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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Graf Survives One-Set Showdown With Date

WIMBLEDON, England -- Steffi Graf advanced to her eighth Wimbledon final Friday when she completed a three-set victory over Japan's Kimiko Date.


The defending and six-time champion defeated the 12th-seeded Date 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to set up a replay of last year's final against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.


When the match was suspended by darkness Thursday, Graf had dropped six straight games to lose the second set and looked in danger of following defending men's champion Pete Sampras out of the tournament.


But Graf, who was suffering from a cold and sinus problems, needed only 26 minutes to take the third set in bright sunshine Friday.


"I wonder how much longer she could have kept up at that level," Graf said. "All things were favoring her a little bit. At least I felt like I was serving much better than I was yesterday, so I didn't worry too much."


Graf finished her match before rain disrupted play for the third straight day.


The second men's semifinal between Richard Krajicek and Jason Stoltenberg was postponed until Saturday morning, and even if the men's and women's champions are decided this weekend, it now appears likely the tournament will extend into a third week for the 14th time since World War I.


"The way it's looking at the moment, unless miracles happen in the next few days, I think we're looking at playing next week," referee Alan Mills said. "Hopefully not for the championship events, but for the other events, it could very well be."


Date, the first Japanese woman to reach the Wimbledon semifinals, said she felt she could have beaten Graf had their match continued late Thursday.


"It's true I wanted to finish yesterday," she said. "If play would have continued after the second set, I think I would have continued at that level ... I have pretty good eyesight and [the visibility] didn't bother me at all."


The decisive break Friday came in the sixth game. Graf reached break point when she angled a lucky backhand sliced return just over the net and out of Date's reach. On break point, Date netted a backhand.


Graf, who had started the day with her third ace of the match after serving poorly Thursday, served two more aces to hold for a 5-2 lead.


Date double-faulted and faced two match points at 15-40 when a backhand return by Graf clipped the netcord and popped over. Graf hit a forehand long to blow one match point, then Date saved the next when she got a lucky netcord.


Graf served out the match in the next game when Date struck four unforced errors, ending with a forehand that sailed wide.


"I tried to stay very close to her and it worked well at the beginning," Date said. "But still Graf kept her good form in the final set. It was just one set and it means I had fewer chances."


Saturday's championship match will be the seventh Grand Slam final between Graf and Sanchez Vicario. Graf won last year's Wimbledon final in three sets and beat Sanchez Vicario in three for the French Open title last month.


"Even if people say it's the same match again, I think there has been some spectacular tennis and definitely no boring finals," Graf said. "So it's just going to be another one and hopefully it's going to be another great match."


Sanchez Vicario cruised into the final Thursday by beating Meredith McGrath 6-2, 6-1 in 61 minutes.


On Thursday, the momentum turned Date's way in the 24-point third game of the second set.


The game included nine deuces, four game points for Graf and six break points for Date.


The Japanese player finally converted with a forehand down the line which forced a backhand error by Graf.


Graf looked deflated as Date quickly ran out the set. But she didn't lose her sense of humor. As she prepared to serve in the seventh game, a man shouted from the stands, "Will you marry me?" Graf chuckled and yelled back, "How much money do you have?"


"Yeah, that was great timing," Graf said Friday. "I lost the game so I ask for a divorce right now."


(For other results, see Scorecard.)