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Graf Wins Advanta Championships

In case there were any doubt after winning last week's Leipzig Open, Steffi Graf sent this emphatic message to the tennis world Sunday.

She's back.

Graf, in only her second tournament back since wrist surgery, stunned top-ranked Lindsay Davenport 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in a grueling three-set match to win the Advanta Championships.

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After Davenport's return sailed into the net on match point, Graf giggled as if she won her first Grand Slam tournament.

"It's been a tough road back, but I seem to be doing well," Graf said with a smile after receiving her $79,000 winner's check.

The loss spoiled Davenport's debut on American soil as the top-ranked player in the WTA's computer rankings. She had won her last seven matches, including a win over Monica Seles in the semifinals Saturday and the European Championships finals against Venus Williams last month.

Davenport can still be assured of finishing the season at No. 1 if she wins her first-round match at the Chase Championships next week. If that happens, second-ranked Martina Hingis would not be able to garner enough points to overcome Davenport, even if Hingis wins the Chase event.

"It's kind of tough to lose, but it feels good to be part of this," the 22-year-old Davenport said. "It would be great to end the year number one, but I'm not going to worry myself crazy over it."

It was Graf's seventh victory over Davenport in 10 meetings, but the first in a championship final. Minutes after Davenport's return hit the net on match point, Graf smiled widely and shook her fist in the air.

Sunday's title was the 107th of her career. But this oe seemed like one of the sweetest yet for Graf.

"It's been a crazy year," she said. "When I finally started playing the two tournaments at the beginning of the year, and then having a stretch of nine weeks without tennis, it threw me back quite a bit."

Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf has won 107 career titles. (AP)

After splitting the first two sets and exchanging service breaks as Davenport took a 4-3 lead in the third set, Graf went to work, allowing Davenport just four points in the last three games.

It was Graf's 10th consecutive match victory and the second time she has won at Villanova. It was also the second straight year that Davenport has lost an Advanta final.

"It's been a crazy year," Graf said. "A stretch of nine weeks without tennis, it threw me back quite a bit."

The two were tied at 2-2 in the third set before exchanging service breaks on consecutive serves, with Graf needing five break points, and Davenport four.

Graf came out blazing in the first set, nailing three aces and pushing Davenport back on most of her service returns to take a 4-1 lead.

Davenport turned it around winning the last five games. She rallied back from three points down to take one game, then rocketed a forehand winner past a charging Graf to break service on the way to taking the set.

Graf said the key to the match was the first game of the second set, which stopped Davenport's run of five straight games won.

"I feel that I played really well until 4-1 in the first set, and then (Davenport) played flawless."

"I started to get very negative and didn't have a good attitude," she added. "I knew it would be very important to win the first game of the second set."

After being treated for tightness in her back after that first game, Graf jumped out to a 5-3 lead. On the last game, she held off two break points, hit a forehand winner, then took the set after a Davenport return went long.

In the doubles final, Elena Likhotseva and Ai Sugiyama defeated Monica Seles and Natasha Zvereva 6-4, 6-1.

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