Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Steffi lives it up - New Graf steps out in style
Sunday, February 16, 1992
Steffi Graf's first visit to Chicago wasn't memorable. Many of the people who put on the Virginia Slims of Chicago tournament didn't even remember she was here in 1986.
"I was a much different person then," Graf said. "I was by myself, and I walked the streets a lot."
That Graf played only doubles, pairing with Gabriela Sabatini. They reached the final before losing to the then-famous "Twin Towers" of 6-1 1/2 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and 6-2 Helena Sukova. Graf also was starting with a new coach, Pavel Slozil, at that tournament.
The Steffi Graf visiting for this Chicago Slims - in what well could be her last appearance here - is a different person indeed.
Instead of walking the streets alone, she is seeing the sights. All the sights.
On Monday, it was the Art Institute; on Tuesday, the Bulls' game; on Thursday, the Steppenwolf Theater to see John Malkovich in "A Slip of the Tongue." She also found "a couple of nice restaurants."
"I watch a lot of basketball matches," she said. After watching the Bulls, she acknowledged Michael Jordan "really nailed 'em."
That's hardly a comment you would expect from an athlete portrayed by the international media as insular and one-dimensional.
The player who held the world's No. 1 ranking longer than anyone else - man or woman - does guard her privacy, a lesson learned with difficulty in Europe after her father was charged in a paternity suit by a German model. She calls the German press "horrible."
While she fulfils her media commitments, she makes no effort to enhance her charisma.
"I do not care about public images," she said. "I do not work on this at all."
Graf, though, is not one-dimensional. Driven, yes.
She loves photography, skiing, movies and impressionist art. She enjoys all music, but especially Phil Collins and Bruce Springsteen. She enjoys reading, primarily works of German authors. She has three dogs.
Though she has no steady boyfriend, she has been known to enjoy the company of men.
Vogue magazine used her as a model, but she isn't likely to pursue that employment area.
"I saw Cindy Crawford on TV," she said. "There's a long way to go (for me)."
Still, her father once reported that Playboy magazine offered $750,000 if Graf would pose nude.
As for tennis, she admits to being "jealous" of Martina Navratilova's approaching a record 158 singles championships. But she has no plans to chase that mark.
At 22, Graf has 61 titles. Navratilova is 35. Graf doesn't think she will be playing that long.
She isn't so driven by tennis that she lives on the court, like many of her rivals who play both singles and doubles. Navratilova always has done that. Graf stopped playing regular doubles three years ago.
The only thing similar about the Graf of 1986 and the Graf of this week is that she again is breaking in a new coach. Heinz Gunthardt, an affable former Davis Cup star for Switzerland, has replaced Slozil.
Gunthardt has no coaching experience, having spent his time recently doing television work and writing in Europe. Gunthardt lives with his wife and two young daughters in Zurich, a three-hour car ride from the Grafs' German residence in Bruhl.
"The father (Peter Graf) called me before the ( Virginia Slims Championships) to see if I could come for a few days of sparring," Gunthardt said. "Afterward, he called again and wanted me to go to Australia with them."
Graf got sick at the Australian Open. A case of rubella, the German measles, left her bedridden for two weeks. That's the only reason she competed here.
Normally, Graf would have played the warmup tournaments for the year's first Grand Slam - the Australian Open - then the Australian and the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
After that, she would move to her American residence in Boca Raton, Fla., where she lives in a house with her parents in an adjoining villa. All are surrounded by dense palm trees and a driveway usually lined with sports cars.
Chicago would be a rest week for her first American tournament, the Virginia Slims of Florida in Boca Raton. There would be no need to play an indoor tournament in between all those outdoor ones.
Graf, though, needed competition this year after missing the Australian swing and Tokyo.
Whether she plays Chicago again is doubtful, but the week did give Gunthardt his first close look at the woman who was ranked No. 1 for 186 weeks in a row - ending on March 11, 1991, when Monica Seles took over.
"Steffi likes to work," Gunthardt said. "Even if it's early, she's there and ready to go. That's very nice. Sometimes, she expects too much of herself."
They practiced 45 minutes twice a day here, usually at Mid-Town Tennis Club. "Then we did our own thing," Gunthardt said. He will be part of the Graf entourage at only about half the tournaments. The only other member of that entourage this week has been Graf's mother, Heidi.
"Steffi doesn't need a coach every day of the year," Gunthardt said. "Your input comes across better if you don't see each other all the time."
He won't comment on the coaching work of Slozil and said he will be paid a flat salary regardless of Graf's record on the court.
"I'm a small piece of the puzzle," he said. "Obviously, I'd like her to win tournaments. It'll be challenging to work with her. My goals are to do the best I can, even if she doesn't win. Her goals are more black and white."
Such as being No. 1.
"I was disappointed I couldn't play the Australian," she said.
"I practiced hard before it. But I'm really eager right now because this is my first tournament in 2 1/2 months, and I'm 100 percent fit."