Steffi Graf is an inspiring sportsperson
For me, the focus and energy level that I get from physically challenging myself on a daily basis – not to mention the obvious health benefits – is irreplaceable. -Steffi Graf. Ranked by the World Tennis Association [WTA] as its top woman player, Steffi Graf holds the record for maintaining that rank for 377 weeks. Reigning over both clay and grass courts during her 13 year long career, Graf describes herself as being “tough as iron, even as a child”. Born in 1969, she picked up her first tennis racket at age 3, and went on to win her first youth tennis tournament at age 6. She turned pro at the age of 13 with her father Peter as her manager, and was ranked 214 in the world. She also became the first German tennis player to have won the Orange Bowl youth world championship in Florida . Making the decision to quit attending public school after she lost her first pro tournament appears to be a turning point in her life, and a moment of reckoning. She says that she was always aware that her future lay in carving a niche in the professional tennis circuit, and that her father’s support truly helped in shaping her routine. The move from public schooling to private tutoring allowed her to focus on her daily practice routine, which often extended to over 4 hours a day; on many occasions while she was traveling she would be driven directly to the practice courts for a rigorous training session. Socializing was minimal as her father and coach insisted on maintaining focus only on her game. Her ranking in the year 1983 is now 98th in the world. By 1984 she began her winning streak, and won the Olympic games invitational tournament in 1984, causing her ranking to jump to 22. 1986 saw her defeat Martina Navratilova, the then-world champion of women’s tennis. She was named Sportswoman of the Year. 1987 was the year, which made her reach the rank of World Number 1 in women’s tennis, which she achieved by winning 75 out of 77 matches. In 1988, she won her first Wimbledon tournament, and among other victories, won a gold medal at the Olympic summer games. Graf’s winning streak and pleasant demeanor on-court won her legions of loyal fans, some of whom took their obsessive love for her too far. In June 1993, Graf’s rival, tennis player Monica Seles, was stabbed by an obsessive Graf fan who wanted her [Seles] out of the game so that Graf could retain the number 1 spot currently occupies by Seles. Graf did get her number 1 spot back due to the incident, but has since felt responsible for the stabbing. 1995 saw Graf being named World Champion by the International Tennis Federation; she was also named “Women’s Player of the Year” by Tennis magazine. 1996 marked the decline of both her personal as well as professional life, as a series of health issues and family problems forced her to suffer numerous defeats; she also underwent knee surgery, which further reduces her ability to play. Graf retired in 1999 and was recognized as “Athlete of the century” by German sports reporters. She went on to marry fellow tennis player Andre Agassi in 2001. She officially entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004. Steffi Graf’s achievements are a result of tireless dedication, time management and effective prioritizing. The supportive family structure and training from an early age provided her with valuable experience, which served her well in her career. Winner of 107 singles titles including 22 Grand Slams and the Golden Slam, Graf is truly inspiration to women who are looking at a career in sports.