Olympic Memories: Seoul

Tennis made its return to the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 where a German teenager swept her way into the history books.

Published July 23, 2012 06:09

Olympic Memories: Seoul
Steffi Graf

On Friday evening the curtain will be raised on the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London. The following 16 days will see in excess of 10,500 athletes compete for 906 medals, at 29 venues, across 26 different sports.

Among those 26 sports is tennis, which will be appearing at the Games for the 14th time this summer.

So to celebrate tennis' history at the world's greatest sporting event, over the coming fortnight wtatennis.com will look back at the six Olympic tennis tournaments since the sport was reinstated in 1988. Starting with Seoul…

Seoul, South Korea, 1988
Olympic Park Tennis Centre

Tennis made its return to the Olympics after a 64-year absence at Seoul in 1988. And its return proved to be a historic one.

A strong line-up arrived in the Korean capital for tennis' rebirth as an Olympic sport, headlined by the game's latest teen prodigy, Steffi Graf, fresh from completing the calendar Slam at the US Open.

All the talk in the build-up to the event was whether she could add a golden finish to this achievement by climbing to the top of the medal rostrum.

In the early rounds, though, the media speculation appeared to be taking its toll on the 19-year-old; after laboring past Leila Meskhi in her opening match, an out of sorts Graf nearly saw her 'Golden Slam' dreams dashed by the Soviet Union's Larisa Savchenko.

However, a three set tussle with Savchenko seemed to liberate the top seed, who produced some of her best tennis of the tournament to rout the United States' Zina Garrison, 62 60, in the semifinals.

On the other side of the draw, another of tennis' young stars was shining just as brightly.

Were it not for Graf, 1988 could well have been Gabriela Sabatini's annus mirabilis; the 18-year-old from Argentina had won three titles coming into the Games and was also the only woman to register wins over Graf that season, having triumphed at Boca Raton and Amelia Island in the spring.

However, their most high-profile encounter, the US Open final, had gone the way of the German, who outlasted Sabatini over three absorbing sets.

By comparison, the gold medal match in Seoul proved to be something of an anticlimax as a relaxed and uninhibited Graf swept her way into the history books with a 63 63 win.

"I actually had a very good feeling after the first game of the match," Graf said. "I really liked the way I was playing. I'm very excited. It's something not many people after me will achieve. It's amazing"

Steffi Graf

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