Stefanie Graf Back to Main
ON WHOSAY SINCE: Feb 19, 2011


Steffi Graf started playing tennis at age 3, coached by her father, Peter. Under the area's tennis program, as the best girl, she would usually play against the worst boy -- who was usually Boris Becker. After winning the German and European Juniors, she turned pro on 18 October 1982. The next day, she lost to Tracy Austin, who was less-than impressed, telling reporters that there were "hundreds of girls" like Graf back in the States. Peter kept a tight rein on Steffi's career to ensure that she wouldn't "burn out" as she climbed up the rankings. She finally won her first title on 13 April 1986, defeating Chris Evert at the Family Circle Cup. She would win 107 WTA tournaments, including 22 Majors. In 1988, she joined Don Budge, Rod Laver, Maureen Connolly, and Margaret Court as the only players in tennis history to win a calendar-year Grand Slam, and the only one to win it on four different surfaces.

She found herself at the center of a near-tragedy on 30 April 1993. As then-arch rival Monica Seles was resting during a changeover at the Hamburg Open, a man made his way through the stands, and plunged a knife into her back. At first, it was thought the attack was prompted by the conflict in Seles's Yugoslavia. But it turned out Guenter Parche was a Graf fan, and reasoned that if he took Seles out, Graf would regain the #1 ranking. The attack reverberated across sports. It also changed the course of tennis history. Seles was off the court for 27 months, and never regained her dominating form. Graf visited Seles in the hospital, but didn't comment publicly about the incident until 2004.

Graf retired on 13 August 1999 after beating Martina Hingis at Roland Garros, and losing to Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon. By this time, she was dating Andre Agassi, whom also won Roland Garros, but was a finalist at Wimbledon that year. With only their mothers as witnesses, they were married on 22 October 2001 at his Las Vegas home. Their son, Jaden Gil, was born four days later. Their daughter, Jaz Elle, was born on 3 October 2003.

Famous for her killer instinct and business-like approach, at times she displayed a sense of humor. During a tight 1995 Wimbledon match against Kimiko Date, she was serving when a fan yelled out "Steffi!" Everyone, including Steffi, burst out laughing. Composing herself, she readied to serve when the fan shouted "Steffi! Will you marry me?" The stadium burst into peals of laughter and play was delayed for a couple of minutes. Steffi readied to serve, tossed the ball, caught it, turned, and yelled to the fan: "How much money do you have?" Graf lost the set, but won the match to face (and defeat) Arantxa Sánchez Vicario for the title.

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