After one of the greatest upsets in the women's final on the Roland Garros stadium court, California teenager Michael Chang will get his chance to serve up his own history today when he challenges third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the men's final.
The 15th-seeded Chang could become the first American winner since 1955. At 17, he is the youngest male finalist in the French Open and possibly in any Grand Slam tournament. (The birthdate of 17-year-old Rodney Heath, the 1905 Australian Open champion, is unknown.)
The youngest previous French Open men's finalist was 1982 champion Mats Wilander, who was six months older than Chang is now.
Sanchez, 17, is the first Spanish woman to win the world's premier clay- court tournament and is the youngest woman to win the title. She is no newcomer to the French Open. Last year, she reached the quarterfinals, ousting seven-time winner Chris Evert in the third round.
Yesterday's match was a far cry from last year's women's final, in which Graf romped over Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union in barely more than half an hour.
Graf had not lost in a Grand Slam tournament since the 1987 U.S. Open final, which she lost to Martina Navratilova. Graf was attempting to join only four other players - Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Navratilova - as winners of six consecutive Grand Slam singles titles.
Last year, Graf, of West Germany, won the four major tournaments - the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon - to win the coveted Grand Slam, and she was on course for a repeat year after she won the Australian Open in January.
"She played some unbelievable shots. She played awful well," said Graf, 19.
"At the moment, I can't understand it. It's not me playing on the court at this moment. I'm not putting pressure on my opponent. It's not me."
Although Graf suffered from a faulty backhand and the effects of food poisoning, she ridiculed the idea that the pressure of being the world's top player was too much for her.
But the mechanics upon which she usually relies were not present.
Her forehand, the most feared weapon in the game, misfired 33 times against just 15 winners. Her usually steady slice backhand let her down as well, chalking up 35 unforced mistakes and contributing only five winners.
"The slice is not effective any more. I must try more topspin," Graf said.
Her groundstrokes fell apart in the stretch run. Up 5-3 in the final set, Graf dropped her serve on two groundstroke errors, a simple forehand volley into the net and one Sanchez winner.
Graf committed two more errors in the next game as Sanchez pulled even at 5-5 by holding serve at 40-15.
Sanchez went ahead 6-5 by breaking Graf at love. In succession, Graf made two forehand errors and sailed a backhand long, and Sanchez smacked a forehand winner.
Sanchez went up 15-0 in the last game on a Graf backhand error. It was 15-15 when Sanchez missed a forehand. She went up 30-15 as Graf flew a forehand long. Graf pulled to 30-30 on a forehand winner, but that was the last point she won.
A backhand long and then a simple backhand into the net finished the match.
Graf had easily beaten Sanchez three previous times without dropping a set.
Graf said: "The last couple of times we played, I was putting pressure on her with my forehand. She couldn't do anything. But I didn't do it today.
"It's no relief to lose, and I can't do anything about it. But now maybe it will stop all the questions about the Grand Slam."
As early as the opening set, Graf's problems with her groundstrokes were hurting her. Leading 6-5 with two set-point chances, Graf lost both on backhand errors. She went on to lose the set in the tie-breaker with a forehand way over the baseline.
"I just had my chances and didn't use them today," said Graf.
Sanchez was a prohibitive underdog in her first Grand Slam final, but this has been a tournament of surprise winners.
On the men's side, Chang had shocked the world's top player, Ivan Lendl, earlier this week, and Sanchez drew encouragement from that.
"If Chang can beat Lendl, I said, 'Why not?' " said Sanchez. "I went out on the court thinking I can win. I was very positive and fought on every point."
Said her coach, Juan Nunez: "Off the court, she is a sweet person, but when she is on the court, she turns around and becomes a lion. That is what you saw today, the lion in Arantxa."
The men's doubles title was won yesterday by Patrick McEnroe, the younger brother of John, and Jim Grabb. The American pair defeated Mansour Bahrami and Eric Winogradsky, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).