Steffi Graf is a retired German tennis player, and easily one of the greatest of all time. In fact, until Serena Williams eclipsed her Open Era record of 22 Grand Slams, Graf was widely considered THE greatest player of all time.
Graf has many astonishing records to her name, and is far the only player - male or female - to win the Calender Golden Slam (all 4 Slams plus Olympic gold in a single year). She is the standard by which all great women's players are judged, and continues to be an inspiration for millions across the world even decades after her retirement.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: 4-time Champion (1988, 1989, 1990, 1994)
French Open: 6-time Champion (1987, 1988, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999)
Wimbledon: 7-time Champion (1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996)
US Open: 5-time Champion (1988, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1996)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
No. of weeks at No. 1: 377
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Graf was an out-and-out aggressor, aiming for the lines with her groundstrokes all the time. While she approached the net a fair bit at Wimbledon, she was primarily a baseline player for much of her career.
Graf's forehand was her dominant wing, and also her single biggest weapon. Many consider her forehand to be the best that the women's game has ever seen; she hit it with an unorthodox action, but could generate tremendous pace and spin with it.
The German's backhand was solid, but it was mainly a slice. She all but eliminated the topspin backhand from her repertoire mid-way through her career, and instead chose to rely on the slice to set up points for her forehand.
Graf had a good serve and return, and she used both to grab the ascendancy in points. She could volley competently, although that was not the strongest aspect of her game.
The German had excellent movement too, and used aggressive footwork to turn defense into offense.
Significant Steffi Graf records
The list of records compiled by Graf is almost never-ending; here are the most significant ones:
- Most weeks ranked World No. 1: 377
- Joint-most consecutive weeks ranked World No. 1: 186 (record shared with Serena Williams)
- Most years ended as World No. 1: 8
- Only player in the Open Era to have won the Calendar Grand Slam (all 4 Slams in a single year)
- Only player in history to have won the Calendar Golden Slam (all 4 Slams plus Olympic gold in a single year)
- Only player in history to have won each Slam at least 4 times
- Most number of consecutive Grand Slam finals reached: 13
- One of only two players to win a Grand Slam final with a double bagel (1988 French Open)
- Highest ever winning percentage at Grand Slams: 89.67% (278-32 record)
- Highest ever winning percentage at Wimbledon: 91.35% (74-7 record)
Graf was born in Mannheim, Germany, but moved to Bruhl when she was nine. She started playing tennis at the age of three, and her father Peter was her first coach.
She later also worked with Pavel Slozil, but was coached primarily by Heinz Gunthardt from 1990 until the end of her career.
Graf turned pro at the exceptionally early age of 13, and broke into the top 100 in her very first year. While she played a limited schedule in her first few years, she still notched up several impressive wins before ultimately making her Grand Slam breakthrough at the age of 18.
The German is known to be shy and reserved by nature, and the start of her career she didn't make a lot of friends on the tour. However, that also helped her focus better on her tennis, and she was cited as an example of single-minded determination throughout her career.
In 1995 Graf faced charges of tax evasion from German authorities, but she claimed the fault lay entirely with her father, who was in charge of her finances. She never faced jail time, but did pay a fine of 1.3 million Deutsche Marks as penalty; her father, meanwhile, served 25 months in prison.
In 2001, two years after her retirement, Graf married fellow tennis legend Andre Agassi. The couple have two children together - Jaden Gill and Jaz Elle.
To say that Graf will be remembered forever by the history books would be an understatement. She compiled a staggering career that surpassed everything that came before it, and had the most legitimate claim to the GOAT title until Serena Williams came along.
She won everything in sight at the start of her career, and again in the middle of her career. For a while she finished second best to Monica Seles, but the unfortunate stabbing attack on Seles in 1993 meant that Graf had no serious challenger in the latter half of her career.
The German was so far above the competition that she almost turned the women's tour into a one-woman show. Her forehand was a game-changer, and when she was at her peak she looked more invincible than any player before or since.
Throughout all her successful years though, Graf also comported herself with grace and elegance, both on and off the court, and that won her millions of fans all over the world. One such fan was Andre Agassi himself, who wrote in his book 'Open' that he was so smitten by Graf's persona and legacy that he could barely muster the courage to talk to her at the start of their courtship.
Graf has remained the personification of class even after her retirement, contributing to several charities and making occasional public appearances for good causes.
Social media presence:
Steffi Graf Facebook: Stefanie Graf