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View Full Version : Ten years ago? Time flies. Graf vs Venus in Sydney, '99


Steffica Greles
Jan 11th, 2009, 06:21 PM
I've always wanted to see this match.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=KQrJb2fO-Sc

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz0CGsRt1jM&feature=related

You get the impression that Steffi was really worn out by then, in her 30th year, but desperately holding on for one last chance to win a major (which, of course, happened 6 months later). She looked a mixture of relieved and elated to have defeated Venus in the below clip, having beaten Serena in the previous round, both matches having been in three gruelling sets. Those matches really took their toll on her. She lost to Davenport in the next round, and she admitted that her body didn't recover as quickly as it had done.

Steffi was shorter than Venus, and at nearly 30, looking a little more frail than she had done at the age of 21-27 (more boney around the shoulders), but was still in impeccable shape, with legs that just seemed to move of their own accord. By her tension, Venus looked to sense that Graf had a presence, an aura which was clinical. Steffi was so good at just 'getting the job done' and always played her best when behind. If Terminator had been female, she could have played the role as well as Arnie did. You just knew the woman was a champion by the way she carried herself, even without beholding her rasping forehand.

Venus looked a little over-awed by facing Steffi, being only 18. She was already a top five player and had defeated all the top players in the game at that stage, but whereas normally she was clinical, she seemed to have been uncharateristically tentative in this match.

The Williams sisters were known for respecting nobody in those days, and were often accused of having no humility. Often opponents would barely get a glance at the net. On this occasion, Venus gives the grand dame of women's tennis a respectful nod of appreciation. Venus has said before that she thinks of Steffi Graf as the greatest player of all time, and a 'real lady'.

Of course, in their next match in Hannover, Venus played superbly to take out Graf in 3 sets, and followed with a straight set win in Miami. In both of those matches Graf looked a little slower, jaded, and eventually, overpowered. At that stage, Graf's last slam seemed improbable. But then Steffi ended the rivalry with a win at Wimbledon, where she looked to have found an extra gear and on grass at least appeared quicker around the court than Venus, even weeks away from retirement.

This was the culmination of a glorious few months, when Graf defeated all of the game's top players, and some of the next generation: Hingis, Davenport, Novotna, Seles, Venus and a rapidly improving Serena Williams. It was that final run which, to me, gives Graf the edge as greatest of all-time over Navratilova because she proved herself against an entire new generation of players.

pigam
Jan 11th, 2009, 06:34 PM
Venus really was the "UBER AMAZONE" back in those days.
but boy! has her game improved leaps and bounds!! it's incredible.
People wh sometimes blame her for not improving her technique should watch, and watch again.


Steffi, well,... steffi was so unique.
Altho her game isn't that "pretty", to me, it just is! Very pretty, even.
The crafty slices, the amazing forehand, the balanced speed, and the clean volleys.

2 true champions. Thanks for posting :yeah:

LDVTennis
Jan 11th, 2009, 08:51 PM
I've always wanted to see this match.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=KQrJb2fO-Sc

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz0CGsRt1jM&feature=related

You get the impression that Steffi was really worn out by then, in her 30th year, but desperately holding on for one last chance to win a major (which, of course, happened 6 months later). She looked a mixture of relieved and elated to have defeated Venus in the below clip, having beaten Serena in the previous round, both matches having been in three gruelling sets. Those matches really took their toll on her. She lost to Davenport in the next round, and she admitted that her body didn't recover as quickly as it had done.

There is more to this story. It may, however, never be told because the principals in the story have no interest in telling it. But, occasionally, a detail comes out here and there.

What I know. Steffi altered her training regimen at the beginning of 1995. A back injury had disabled her in the 1994 US Open Final. Following that, she consulted with doctors. Apparently, she was told that any operation to repair a congenital bone spur in her back might end her career.

Not wanting that yet, she adopted new training techniques --- more stretching, less running, less on court practice, more stationary bike. She had a phenomenal 1995 season, despite not playing her best tennis.

By 1996, she was back in top physical form. I saw her play in person four different times that year. She looked great and she was playing tennis better than ever, amazing when you consider that she had cut down on both her oncourt and offcourt training.

She missed most of 1997 with a knee injury, which she first sustained at a warmup tournament to the 1996 Wimbledon. The first operation did not repair the problem and she had to have more extensive surgery for the injury at the end of 1997.

I saw her play in 1998 at Indian Wells. She looked great, she was moving great. And, she was playing well until a strain to one of her quads caused her to retire in a semi-final match to Davenport.

This would start to become a frustrating pattern. While the knee injury didn't cost her any speed, it had depleted her physical reserves. She just couldn't sustain her physical level over long tournaments. With the loss of those physical reserves, she also lost most of her confidence. Steffi's confidence used to come not from winning tournaments but from her training. The knee injury had forced her to curtail her training even more to the point where she was just doing on-court training a few hours a day, when everything felt good.

I saw her play two times in 1999 (at Indian Wells and La Costa). While she was still in great shape, she'd lost some of her muscle mass. To me, that was a sure sign that she was no longer doing as much cross-training as she had in the past. When I saw her play her last match at La Costa, I was surprised by how skinny she looked. Steffi had always been a very lithe athlete, but she had a lot of muscle mass, the kind that would become apparent when she was moving or hitting the ball. On that cool night in La Costa, she looked more like a model with those long legs, than a great athlete.

I was just watching the Tribute to Steffi that Eurosport did when Steffi retired. You can find it on youtube. Someone just posted it. Throughout the tribute, there is commentary from Steffi's last coach, Heinz Gunthardt. At one point, he opines that toward the end of her career it was coming to the point that to be as good as she once was Steffi was going to have to return to doing serving drills. To me, this makes a lot of sense. From 1995 onward, Steffi had relied a lot on all the years of muscle memory she had built up on all her strokes. By 1999, there wasn't much muscle memory left. So, to be as consistent as Steffi was at her peak, she was having to contemplate the possibility of going back to the kind of training she had done regularly in her early career. I don't think Steffi had the motivation or physical reserves to do that anymore.

For a few months, however, she had had quite a run. In the 1999 Wimbledon Quarterfinal, Steffi is as great as she ever was, the only difference being that at her peak she would have won in two sets, not three.

frenchie
Jan 11th, 2009, 09:11 PM
Venus couldn't hit a FH in the court!

Graf was neutralizing Venus with the slice BH

SM
Jan 11th, 2009, 10:01 PM
I remember watching this, loads of errors and raw talent in venus

Steffica Greles
Jan 11th, 2009, 10:26 PM
Venus couldn't hit a FH in the court!

Graf was neutralizing Venus with the slice BH

Exactly. People forget how damaging Graf's slice was, only remembering how it limited her.

Graf with a double-handed backhand or a rolled topspin backhand might have produced a few more baseline winners, but far more of her shots would have sat up for the kill. Against Venus, or even Seles years earlier, this would have left Graf more vulnerable. I always think of Elena Dementieva when I imagine Graf with a double-handed backhand. Okay, she'd have still been several leagues above Elena (no disrespect to her), but something similar.

People also forget how Graf thrived on the low speed of the ball. Both Graf's slice and her flat, thrusting forehand kept her opponents low to the ground that that they couldn't exert maximum power in response. Her slice was part of the strategy.

Zauber
Jan 11th, 2009, 10:39 PM
Thank you for really well written posts on Steffi Graf

Kart
Jan 11th, 2009, 11:02 PM
I'd forgotten how much I loved Steffi :hearts:.

Thanks for the links !

VSFan1 aka Joshua L.
Jan 12th, 2009, 01:13 AM
I remember staying up late in the night, waiting for the results to come in (this was before live scores). I was in an AOL chat room and we would hit refresh on the Yahoo sports constantly trying to find score updates!

As a Williams fan, Graf was the MOST intimidating player. I remember when Venus finally beat her at Hannover and thought, "Wow, she beat the QUEEN!"

Those were the days!

spencercarlos
Jan 12th, 2009, 02:46 AM
I'd forgotten how much I loved Steffi :hearts:.

Thanks for the links !
I hate that nose @June-July 1991 some final :rolleyes: :p

Anabelcroft
Jan 12th, 2009, 03:04 AM
just miss Steffi and all the drama around her matches...

Steffica Greles
Jan 12th, 2009, 03:24 AM
I still can't believe it's been ten years, to be honest...Novotna went that year too. It seems longer since Capriati or Seles or Sanchez-Vicario retired, to me. I'm not sure why.

calico_101
Jan 12th, 2009, 10:39 PM
Graf was a one-off. There'll never be another like her.

Olórin
Jan 12th, 2009, 10:52 PM
This was the culmination of a glorious few months, when Graf defeated all of the game's top players, and some of the next generation: Hingis, Davenport, Novotna, Seles, Venus and a rapidly improving Serena Williams. It was that final run which, to me, gives Graf the edge as greatest of all-time over Navratilova because she proved herself against an entire new generation of players.

Because Navratilova did not prove herself against the next generation?

Navratilova vs. Graf from 1987 onwards 4-8
Navratilova vs. Seles 7-10
Navratilova vs. Sabatini 15-6
Navratilova vs. Novotna 6-1
Navratilova vs. Aranxta Sanchez 12-3
Navratilova vs. Capriati 1-1

Philbo
Jan 13th, 2009, 12:25 AM
It was that final run which, to me, gives Graf the edge as greatest of all-time over Navratilova because she proved herself against an entire new generation of players.
hehehe, In much the same way that Martina's run as she approached her 37th year in Feb 1993 when she defeated #1 ranked Seles in Paris and # 2 ranked Graf within a fortnight of each other. This was against the next generation as well.

Philbo
Jan 13th, 2009, 12:26 AM
Because Navratilova did not prove herself against the next generation?

Navratilova vs. Graf from 1987 onwards 4-8
Navratilova vs. Seles 7-10
Navratilova vs. Sabatini 15-6
Navratilova vs. Novotna 6-1
Navratilova vs. Aranxta Sanchez 12-3
Navratilova vs. Capriati 1-1

I prefer Nav/ Graf from 1991 onwards 2-2 ;)

jamie09
Jan 13th, 2009, 01:25 AM
Steffi said Venus and Serena "don't have any weaknesses"

Anabelcroft
Jan 13th, 2009, 01:53 AM
There seems to be mutual respect between Graf and W sisters...I think that Richard also said something about Steffi being great as well which you don't hear otfen from him...

LDVTennis
Jan 13th, 2009, 02:47 AM
Steffi said Venus and Serena "don't have any weaknesses"

Steffi was being polite.

She also once told her fans in a chat on AOL that she did not believe that Hingis had said that she (Steffi) was washed up.

Steffi always kept her real feelings to herself.

Mateo Mathieu
Jan 13th, 2009, 02:53 AM
Graf was a one-off. There'll never be another like her.
Tell that to Tracy Austin ;)

"There are hundreds of girls like her in America."

Tratree
Jan 13th, 2009, 04:25 AM
Wow....I remember those long nights on the AOL board as well, Josh...waiting for any updates. It wasn't publically known, but Steffi was so sick that week that she went to the hospital after her match with Venus and was there all night getting IV fluids. She had picked up a bug in Hong Kong in the previous weeks and wasn't able to keep any food down for days. The match against Lindsay was a morning match as I remember and she simply had nothing in the tank. Can't do that against LD. Always wanted to see those matches against Serena and Venus. I actually have a PAL video tape of them, but I never got them converted. The match I REALLY wanted to see was the one in Philly where Steffi taught Hingis a lession. If only a recording existed of that one! Of course, we'll always have Paris '99 :)

flyingoliver
Jan 13th, 2009, 05:53 AM
How time flies~~

Grafiati
Jan 13th, 2009, 06:05 AM
Traci, I remember the AOL boards and "VAMOS!" moments as well! With time comes progress, they say, but somehow we all seemed to come together scrambling for info "back in the day" unlike 2009 when, it appears, many events are available on people's computers anywhere in the world. Connected into the world's events but perhaps less connected to each other. At any rate, It's sad to think that it's almost the 10th anniversary of Steffi's retirement. Hard to believe time has flown so fast!

Cakeisgood
Jan 13th, 2009, 06:29 AM
Who is that in the grey standing up at 5:22????

This is going to KILL ME.

Richie77
Jan 13th, 2009, 06:36 AM
Traci :hug: Josh :hug: Grafiati and LDVTennis (who I probably talked with on AOL quite a bit, but don't remember your names :o ) :hug: Wow, does that bring back some fine tennis memories! There was a great sense of community on the AOL boards back then.

1999 was such a great year for women's tennis: Martina and Lindsay battling it out for No. 1, Amelie making her run to the Australian final, Venus and Serena playing each other in the Lipton final (Miami for you youngsters ;) ), Jennifer Capriati's comeback (Starsbourg baby!), Steffi's last hurrah at Roland Garros, the emergence of Jelena Dokic, Alexandra Stevenson and Mirjana Lucic at Wimbledon, and of course, Serena's incredible run to the U.S. Open title. Serena's reaction after winning the match is STILL the best reaction to winning a Slam ever.

It was a magical year, one we were lucky as tennis fans to witness!