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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Graf, Sanchez Stroll Through to Open Final

MELBOURNE -- Arantxa Sanchez Vicario ended her semifinal jinx at the Australian Open on Thursday and then promised Steffi Graf her toughest match of the tournament in Saturday's women's final.


Sanchez Vicario, a semifinal loser at Flinders Park for the past three years, took the elusive extra step in style with a 6-1, 6-2 annihilation of a disappointing Gabriela Sabatini.


World number one Graf had already registered an equally comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win over Japan's Kimiko Date, reaching the 22nd Grand Slam final of her career with plenty to spare.


But Sanchez Vicario, seeded second, insisted spectators could expect more of a contest this weekend, despite her career record of only five wins in 26 meetings with the German top seed.


"She's the one who has the pressure, everyone is picking her to win," said the Spaniard. "I'm looking forward to playing as well as I did today. Anything can happen."


Sanchez Vicario, who spent 65 minutes on Center Court compared with Graf's 61-minute stint, dealt with Sabatini effectively enough to hint she will indeed give Graf a serious test Saturday. The Argentine world number six was made to look slow and listless as Sanchez Vicario scurried determinedly for every ball, and lost the initiative from a very early stage.


The first set took a mere 31 minutes before Sabatini conceded it with her 13th backhand error. She promptly broke Sanchez Vicario in the first game of the second set, but any potential comeback was instantly nipped in the bud.


Three double faults in the following game, even allowing for the gusty wind, was not the stuff of which champions are made, and Sanchez Vicario was able to break back to the safety of 1-1. There were few further alarms, except in the offices of television executives already worried by declining viewing figures.


"It's been great tennis and now the number one and number two players are in the final," said Sanchez Vicario. "I know Steffi is in great shape, but I'm also in great shape. I'm not afraid to play against her."


By comparison with the Spaniard, who played two doubles matches on Wednesday, Graf has been practically unemployed in Melbourne over the past 10 days.


Ever since her first opponent Kimberly Po pulled out injured in the second set of her first round match, no one has even approached taking a set off her, and Date, 23, was no exception.


The Japanese made a terrible start, failing to win a point in the opening two games, which lasted four minutes including a changeover. She was unable to find the consistency that brought her 10 successive wins in Australia since the start of the year.


Her early-year form has helped establish her in the world's top 10, but the result alone suggested she is still a fair distance from being a Grand Slam title contender.