Steffi Graf today showed Jennifer Capriati how much the 14-year-old has to learn about grass-court tennis.
Using powerful forehands, slicing serves and a rock-solid net game, the top-ranked Graf beat her youngest challenger in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.Graf won 6-2, 6-4 in a Centre Court match eagerly awaited. Refreshed by a quick weekend trip back to West Germany, Graf won the big points and kept Capriati from setting the rhythm.
Capriati, the whiz-kid from Florida who at No. 12 was the youngest seed in Grand Slam history, showed the type of play that has raised her so high in the four months since she turned professional.
She served well, ran down shot after shot and matched Graf's firepower from the baseline. But she rarely came to the net and Graf wrapped it up with her trademark, a forehand flashed down the line and buried in the corner on her third match point.
It was a smile of relief that covered Graf's face as she shook Capriati's hand at the net. Her reign at the top has been under fire, with 16-year-old Monica Seles beating her twice in a row and Capriati climbing fast. And then there was the threat of 33-year-old Martina Navratilova, seeking a record ninth Wimbledon title.
Seles won easily, and - if she can beat Zina Garrison and Graf tops Jana Novotna - those two will meet in the semifinals. Navratilova won in straight sets as well, and she would get Graf in the championship match next Saturday.
But for now, one hurdle was gone. Capriati was eliminated, with a timid grin, a curtsey to the Duchess of York in the royal box and a wave to her family in the crowd.
"It was a great experience and she held up very well," Capriati's mother, Denise, said.
An autumn-like start of the second week of the Grand Slam tournament had 14 fourth-round singles matches, and most of the seeded survivors of this upset-riddled event moved on.
Boris Becker turned a Centre Court meeting of champions into a rout and Seles scored a quick and clean victory over an outmatched American.
Navratilova also won comfortably, making the quarters for the 16th consecutive year. Ivan Lendl had a tougher time before beating another U.S. opponent to reach the fourth round.
Becker, the defending champion and aiming for his fourth Wimbledon title overall, beat 1987 champ Pat Cash 7-6, 6-1, 6-4. Cash was a wild-card entry but had looked strong in the previous three rounds.
Seles, the 16-year-old from Yugoslavia, won her 36th match in a row, taking just 45 minutes to beat Ann Henricksson of Mill Valley, Calif., 6-1, 6-0.
Next for Seles is a stiff test - No. 5 Garrison, who eliminated 10th-seeded Helena Sukova 6-3, 6-3 and has not dropped a set so far.
Navratilova, the women's second seed, registered a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 14th-seeded Judith Wiesner of Austria.
Lendl, the men's top seed, stayed on course to finally end his quest for a Wimbledon title, but he had a tougher-than-expected time.
He beat Bryan Shelton, a American ranked 125th in the world, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, in match suspended by darkness at one set apiece Saturday night.
In other fourth-round action, fourth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini beat Nathalie Tauziat of France 6-2, 7-6; seventh-seeded Katerina Maleeva defeated Nathalie Herreman of France 6-3, 6-0; 11th-seeded Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union beat Brenda Schultz of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-2; and 13th-seeded Novotna of Czechoslovakia beat Patty Fendick of the United States 6-2, 6-4.
In the men's draw, 1985 runner-up Kevin Curren, unseeded this year, beat Alexandr Volkov 6-4, 7-6, 7-6, and Goran Ivanisevic of Yugoslavia, an unseeded surprise in the men's field, beat Mark Koevermans of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6. The day's lone upset had Christian Bergstrom of Swede beating 11th-seeded Guy Forget of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
With so much talent on display in so many important matches, it would seem that no one contest would grab the spotlight. But Graf-Capriati had star quality and it lived up to its billing.
Graf quickly showed that the distractions of family problems and a persistent sinus ailment that sent her home for treatment Friday would not be a factor on Centre Court.
She broke Capriati in the first game and again in the seventh, holding off two Capriati game points there, then serving out the set. Capriati showed her strength in the final game of the set, saving two set points on a backhand passing shot and a backhand lob, but Graf got a third chance with a winning volley and closed the set with an ace.
Capriati looked stronger as the second set opened. She held her first two service games and gave Graf fits with backhand passing shots down the lines. But at 2-2, 30-15, the Florida teen-ager started making mistakes, with an open-court overhead sailing long and a forehand hitting the net. She saved that break point on a Graf error, then netted a backhand and Graf completed the break when a backhand approach shot by Capriati went wide.
Graf held for 4-2 on an ace, an overhead winner after two great gets by Capriati, a backhand long and a forehand volley winner. Forehands continued to win points in the sventh game, but Capriati held for 4-3 and again for 5-4, saving one match point on a long service return. She was helped there when the umpire overruled a line judge's call on a forehand originally called out.
The game marked a momentary pause. An ace and two service winners gave Graf double-match point. She netted a forehand, then fired the final forehand winner.
"Under the circumstances, I was quite happy to win," Graf said.
This was the first meeting between the champion and the heir apparent, and Graf said Capriati impressed her.
"She is much more steady than I was at that age," Graf said.