Sabatini's Happy With No. 3 Ranking

PHILADELPHIA - Life is muy bueno for Gabriela Sabatini.

She is young (22), healthy, and the No. 3 tennis player in the world, the highest ranking of her career. Her "Gaby" perfume line is a success.

In her ninth year on the women's tour, Sabatini is far from suffering burnout singes.

"I'm starting to enjoy everything I'm doing," said Sabatini, a contestant in this weekend's Virginia Slims of Philadelphia tournament. "I became more mature. I love to play tennis, I love to travel and meet new people."

Would she love to be ranked No. 1? Yes, but if she isn't, she won't angrily smash her racket.

"I think about it, but I'm not crazy about it," Sabatini said. "It would be nice to be No. 1 but, if I'm not, that's OK. I'm really happy where I am. It's hard to be No. 3, too."

That take-it-or-leave-it attitude about climbing past No. 2 Steffi Graf and No. 1 Monica Seles is the major flaw in Sabatini's athletic character, critics say. Sabatini has beaten both Seles and Graf this year, but maybe she realizes she cannot do it consistently enough to be No. 1.

Anyway, Sabatini is in the homestretch of a productive 1992. She has won five tournaments, including the 1990 U.S. Open (her only Grand Slam victory). She credits her coach, former touring pro Carlos Kirmayr, for much of her improvement. Kirmayr has been coaching her since Wimbledon two years ago.

"This was my best year," she said. "He came at a very good time. I was going through a difficult moment. I was doubting a little bit about everything. Outside the court, I wasn't very happy with everything.

"He gave me so much confidence, personally and in tennis. He's a very good friend.

"After (Kirmayr began coaching her), I won the U.S. Open. After that tournament, everything started to change. All the doors started to open."

Sabatini lives most of the year in Key Biscayne, Fla. But she hasn't seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew, which spared her home.

"I left for San Diego the day before (Andrew struck)," she said. "My parents tell me it is very sad."

In an effort to help the hurricane victims, Sabatini, Capriati, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Mary Joe Fernandez will play an exhibition on Nov. 23 at the Miami Arena. Proceeds will benefit the "We Will Rebuild Miami" fund.