Tennis legend Stefanie ‘Steffi’ Graf is routinely voted one of the greatest players in the history of the game. As she turns 47 today, we look at 5 records the former top-ranked player set during her career that many players since have struggled to match.
Shortest ever Grand Slam final
1988 was Graf’s annus mirabilis, or the best year of her career. The German won every Grand Slam title that year and top prize at the Olympics in South Korea. But in a display of just how dominant she had been, she won a Grand Slam final with a double bagel.
In what would go down in history as the most one-sided Grand Slam final of all time, Graf beat Natalia Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in 32 minutes.
It continues to be the only double bagel grand slam final in the Open Era
Only tennis player to win each Grand Slam four times
The German ace has a long list of Slam titles to her credit – but she is not just dominant on one surface. Graf won titles at clay, grass and hard court Grand Slams, and each multiple times. She has won every Grand Slam on at least four occasions; for that to be a minimum statistic at that level of competition is a staggering feat, and one that is yet to be replicated.
It is Serena Williams who is one French Open title away from equalling that record; she has six titles each at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – but only (no mean feat in itself) three titles at Roland Garros, leaving her one French Open title short of Graf’s record.
She had the opportunity to equal that record this year, progressing to the finals of the tournament, but was upset by 22-year-old Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who ousted her in straight sets to take the first Grand Slam title of her own career.
Only tennis player in history to win a Golden Slam
Five women in the history of the game have won the Calendar Slam – which is when a player holds the title at all four majors in a calendar year simultaneously. Graf achieved the feat in 1988, winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open all that year.
That same year, Graf also won singles gold at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Tennis had returned to the Olympic roster that year after a 64-year gap, and Graf dominated the tournament, facing Gabriela Sabatini in the final.
She had already played – and defeated – Sabatini in the finals of the US Open, and repeated the feat to take Olympic Gold – in the same year she won all four Grand Slams.
It is a feat no tennis player, male or female, has been able to replicate.
This year, however, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who has already won the Australian Open and French Open, has looked in dominant form; as the reigning champion at Wimbledon, the Serb looks to be in a position to win that title in addition to being the favourite for the men’s singles at the Olympics.
We could see Djokovic perhaps match Graf’s record this year at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Most weeks ranked No. 1
Graf held the WTA’s top ranking for a record 377 weeks – the highest of any player, male or female, in tennis. The only player to near her title is Swiss former No. 1 Roger Federer, who spent a total of 302 weeks (non-continuously) at top spot. Federer also holds the record for most consecutive weeks at that ranking at 237 – an all-time high for any player male or female – but his overall stint as the top-ranked player is eclipsed by Graf’s.
Given the form Novak Djokovic has been in, it is unlikely that Federer will return to the No. 1 position – meaning that this record does not look like it will be beaten in the near future.
Djokovic himself will need another 174 weeks – over 3 years – at the World No. 1 ranking – to be able to surpass that record, and while his current form augurs well, he will need to be able to sustain it and his body at his current level of play to be able to achieve it.
Only singles player to win the Grand Slam on three diferent surfaces
5 women have held all four Majors in a calendar year, and Graf is one of them. What is unique to Graf, however, is the fact that she is the only one to have achieved the feat across three surfaces.
The US Open was played on grass courts prior to the introduction of hard courts at the tournament, a change that took place in 1978.
Graf won all of her Majors after that year, making her the only player, male or female, to have won the singles Grand Slam across three surfaces.