Stefanie Maria "Steffi" Graf, world renowned as Steffi Graf, is the only tennis player in the history to have won each Grand Slam event at least four times. Here are some really interesting things to know about the former tennis player:
She was born Stefanie Maria Graff, on June 14, 1969, at 4:40 am CET, in Mannheim, West Germany. She is elder of two children to Heidi Schalk and Peter Graf, a car and insurance salesman. She prefers to be called Stefanie instead of Steffi.
Her father spotted her talent when she was three years old and gave her a sawed-off handle to swing. He used their family living room as an improvised tennis court and would reward her with ice cream when she was able to sustain long rallies.
She played her first tournament at the age of five and began winning junior tournaments. She won the German junior under-18 championship when she was just 13 years of age.
She turned professional at 13 years and 4 months of age and played her first tournament in October 1982 at Stuttgart, Germany. She lost in the first round to Tracy Austin, 6-4, 6-0.
She was the second youngest player to earn an international ranking of 124, just few weeks after turning professional. Her ranking climbed steadily from No.98 in 1983 to No. 06 in 1985.
Graf won her first title on April 13, 1986, defeating Chris Evert at the Family Circle Cup, in Hilton Head. Although she won the tennis demonstration event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she was not awarded any medal, for it was not an official event.
In the same year she won seven more tournament including a win against Martina Navratilova at German Open, in Berlin, on clay by 6-2, 6-3.
The year 1987 was a breakthrough year with six tournament victories heading into French Open. On March 07, 1987, she defeated both Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert en route to Miami Open Title at Key Biscayne, USA.
Graf won her first career Grand Slam title by winning the 1987 French Open, defeating Navratilova, World No1, in the finals 6-4, 4-6, 8-6. Earlier she had beaten Gabriela Sabatini in the semi-final.
Following her success at French, she entered 1987 Wimbledon as the second seed and reached the final defeating Sabatini and Pam Shriver on the way, before losing to Navratilova 7-5, 6-3.
After her victory at WTA tournament at Los Angeles, defeating Chris Evert, 6-3, 6-4, she attained world No.1 for the first time on August 17, 1987 and held it for 186 consecutive weeks, a record yet to be broken. She had a winning percentage of 97.4 in the year.
She started the year 1988 on a winning note with the Australian Open without losing a set. She defeated Chris Evert in the finals 6-1, 7-6. She went on to win at San Antonio, Key Biscayne and the German Open tournaments.
Graf defended her French Open, defeating Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in 32 minutes in one of the shortest Grand Slam finals and the only double bagel in major finals since 1911.
After defeating the reigning champion, Navratilova at Wimbledon for her third major of the year, she entered the U.S Open as the first seed and hot favorite. She defeated Sabatini in the final by three sets 6-3, 3-6, 6-1and claimed the Grand Slam. Her Grand Slams is the only one completed on three different surfaces, grass, clay and hard court.
When Graf won the Gold Medal at 1988 Seoul Olympics defeating Sabatini 6-3, 6-3, she achieved what is a called ‘Golden Grand Slam.’ She had won all the four major tennis event of the year and the Olympic title, a rare feat never repeated by anyone.
She maintained her Grand Slam winning streak with her back-to-back 1989 Australian Open defeating sixth seed Helena Sukova of Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-4.
Graf lost the 1989 French Open to 17 years old Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain from a winning position. She squandered her chances from serving 5-3 for the match in the third set. She attributed her loss due to food poisoning and menstrual cramps.
She reached the finals of 1989 Wimbledon after defeating Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Chris Evert en-route. She overcame Navratilova, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 in the finals.
Graf rounded up the year with her third Grand Slam of the season at U.S Open, with 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Navratilova. She followed it up with title at Zurich, Brighton and Virginia Slims Championship for 86-2 win loss for the year and cemented her top ranked status.
In 1990, when a German tabloid reported a scandal involving Graf father, she broke down in tears at a Wimbledon press conference and the authorities threatened to shut down subsequent press conference if the issue is brought up again.
The lowest point of her career was in 1991, when she had personal difficulties in addition to injuries. She lost her form and her world No.1 ranking with just one Grand Slam, the Wimbledon to her credit. She also split with her long-time coach Pavel Slozil.
In her career she experienced minor injury problems starting with broken thumb in 1990 followed by surgery for removal of bone fragments from her right foot in 1993 and on her left foot in 1995. An ailing patella tendon on her left foot called for a serious operation in June 1997, which was followed with a damaged hamstring. All this resulted in her career going up and down as it progressed.
On August 13, 1999, after retiring with a strained hamstring from second round match against Amy Frazer in San Diego, Graf announced her retirement from tennis career.
In 1998, she founded a non-profit foundation ‘Children for Tomorrow’ in support of children who are the victims of war and others crisis.
In 1997, it was revealed that Graf a devote Christian who had the privilege of meeting Pope, was leaving the Church. Although no reason was given, it is believed the church imposed tax by Charlemagne to finance religion in Germany may have prompted her decision.
After dating racing driver Michael Bartels, for some time, she fell in love with Andre Agassi in 1999 and they married on October 22, 2001. They have a son Jaden Gil and a daughter Jaz Elle.
She has used Dunlop Max racquet earlier in career before switching over to Wilson. Her racquets were strung at 29 kilograms, which is significantly well above recommended by Wilson. She endorses Adidas apparel sneakers line and was the ambassador of Kerala tourism promoting Ayurveda.
In 2010, Graf participated in the WTT Smash Hits exhibition match in Washington D.C. to support the ‘Elton John AIDS Foundation.’
Graf was voted the ‘ITF World Champion’ seven times and ‘WTA Player of the Year’ eight times in her career. She was also elected as the ‘German Sportsperson of the Year’ five times.
Graf has won 22 Grand Slam singles and one doubles out of her 118 career titles. She was placed world No.1 for 377 cumulative weeks, the longest reign of any male or female player in history. She was inducted into ‘International Tennis Hall of Fame’ in 2004.