Before her three-set victory over Martina Navratilova in the finals (preceding story), Steffi Graf defeated—and that's putting it mildly—six opponents. Special contributor George Plimpton was at each of the matches. Here are his notes.
Aug. 28—Etsuko Inoue falls 6-3, 6-1. She is the second-best player in Japan but 62nd in the world. Came to the U.S. last month to play four tournaments. Lost in the first round of each except in Mahwah, N.J., where she got Graf in the second. Rotten luck again at the Open. "It was easy to find my name when the draw was posted," she says. "Right at the top. Second one down."
The night before the match, Inoue awoke at midnight in her hotel room. Graf was across the net. Inoue played her for half an hour before dropping back to sleep.
"Did you win?"
"I don't think so."
Nor did she win the real match. She went home for Japan's national championships, in which she expects a better draw. With her luck, one wonders.
Aug. 30—Nathalie Herreman falls 6-1, 6-1.
Herreman is No. 130 in the world. She complains that the U.S. Open has only two masseurs, while Wimbledon has at least four. "It is the little things, non?" she says.
Before facing Graf, Herreman says, "Even when you play good, it's bad."
After the match Graf leaned across the net and said, "Thank you." Herreman was taken aback. "So I say the same thing," says Herreman. "I lose 6-1, 6-1, and I say to Steffi, 'Thank you? I would prefer to play someone else."