Born in: Mannheim, West Germany
Career: Professional tennis player
Steffi Graph is a former World No.1 female tennis player from Germany. She is also considered as one of the greatest female tennis players in the history of the game. She holds 22 Grand Slam titles, more than hundred single titles and has also won Olympic medal as well. Read on to find out more about her biography, childhood and profile.
Stefanie Maria Graf was born on June 14, 1969, in Mannheim, West Germany. Her father Peter Graf was a car and insurance salesman and an aspiring tennis coach. Her mother's name is Heidi. Steffi's father was the one who introduced her to tennis at the tender age of three. He showed her how to swing a wooden racket; in the family living room. She began to play tennis when she was just four years old. But it wasn't until she was thirteen that she began to play professionally.
The main weapon in her game was her powerful inside-out forehand drive, which earned her the nick-name "Fraulein Forehand". She started to practice her moves right from her childhood, helped immensely by her father. She played her first professional tournament on October 1982 at Stuttgart, Germany when she was just thirteen years of age. In 1983, the 13-year old Graf was ranked World No.124. She kept improving her game immensely. In 1983, she steadily climbed to the place of 98, subsequently going to No.22 in 1984.
She was first noticed when she almost beat the then No.10 seed, Jo Durie of the United Kingdom in the year 1984. She represented West Germany in the tennis demonstration event at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and went on to win the event. Her father took care of the fact that she played a limited number of matches so that she would not burn herself out. For example, in 1985, Graf played only 10 games leading upto the U.S Open. She used to practice four hours a day with her father Peter Graf and her then coach Pavel Slozil.
During 1985 and 1986, she was the top challenger of Martina Navratilova and Chris Event. During this period, although she lost six times and did not even win any tournament but she consistently reached the semi-finals and finals. During the U.S.Open, the main highlight of her game was the semi-final loss to Navratilova. However, she went on to win her first ever WTA Tournament on April 13, 1986 when she beat Evert for the first time in the final of the Family Circle Cup in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
During the French Open, although she was the favorite to win the title, but as she fell ill, she lost to Hana Mandlikova in the quarter-finals, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1. Because of her illness, she went on to miss the Wimbledon. An accident thereafter broke her toe and for several weeks she could not practice which curtailed her momentum.
1987 is known as the breakthrough year for Graf. She started the year with six tournament wins heading to the French Open. The main highlight of the year was the tournament at Key Biscayne, Florida where she finally defeated Navratilova in a semi-final and Chris Evert in the final. In the French Open final, Graf again defeated Navratilova, who at the time was World No.1. However, she lost to Navratilova in the Wimbledon final, which was her first loss of the year.
The next year, 1988 started strongly for Graf with the Australian Open in her kitty. During the French Open she defended her title by defeating Natalia Zvereva in a 32 minute final match. The next stop for Graf was the Wimbledon where Navratilova was going strong with wins in six straight games. Although Graf was behind Navratilova in the score-card, but she eventually went on to win the match. Subsequently, she won many tournaments in Hamburg and Mahwah as well.
Graf also won her only Grand Slam Doubles title that same year, at Wimbledon partnering with Sabatini and also won the doubles Olympic bronze medal. At the end of 1988, she was named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year because of her outstanding performance all through the year. In 1989, Graf followed her winning streak with various other tournament wins at Washington D.C., San Antonio, Texas, Boca Raton, Florida and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
It was during this year that Graf's Grand Slam winning streak ended when the 17-year old Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario beat Graf in three sets. But, in 1990, Graf came back strongly and defeated Mary Joe Fernandez in the final of the Australian Open, which was her eighth ever Grand Slam single title in the last nine that she has contested in. Because of her injury problems, personal difficulties and loss of form, 1991 was a tough year for her. She established herself again as the victorious player on the women's tour after she won the Australian Open, French Open and the U.S.Open. She finished the year with a record 186 consecutive-weeks holding on to the World No.1 title.
During the last few years of her career, she had to deal with injuries, particularly to her knees and back. Because of these injuries, she missed the tour in 1997 and also lost her World No.1 title to Martina Hingis. She also failed to win a Grand Slam title for the first time in ten years.
It was in August 1999 that Graf announced her retirement from tennis. She was the World No.3 at that time. In total, Steffi Graf won 107 singles title and 11 doubles title. Her 22 Grand Slam singles title are next only to Margaret Court who had won 24 titles. She has also won 7 singles title at Wimbledon, 6 singles title at the French Open, 5 singles title at the U.S.Open and 4 singles title at the Australian Open.
She is the only player who has won atleast 13 singles title in the Wimbledon and French Open. The total career earnings of Steffi Graf is estimated to be US $21,895,277, which was a record until Lindsay Davenport surpassed her in January 2008.
Soon after she retired from the game, she started dating the former Men’s World No.1 tennis player, Andre Agassi. Subsequently, they got married in October 2001 with only their mothers as the witnesses to their wedding. Just after four days of marriage, Steffi Graf gave birth to their son Jaden Gil and on October 3, 2003, their daughter Jaz Elle was born.
- 1986: "Most Improved Player," by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA)
- 1987 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1987 "World Champion," by the International Tennis Federation (ITF)
- 1988 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1988 "World Champion," by the ITF
- 1988 "BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year"
- 1989 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1989 "World Champion," by the ITF
- 1989 "Female Athlete of the Year," by the Associated Press
- 1990 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1990 "World Champion," by the ITF
- 1993 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1993 "World Champion," by the ITF
- 1994 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1995 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1995 "World Champion," by the ITF
- 1996 "Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1996 "World Champion," by the ITF
- 1996 "Most Exciting Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1998 "Most Exciting Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1999 "Most Exciting Player of the Year," by the WTA
- 1999 "Prince of Asturias Award," one of the most important awards of Spain and named after the heir apparent of Spain, Prince Felipe
- 1999 "Germany Television Award"
- 1999 "Athlete of the Century" for the category "Female Athlete in Ballsports" by a panel of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
- 1999 "Female Athlete of the Year," by the German television broadcaster ARD
- 1999 "Female Sports Award of the Last Decade," by ESPY
- 1999 "Olympic Medal of Honor" granted by Dr. Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC
- 2002 "Medal of Honor," bestowed by the prime minister of Graf's home state Baden-Württemberg, Erwin Teufel
- 2004 Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame
- Steffi Graf is the only female to be selected for Forbes Top-30 "Most recognizable and marketable athletes" list in 1995.
- Selected for "European Heroes" in 2004 by TIME Magazine.
- Voted "Germans greatest role model" by TV14 magazine.
- Voted "Most admirable German woman" by Amica magazine.
- Voted "Germany's Sportswoman of the Century" in 1999 by the German press.
- Steffi Graf is the only person to have won the 'Golden Slam' (1988)
- Steffi Graf is the first German to win the Spain's 'Prince of Asturias' award.