Steffi Graf: One of the greatest stars in tennis arena
An icon of world tennis STEFFI GRAF: She ruled women’s tennis in the two decades of the 20th century and won 22 Grand Slams. She was ranked third, after Margaret Court and Serena Williams, in the all-time list of Grand Slam women’s singles winners in the sport’s Open Era (since 1968).Updated: Oct 14, 2020, 17:07 IST
An icon of world tennis STEFFI GRAF: She ruled women’s tennis in the two decades of the 20th century and won 22 Grand Slams. She was ranked third, after Margaret Court and Serena Williams, in the all-time list of Grand Slam women’s singles winners in the sport’s Open Era (since 1968). She is the only player to have won each Grand Slam at least four times and held the top rank granted by the Women’ Tennis Association for a record 377 weeks.
Born on June 14, 1969 to Heidi Schalk and Peter Graf in Mannheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, West Germany, Stefanie Graf grew up with her younger brother Michael. She was just three years old
when she was introduced to tennis by her father. At the age of 4, she began playing on court and participated in her first tournament the very next year.
The 13-year-old Graf made her debut in professional sport at Filderstadt, Germany, in October 1982. Two years later, the world took note of her mettle at Wimbledon when she played really well and came very close to upsetting 10th seed Jo Durie in the fourth round. Two years later, she won the Olympic event in Los Angeles, US, but did not receive any medal since it was then just a demonstration event
and not an official Olympic sport. In 1985–1986, she emerged as the top challenger to Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova who were then the top players. In all the top tournaments she played during those years, Graf often reached the finals, semi-finals or at least the quarter-finals.
Rush of Grand Slam titles
Graf won her first Grand Slam in 1987 at the French Open, defeating Martina Navratilova. During the same year, she lost two other Grand Slams -- Wimbledon and US Open -- to Navratilova.
She made amends in the following year, 1988, winning the all the four major titles. At the Australian Open, she clinched the title by getting the better of Chris Evert. In the French Open, she beat Natasha Zvereva, while at Wimbledon, she won both the singles and doubles titles. She added the US Open title to her cabinet by overcoming Gabriela Sabatini.
In 1989, Graf won the Australian Open beating Helena Sukova. At the French Open, however, the German star’s winning streak was disrupted by 17-year-old Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. She resumed her victorious march at Wimbledon and in the US Open, prevailing over Navratilova in the finals at both the events.
Graf began the year 1990 on a rousing note by winning her eighth Grand Slam at the Australian Open, beating Mary Joe Fernandez. She, however, suffered losses in the other three major tournaments -- the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Injuries made 1991 another tough year for Graf, who lost in the quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Apart from Wimbledon, she failed to win any other of the four major events in tennis. Her run of indifferent form continued in 1992 during which Wimbledon once again was the only Grand Slam event she won.
Graf bounced back in 1993 by winning the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. The only major she lost that year was the Australian Open in which she lost to Monica Seles. In 1994, she won the Australian Open, beating Arantxa Sanchez Vicario while she lost to Vicario in the US Open.
In 1995, she won the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. The next year, despite a surgery on the left foot, Graf successfully defended the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open titles. In the French Open in the final, she overcame Sánchez Vicario. At Wimbledon, she pulled off an easy win over Sánchez Vicario in the final. An injury to her left knee prompted Graf to withdraw from the Atlanta Olympics. At the US Open, she defeated Monica Seles in the final.
In 2004, Graf was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and was named WTA Player of the Year in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996. She was also the German Sportsperson of the year several times – in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1999. She was voted as the ITF Champion for number of years 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1996.
She married fellow tennis player Andre Agassi in October 2001. The couple have two children -- son Jaden Gil and daughter Jaz Elle.
In 1988, Steffi Graf achieved a Calendar Year Golden Slam, which is a rare achievement since it involves winning not just all the Grand Slam titles – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open -- but also the gold medal at the Olympics. She is also the only
tennis player to achieve the feat.
One of Graf’s main strengths was her powerful inside-out forehand drive that was instrumental in earning her the moniker Fräulein Forehand and her nimble footwork.
In the words of great tennis player Chris Evert, who won 18 Grand Slam titles and was also a rival to Graf,, “Steffi Graf is the best all-around player. Martina [Navratilova] won more on fast courts and I won more on slow courts, but Steffi came along and won more titles on both surfaces.”
In 1998, Graf founded a non-profit organisation named Children for Tomorrow to support young ones traumatised by the war and conflicts of various kinds. In 2015, Kerala Tourism appointed Graf as its brand ambassador to promote ayurveda in Europe.
Sources: Wikipedia/ WTA