Tennis Legends: Steffi Graf
Stefanie Maria Graf is a former World number 1 player in women’s tennis. Her performance depended mostly in her powerful forehand because of which she was nicknamed Fraulein Forehand. She even cultivated an impressive slice backhand and consistent volley. Her serve was so accurate and powerful that it travelled at the speed of 180 km per hr, which was one of the fastest serve. She not only had an amazing footwork but also her strokes were very powerful.
Graf’s first tournament as a professional was played in October 1982, Germany. In that match, she lost to Tracy Austin, who she defeated twelve years later. Although she didn’t win any titles for the next three years, her rank was steadily increasing and her skills improved rapidly. Defeating Chris Evert won her first tour title in April 1986.
When tennis was re-introduced in 1988 Olympic games after forty years, Steffi Graf took full advantage of it by winning the Olympic gold medal in the singles. The same year she won all the four Grand Slam singles titles, making her the only women tennis player to do so. This feat of hers’ was declared as the Golden Slam. She is also the only female to win all the four Grand Slams, Wimbledon Open, French Open, Australian Open and US Open, for four times each. During this period the US Open and Australian Open were played on grass unlike now where all the venues have clay court. So Graf has the credit of playing on all kinds of tennis courts. From French Open in 1987 to US Open in 1996, she played a total of thirty-six Grand Slam singles tournaments, in which she made it to the finals of twenty-nine tournaments and won twenty-one of them.
For three hundred and seventy seven weeks Graf was ranked the Women’s Tennis Association’s Number 1 player. Any male or female tennis player could never set this record. She won a total of seven Wimbledon singles titles and six French Open singles titles. From the 1987 French Open to 1990 French Open, Graf made it to the finals of thirteen Grand Slams consecutively and won nine of the thirteen.
A panel of judges of the Associated Press declared her as the greatest female tennis player of the twentieth century, in December 1999. Graf’s twenty-second Grand Slam title was her final one in the 1999 French Open. She retired in the same year and became the highest ranked player to retire at third position in the world.
Her father Peter Graf, who was an aspiring tennis coach, was responsible for introducing her to the world of tennis. Although her training started at the age of three, she began playing on the court from the age of four. Her father kept a close watch on her routine and lifestyle. She was always expected to practice and that was the reason why she didn’t socialize much. But this narrow focus drastically improved her performance. But later on in life, she was involved in a controversy of Graf tax scandal as she had some issues with her father. After retiring from the tennis circuit in 1999, she began dating Andre Agassi, who himself is an ex-World number 1 male tennis player. They both got married in October 2001 and Steffi gave birth to their son Jaden Gil, four days after their marriage. Their second child, a daughter, Jaz Elle, was born in October 2003.