Steffi Graf - A Born Champion
Stefanie Maria Graf, former World No. 1 woman tennis player and once called the 'Queen of the Courts' because of her versatility across all playing surfaces. Graf had a powerful forehand which earned her the nickname 'Fraulein Forehand'. Throughout her playing career, she developed the best slice backhand as well as a consistent volley. She chased down balls that seemed unplayable and had a powerful accurate serve of up to 105 mph.
Steffi Graf is generally considered to be one of the greatest women's tennis players of all time, winning 22 Grand Slam singles titles and the only player to achieve the 'Golden Slam' in 1988, capturing all four Grand Slam singles titles - Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open and the Australian Open, at least four times. In the same year, she also won the Olympic gold medal and was ranked by the Women's Tennis Association No.1 player for having a record of 377 weeks, the longest record of any player since ranking began.
Stefanie 'Steffi' Maria Graf was born June 14, 1969 in Manheim, Germany. She started playing tennis at the age of three in the living room of her family's house. Her father, Peter Graf, a car and insurance salesman, was also an aspiring tennis coach and introduced tennis to the then little girl Steffi. At the age of four, she began practicing on a court and played her first tournament at the age of five. She soon began winning junior tournaments with reliability and in 1982 won the 12' and 18's European Championships.
She started her full professional season in 1993 at the age of thirteen, her rankings on tournaments improved without fall, steadily climbing from being ranked No.124, No.98 in 1983, No.22 in 1984, to No.6 in 1985. She represented Germany in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and won the gold medal. Graf's plays were limited and controlled by her father so that she would not suffer exhaustion as many young tennis stars had. Her personal life was also kept on tight leash by her father, declining social invitations on tours and focusing on practicing and match plays.
Steffi Graf's Grand Slam breakthrough came in 1987, when she won six tournaments heading into the French Open. She defeated the World No.1 Martina Navratilova in the finals with a classic clash of 6-4, 4-6, 8-6. She won three more tournaments after the French Open, enough to claim the World No.1 ranking from Navratilova in August 1987, with a finishing match record of 75-2.
The year 1988 is believed to be the peak of Steffi Graf's career. This year was called the 'Golden Slam' year for Graf. She started by winning the Australian Open beating Evert, then defending her title at the French Open against Natalia Zvereva, next came Wimbledon where she beat Navratilova, and the US Open final where she triumphantly won over Sabatini, winning all four Grand Slam singles titles within the year. But it did not stop there; there was one more achievement that Graf added to this unbeatable record, the gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, beating Sabatini, which the media called as the 'Golden Slam'.
Steffi Graf's career had its difficult years too, from 1991 through about 1988, her career had been to ups and downs which included personal problems and injuries that affected much of Graf's career and ranking in tennis. The last few years of her career were weighed down by injuries to her knees and back, with a series of injuries refusing to go away, Graf announced her retirement from tour in August 1999.
After retirement from the tour, Steffi Graf married Andre Agassi on October 22, 2001 at his home in Las Vegas. Their son Jaden Gil and daughter Jaz Elle, has been her pride and joy after a significant and successful career in the world of tennis. Steffi Graf is also the founder and an active chairperson of 'Children for Tomorrow', a non-profit foundation whose goal is to implement and develop projects to support children who have been the victims of war and other crises.