CHAT ROOM: Steffi Graf, Former tennis pro
By Lisa Kilborn
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Steffi Graf, whose forehand could have knocked the racket right out of the steadiest of hands, retired in 1999. She remains in the public eye, watching her husband, Andre Agassi, compete.
Graf, 34, will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 11 in Newport, R.I., for the Hall's 50th anniversary. She will be inducted along with Sweden's Stefan Edberg and California's Dorothy "Dodo" Cheney.
Graf won 107 WTA singles titles, including 22 Grand Slam championships. Among her major feats was the 1988 Grand Slam, which she achieved the old-fashioned way: by winning all four majors in the same calendar year. She also earned the 1988 Olympic gold medal in Seoul, making it a Golden Slam.
Even the finest pros rarely win all four Slams in their entire careers, yet Graf took that a step further by winning each major at least four times.
What do you think separated you from your peers during your career that you were able to accomplish so much?
Well, I think that my passion and desire for the sport, it has given me such a drive. I enjoyed working out, I enjoyed all of those parts, and I think that made me who I am. That made me the player that I was. I was more driven by the way I was playing, rather than with the result of the tournaments.
How has tennis changed in Germany since you were a little girl?
Tennis grew incredibly because we were blessed to have a few great players at the time with Boris Becker, Michael Stich, and with Anke Huber and myself. There was so many players that had different characters and made it real interesting in our home country to turn on the TV or come out to the matches and start getting involved and get interested in what we were doing. It certainly was a big boom.
Is there a WTA player today whom you would really like to have gotten to play in your career?
There are not many players that I haven't played. The only one I didn't actually play was [Justine] Henin-Hardenne, and I got to meet her a few weeks ago. I have to say I'm impressed with what she has achieved the last few years, and I love her game.
Did you have a tennis hero when you were young?
I can't say that I've had heroes, but who I really admired for their talent and the way they played were Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.
Did you feel that when you won the Grand Slam that you were so young at 19 that you were not even fully aware of what you were accomplishing then?
Well, I mean, to an extent, I was aware, because I had to answer a lot of questions throughout the later part of the Grand Slam tournament. The questions started to arise around Wimbledon and winning Wimbledon, there was a lot of hype around it, if I can do it or not.
If you could go back and just look at perhaps one or two things that you would have changed in your career, what would they have been?
I practiced extremely hard, and I think, looking back, I wish that I would have just taken it a little easier. I think, you know, what can I say? I have no regrets, and I wouldn't change a thing.
The chances of you and Andre playing mixed doubles, are we looking at slim and none?
Yeah, extremely slim. Extremely, extremely slim.
How much are you getting out and playing these days?
It feels great to be on the court. I love it. I still love it.