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Entering professional tennis as a talented but shy and awkward teenager, for the past eight years Steffi Graf was the dominant force in the woman's circuit, a powerful and consistent player.
D. For the past eight years, having entered professional tennis as a talented yet shy and awkward teenager, Steffi Graf has been
I agree (D) is best.
The adverb phrase "for the last eight years" tips you off that the correct verb is "has been ...." This is called present perfect progressive tense, meaning 1) some action occurs in the present 2) it still continues, and 3) that action began in the past (e.g., "my heart has been beating all day": my heart beats, it will continue to beat, and it already beat many times prior to me making this statement).
In this case:
For the past eight years Steffi has been [and continues to be] the dominant force...
Now add some information in a paranthetical phrase:
For the past eight years, (a little more info about Steffi), Steffi has been the dominant force....
Note that "For the past eight years" does not modify the subject "Steffi", it modifies the action of the sentence (predicate) "has been" ... Steffi has been (for the past eight years)...
By the way, (C) is grammatically correct, but it changes the meaning entirely by cutting the bit about the eight years, and changing the verb tense from Steffi being still dominant, to her being only dominant at some time back in history -- and ETS wouldn't let you do that. So don't be fooled by the fact that Steffi is indeed retired. This simply would've been written years ago.
E. Having entered professional tennis as a teenager who was talented yet shy and awkward, for the past eight years Steffi Graf has been
But I believe it loses out to (D), because the intro phrase 'Having entered professional tennis" is an adjective phrase directly modifying Steffi, and so it should preferably be followed immediately by her name. We could re-write it like this:
Having entered professional tennis as a teenager who was talented yet shy and awkward, Steffi Graf for the past eight years has been...
why is it that the phrase ' for the past 8 years' in choice d is not affected by the phrase immediately following it (after the comma) which is 'having entered professional tennis as a talented yet shy and awkward teenager'.
i am a little confused because in choice e also this rule has not been followed.
What i mean to say is the the phrase after the comma should refer to the subject.