No.1 Spotlight: Steffi Graf
Published April 20, 2013 12:00
Steffi Graf was a woman of actions rather than words. Softly spoken and shy off the court, Graf let her racquet do the talking for the majority of her glittering 16-year career.
Born in Mannheim, West Germany, as a young child, Graf often had to be coerced onto court, but it was not long before she was dominating the junior scene and turned pro just four months after her 13th birthday. A supremely gifted athlete with a sledgehammer forehand, Graf soon found her feet in the senior ranks and by the mid-1980s had emerged as the chief challenger to Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova's duopoly at the top of the sport.
A first Grand Slam arrived at Roland Garros in 1987 and from there the floodgates opened; four more titles came that year before she enjoyed her annus mirabilis in 1988, winning all four majors and Olympic gold.
Over the next decade, rivals came and went but success remained. By the time she hung up her racquets for good in 1999, Graf had re-written the record books, capturing 22 majors and spending a staggering 377 weeks atop the rankings.
• Won an Open Era-best 22 Grand Slam singles titles: seven Wimbledon, six Roland Garros, five US Open and four Australian Open titles; only woman to win each major at least four times
• In 1988, became third woman to complete single-season Grand Slam (after Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court)
• Captured gold medal at 1988 Seoul Olympics to become first Golden Slam winner; also won silver medal in 1992
• Reached a record 13 consecutive Grand Slam finals (1987 Roland Garros to 1990 Roland Garros)
• Won a minimum of seven tournaments a year for 11 straight years (1986-96)
• Her 107 titles won is the third-most of the Open Era. Her 902 matches won is also the third-most of the Open Era
• Her six straight titles won in Hamburg (1987-92) is tied for the best streak at one tournament in the Open Era
• Won five season-ending WTA Championships
• Rose to No.1 on August 17, 1987 and stayed there for more than 3-and-a-half years (186 weeks, longest unbroken stretch at No.1 in women's ranking history).
• Spent total of 377 weeks ranked No.1, most by any man or woman since computer rankings were introduced. Also was year-end No.1 a record eight times
• In 1989, went 86-2; .977 winning percentage is second-best in Open Era behind Martina Navratilova (0.989) in 1983
• Her 66 straight matches won from 1989 to 1990 is the second best streak of the Open Era. She also won 11 straight titles from 1989 to 1990, the third best such streak of the Open Era
• Her 45 straight matches won to start the 1987 season is the best start to a season in the Open Era
• En route to 22nd and final Grand Slam title at 1999 Roland Garros, became the first player in the Open Era to defeat the world's Top 3 players at one tournament
• Her eight games lost at 1988 Mahwah is tied with Chris Evert and Monica Seles for fewest games conceded en route to a WTA title in a 16-28 size draw. Also, her 20 games lost at 1988 Roland Garros is the second-fewest conceded en route to a Grand Slam title
• Her 10 consecutive years (1987-96) of earning at least $1 million in prize money is a record
• Won 11 doubles titles, including one Grand Slam at 1988 Wimbledon (with Gabriela Sabatini). Also won doubles bronze at 1988 Seoul Olympics
• Won the WTA's Player Of The Year Award a record eight times
• Won the WTA's Most Improved Player Award in 1986
• Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004
• Directly involved in Children for Tomorrow, a foundation she established in 1998 that carries out charitable work for children traumatized by war and other crises