubin, who had beaten Hingis a day earlier with hard groundstrokes down the lines, continued to pound the lines against Graf in their opening set. But Graf, kept off-balance in that set, turned the momentum late in the second, when her well-placed backhands began putting Rubin on the defensive.

``I just made so many mistakes early on,″ Graf said. ``I didn’t have a good feeling at all. I didn’t know where I was hitting them. I missed them by meters. It was just awful, honestly.″

She said she was trying to hang on until she was able to hit some good shots.

``I was trying to put the ball in play somehow. My backhand was at least reasonable,″ Graf said. ``I got into the points with my backhand. Then I was just trying to play it safer. That’s when I got her to play more points.

``Eventually, she would start making mistakes.″

Rubin said she felt she was setting the pace early, but then made some key errors.

``It was a bit disappointing the way the match ended,″ said Rubin, 23. ``I had control going into the second set; it’s just disappointing not to take advantage of that opportunity.

``She started forcing a little more. I think she started keeping her slice really low. I wasn’t able to move the ball enough and take control of some of those points.″

Rubin is 0-7 lifetime against Graf.

``Her game is pretty much the same as it’s been,″ Rubin said. ``She’s moving pretty well, striking the ball pretty solidly.″

Graf won the Evert Cup in 1994 and 1996. Last year, she reached the semis against Lindsay Davenport before retiring because of a tight hamstring.

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