In the 1980s and 1990s Steffi Graf of Germany became one of the leading players on the women’s professional tennis tour, winning many major tournaments.
Steffi Graf, born in 1969, German professional tennis player, who in 1988 became only the fifth player to win the grand slam of tennis, with victories at the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the United States Open in one calendar year. In her career, Graf won a total of 22 major singles titles. Only Australian player Margaret Smith Court, with 24, won more.
Graf was born in Brühl, West Germany (now part of Germany). Coached by her father, Peter, a soccer star, and encouraged by her tennis-playing mother, Heidi, she was already playing tennis at the age of six. In 1982, at the age of 13, Graf became the second-youngest tennis player ever to be ranked as a professional.
By 1985 Graf had reached the number-six ranking, but she had not yet won a tournament. In 1986, however, she won eight singles championships, including victories in tournament finals over the dominant players in women's tennis, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. In 1987 Graf won 45 consecutive matches and captured 11 tournaments, including the French, Italian, and German opens and the Women's International Tennis Association's indoor and outdoor championships. In 79 matches that year, her only losses were to Navratilova in the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
In 1988, by winning Wimbledon and the Australian, French, and U.S. opens, Graf became the fifth player to achieve the grand slam, following Don Budge in 1938, Maureen Connolly in 1953, Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969, and Margaret Smith Court in 1970. Graf also won the women’s tennis gold medal at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. She opened 1989 with a fifth consecutive grand-slam tournament victory by winning the Australian Open. She did not win the French Open in 1989, but she retained her titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Throughout the 1990s Graf remained one of the elite players in women’s tennis. She won the Australian Open twice (1990, 1994), the French Open four times (1993, 1995, 1996, 1999), Wimbledon five times (1991-1993, 1995, 1996), and the U.S. Open three times (1993, 1995, 1996). In the early and mid-1990s Graf and Yugoslavian-born player Monica Seles developed a rivalry as the world's two best female players. Graf announced her retirement shortly after losing to American player Lindsay Davenport in the 1999 Wimbledon finals.
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