Her shoulder healthy, Graf elbows past first-round opponent


FLUSHING MEADOW, N.Y. -- Steffi Graf made up her mind Sunday. Her shoulder was fine, and she would play the U.S. Open.

Graf spent yesterday morning practicing with Wimbledon champion Michael Stich, and last night she toyed with Andrea Temesvari 6-1, 6-2.

"My shoulder feels great, and I'm happy to be here," said Graf, who won the U.S. Open in 1988 and 1989 and reached the final for the fourth time in a row last year.

"It feels good to be a part of it."

Graf advanced to the second round with second-seeded Monica Seles, third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini and seventh-seeded Jennifer Capriati, the rest of the young foursome that promises to make this women's U.S. Open the most intriguing in years.

Only Sabatini, the defending champion, had a match on her hands. The Argentine trailed Nicole Provis 1-4 before rallying for a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 victory. Seles topped Nicole Arendt, the rookie pro out of the University of Florida, 6-2, 6-0, and Capriati routed Eva Pfaff 6-1, 6-0, in 39 minutes.

Graf defeated Temesvari, a former Top 10 player from Hungary, for the ninth time in nine tries. Graf smashed 24 winners to two for Temesvari. The match lasted 50 minutes.

"It's good to get the first match over with," said Graf, who hadn't played a tournament match since winning Wimbledon in July.

"The shoulder has been very good for two weeks, but I waited until the last minute to make sure."

Graf said she tore a tendon in her right shoulder in Hamburg, Germany. She had problems after that, and the pain returned at Wimbledon, but she refused to surrender. Graf was finally forced to withdraw from the Federation Cup and skipped last week's Virginia Slims of Washington.

"At first, my shoulder was so bad that I couldn't hold anything," she said. "I couldn't do anything, and I couldn't move. It was very frustrating, and I wasn't in the best mood. I was so excited when BTC I could get on the court. I had to calm myself down, because I could only play a few minutes the first few days."

If Graf is as healthy as she showed last night, she will be the favorite to win the Open for a third time.

"Winning Wimbledon gave me a lot of confidence," Graf said. "It was a big help to win a close match [over Sabatini] the way I did and come back twice like I did."

Sabatini had to come back in the first set against Provis, a surprise 1988 French Open semifinalist from Australia, who never followed up on her big moment.

"She wasn't missing," Sabatini said. "I was making her run, but she wasn't missing. And I wasn't hitting the ball very well. I stayed at the baseline too much in the beginning."

Sabatini wore a white cap yesterday. Is she the female Jim Courier?

"My hair is getting longer, and I can't see very much," Sabatini said. "And it's more comfortable, actually."

Seles, who promises a different fashion look later in the tournament, took the court blind against Arendt.

"I heard about her but really hadn't seen her play, so it was kind of hard to know what to expect," Seles said.

Capriati recovered from Sunday's exhibition loss to Sabatini to overpower Pfaff, a 30-year-old German qualifier, who lost in the first round of the U.S. Open for the ninth time in 10 appearances.

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