Join Date: Jul 2009
Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Claudia Kohde-Kilsch does sound rather bitter in that interview published in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" magazine section on December 15, 2011, but perhaps it's understandable because her stepfather, Juergen, did her out of so much money and she is now effectively bankrupt and working for a real estate company. Her stepfather appears to have seen her as the goose who could lay a golden egg, in other words, provide money for the whole family whenever it was required, for a house in Marbella, skiing holidays, Claudia's sister's education, etc. (She calls him her father in the interview. He was a lawyer and died in 2004. Claudia Kohde-Kilsch declared herself bankrupt in 2011.)
As for Claudia's relationship (as such) with Steffi Graf, here is what Claudia says in the interview:
Interviewer: Steffi Graf had a similar set-up in her family. She, too, had a dominant father who managed her money. However, Peter Graf betrayed not his daughter, but the tax authorities, which is why he had to go to prison in the 1990s. Did you have any sympathy at the time?
Claudia Kohde-Kilsch: No, I wasn't sorry for Steffi. Of course, it was tough for her that her father was put behind bars, but I don't think anyone needs to feel sorry for Steffi. She's as hard as nails. I first got to know her when she was twelve. At that time she was already very ambitious. Very focussed. A bit shy around people. A grown-up girl. We had fun times only in the beginning. My mother and I took her under our wings because her parents hadn't yet begun to accompany her on the tour. But the good relationship was soon ruined by Peter Graf.
Interviewer: Peter Graf did not have the best reputation in the tennis world.
CKK: Rightly so. He caused only trouble. My father once almost came to blows with him.
Interviewer: How do you mean?
CKK: It was in 1986, during the Masters tournament in Madison Square Garden in New York. Helena Sukova and I had just dared to beat Steffi and Gabriela Sabatini in the doubles event. Afterwards old man Graf met my father in the corridor and said to him, we had been been very lucky and so on. My father grabbed him by the collar, pushed him against the wall and said to him, he should keep his trap shut. And while this was happening, Chris Evert and Pam Shriver, both top ten players at the time, were standing nearby, gossiping! No one could stand Peter Graf.
Interviewer: But you and Steffi did nevertheless play a lot of doubles matches together, even winning the Federation Cup and a silver medal at the Olympic Games as a team. How was that possible?
CKK: At certain times we did get along quite well with each other, but the Olympic Games is another story. Steffi had already won the gold medal in the singles event when we played our doubles semi-final. And I was amazed that Steffi was hitting over her backhand the whole time. Normally she always played a sliced backhand, which she could do marvellously. After we had lost, my father asked Steffi's father why she kept hitting through her backhand. Peter Graf only said, What, do you think Claudia deserved a gold medal too?
Interviewer: Do you believe Peter Graf had told Steffi to play especially badly?
CKK: Naturally I can't prove that. But it was very strange indeed. And not untypical of a family from whom you could expect anything. Peter Graf even made Adidas, for years my sponsor, make a choice, saying, If you continue to sponsor Claudia, you won't be allowed to sponsor Steffi anymore. I can't prove that either, but a representative from Adidas said that to my father in so many words. Adidas did then drop me, after many years of a partnership. That meant that I had no sponsor during the last two or three years of my career. I had to buy the clothes myself and have CKK knitted into them. Martina Navratilova sent me the socks.
Interviewer: When Steffi Graf joined the professional ranks, you were the German number one. You were chosen as German female tennis player of the year in 1985 and came second in the vote for German sports star of the year. Then along came Steffi Graf. From then on you had to stand in the shadow of Steffi and Boris [Becker]. How annoying was that?
CKK: It's hard when you stop being successful, it's very annoying. But the two of them were the superstars, and you have to look at what they achieved without envy.
Interviewer: Have you met Steffi Graf since you stopped playing tennis?
CKK: Once. At the end of the 1990s, we both played a bit more tennis, in the German league. Steffi played for Ludwigshafen, I played for Saarlouis. When I entered the clubhouse in Ludwigshafen, Steffi was sitting somewhere at the table, and I thought we'd have a bit of a chat. I said, Hi, Steffi, and she just pushed her hair sideways towards her face and murmured something. I thought, What's that supposed to mean? But that's what Steffi's like, people are not her thing.
Last edited by newmark401 : Jan 5th, 2012 at 10:05 AM.