Steffi Graf - who took the tennis world by storm!
This 1962 born former World No.1 German tennis player is indeed a jewel when it comes to the realm of sports in the global arena. Her father Peter Graf, a car and insurance salesman besides being an aspiring tennis coach, introduced her to the game and thus, from the very tender age of 4, Steffi began devoting her time and attention to tennis, which led on to her success from the early years of her foray into it.
Her full-fledged professional career took off in 1982, when she was just 13 years old. However, age was never a deterrent for her immense zeal and passion for the sports. She started off on a bright note, and eventually, went on winning one laurel after another.
From 1986 onwards, her career graph spelt a spate of successes, starting out with her winning her first WTA tournament against Chris Evert. This was followed by such similar moments of glory, though her best phase was yet to arrive. 1987 is considered to be the year of her breakthrough when Steffi rose to the zenith of success, with her gaining victory over six tournaments in the Grand Slam, heading into the French Open. The highlight of this series of triumphs was the tournament in Miami, where she defeated Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the semi final and final respectively. In total, she has won a whopping 22 Grand Slam singles titles!
In 1988, she became the first and only tennis player till date to achieve the Calendar Year Golden Slam by winning all the four Grand Slam singles titles as well as Olympic gold medal in the same year. The Women’s Tennis Association ranked her the World’s No.1 for holding the no.1 ranking for a record period of time- a total of 377 weeks, which is the longest period for any male or female player to have held it since the ranks began to be issued by the concerned organizations. Her powerful inside-out forehand drive was her forte, coupled with her intricate footwork. Her powerful and incredibly accurate serve (180 km/hr.) was the one of the fastest in women’s tennis. In addition to these, she was a well-equipped volleyer, and had quite a few other such weapons which she dexterously used. Her versatility is commendable since she holds the record of being the only singles player (male or female) to have achieved a Calendar Year Grand Slam while playing on different types of tennis courts such as Rebound Ace, grass, clay etc.
She was in the limelight once for the wrong reason when in October 1993, Gunten Parche, a 39 year old unemployed lathe operator had stabbed the then World’s No.1 women’s tennis player Monica Seles during one of her quarter-final matches in Hamburg. Though the attack was serious, it did not threaten her life; and the assailant was reportedly a victim of mental imbalance. He was said to be an ardent fan of Steffi Graf, to whom Seles was a rival, and his obsession to seeing Graf regain the no.1 position prompted this attack. This controversy occupied the headlines for quite some time though it failed to blot her career in any considerable way, as she braved all odds and rose to the position she deserved.
Many regard her as the greatest tennis player of all times, be it the stalwarts in the sports or even other illustrious people from diverse fields. She married Andre Agassi, the World’s no.1 men’s tennis player, in 2001, and has also been blessed with two children. Though she retired in 1999, while she held the world rank of 3, she will continue to shine in all her prosperity and splendour owing to the indelible mark that she has left not only in the history of tennis, but that of sports in general.