Recall the first time Tennis caught your attention
I was born in 1982, and my earliest tennis memory is of my mother asking my father "Did Martina win again?". He said "Yes, but it was close and she's getting on now". Then some time later, the same question. This time he replied "No, she lost," to which my mother said "Ah, she's had her day, then". I presume those years were 1987-88, and they were, of course, referring to Wimbledon.
So, when I saw Martina Navratilova on the TV for the first time in 1992, I naturally wanted her to win. She was the only player of whom I had any vague knowledge, playing an eager-looking youngster who was the talk of tennis: Seles Seles Seles. At just 10, I'd no idea she was my elder by only 8 years.
I watched the match on the evening highlights, and my over all impression, judging by the commentary and who received the most clapping (not knowing the rules or court dimensions), was that Seles was too good. Martina seemed dejected between points, pouting and cursing. I immediately took a disliking to Seles, because it didn't seem fair. I always supported the aging legend Davis against his usurper, Hendry, in snooker, so once again it was the elder player who won my allegiance. I recall a fan shouting "You're still the best, Martina", a reassurance obviously lightening the reality, as she left the grounds with her entourage.
In the other semi-final, my attention was instantly caught by a woman with long, black curly hair and latin Eldorado-type looks. She seemed familiar to the commentators, and I knew that to reach the semi-finals she must have been a decent player. Yet she was finding it hard going against a tall, severe-looking German woman. I have an indelible image of the latin beauty groaning as she lunged for a lob, only for her dominator to dismissively signal the ball boys for the next ball even before the shot had bounced long. It was a comfortable win for Graf over Sabatini. The following day in the Newsagents I saw a magazine with "Gabi" across its cover: "Is this her year?". I hadn't followed tennis for more than a day, but already I knew the magazine was old.
In the final, I wanted Graf to win because Seles had beaten my favourite. My dad told me that was unlikely because Graf had won Wimbledon several times before, but Seles was the best in the game and had beaten Graf. But I couldn't understand why. In the snippets of the final I saw, between the rain delays, Graf was clearly overwhelming Seles. My dad kept telling me Seles would come back, but it never happened and Graf was the champion. Seles wasn't as good as people believed and I didn't know what all the fuss had been about. In the interview she said "I didn't play my best, but also Steffi didn't allow me to play my best," which I thought was quite gracious.
The following spring she was stabbed, and Graf won Wimbledon over Novotna. I truly didn't realise what the game was missing. In 1994 I became a fan of Sanchez-Vicario, and I remember sitting watching the teletext scores when she defeated Graf in the '94 US Open final.
It wasn't until I read an article about Monica in 1995, shortly before her return, that I was enlightened. I had more knowledge of the other major tournaments by that time, so I understood just how prodigous Seles had been. I was sick of Graf winning slams, having regained her dominance over Sanchez-Vicario, and here was a woman who, at just 19, had already beaten Steffi in 3 slam finals. From then on I followed Seles avidly, buying videos of all her triumphs. Her style of play was electrifying, and I always hoped that she'd regain her dominance, until it became clear in the late 90s that it wasn't to be.
Those are my earliest memories. How about yours?
Last edited by Steffica Greles; Sep 15th, 2004 at 02:07 PM.