Sorry if posted already but I'm too lazy to check all 36 pages in Steffi's thread
The article is very interesting and well written and talks about all the main issues of Steffi's career (up to 1996 when the article was written) Enjoy it...
Steffi: Without Tears
The Imperfect Life
by Matthew Cronin (November 1996)
Steffi Graf Copes With Fame, Seles and Herself While Yearning For Quieter
In his famous essay "Zarathustra's Return," Herman Hesse, the most notable
German writer of the 20th century and the author who Steffi Graf can
relate to," wrote, "One thing is given to man which makes him into a god,
which reminds him that he is a god: to know destiny."
Graf does not yet know her post-career destiny. After her tennis-playing
days end, she will likely go to one of her three residences, pull the
curtains down and go into her idiosyncratic thinker's pose: her chin will
sink into her left hand, her mound blonde hair will collapse over her face
and her Caribbean blue eyes will disappear behind pressed eyelids. She
get that hawkish gaze that has swept innumerable center courts and focus
inward to ponder the future. It is a "mystery" she says, although the
introverted dominator of women's tennis has considered what lies ahead for
her after arguably the greatest career in history.
Will she ever find another place like her cherished court, where all the
pain goes away, and reconstruct a perfect existence? "In a perfect world I
would like to have a little more time for myself and not have had these
injuries," Graf told Inside Tennis. "You could start from the bottom up -
there's always something more. You can ask for a lot of things but then
could have nothing. I'm happy I have something."
Something is no small set of accomplishments, it is (to date) 21 Grand
singles titles and the longest run at No. 1, male or female, ever. Graf is
modern tennis, a perfect Open-era example of a child prodigy weaned on the
game, for whom tennis and life are profoundly intertwined.
When Graf was three years old, her father Peter pulled a string across two
chairs in their basement and Steffi began obsessively hitting, every day,
sometimes all day. Imagine that, a three-year-old who can maintain
in one activity for hours at a time. "It's difficult to remember, but I do
remember having a lot of fun doing it," Graf said. "If you're having fun,
then you aren't pressed. I've never felt that I've been pressed to play."
Graf began winning tournaments at age six, but she says she wasn't eyeing
the pro ranks just yet. "At that age, you bring your bobby socks, your
dolls. It wasn't just tennis, it was meeting other kids."
However, the other children in her home town of Bruhl didn't quite
understand this athletic, awkward tennis bum and made fun of her, which is
why today she is still for the most part a shy person. So Graf fled the
school ground and turned pro at age 13, and was so excited to be hammering
the big girls that after a point was over, she would sprint to the
to get ready to return serve. She quickly became engrossed in constructing
the ultimate match, so much so that in 1987 when she became No. 1 for the
first time in Manhattan Beach, it was news to her. "I didn't know about
that's the funny thing," Graf said. "My father kept telling me I didn't
enough points, so I didn't worry about it - I didn't know until I finished
the match. Everyone was trying not to tell me. I've never been one to
the points, but I can't believe I didn't realize it."
It would be the first time that Graf was struck by the fever of success.
felt just plain joy," she said. "I went down to the beach with my father
brother and just ran up and down the beach with joy. I've never felt
anywhere close to that joy again. There have been similar moments, but
No. 1 has never meant as much."
Graf would win the Grand Slam the next year and was transformed into the
Belle of Bruhl. Once the butt of classmate jokes, Graf became an immense
celebrity, so popular that Bruhl Burgermeister Gunther Reffert would give
her a dog, a horse and name a playground and park after her. Even today,
there are highway signs that describe tiny Bruhl as Grafschaft (Graf
She and Boris Becker would re-introduce tennis to Germany and make it the
second leading sport. But with celebrity comes scrutiny. At first, the
country was nearly 100% behind Graf. When an Italian journalist called
"too ambitious, too cruel, like a juggernaut, inhuman like a computer,"
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl rushed to her defense, saying that "Steffi
a splendid German maiden."
But Graf soon learnt that the innocent are often found guilty by
when judged by mob tribunals. Her father, Peter, a driven, compulsive,
me-first former car salesman, let his daughter's accomplishments go to his
head and became a persona non grata on the tour. He would rage at
taunt other players, make extraordinary demands on tournament directors
was accused of giving hand signals. Steffi just shrugged it off. Then in
1990, when a nude model filed a paternity suite against Peter, Steffi -
much a family woman who worships her father, her mother Heidi and is very
close to her brother Michael - went into a deep funk.
Graf says that she will never forgive the German tabloid press for its
invasive coverage of the paternity suit and how it tore her family apart.
still have the same problems with them," she says, but then emphasizes
a furious shake of the head that she does not feel the same way about
American journalists. "No, no, no, no! There's a big separation. I have no
problem saying that. Americans will ask questions about tennis itself and
that's good if you are a tennis player.
"I'm very happy to be criticized, measured and looked at because of my
tennis. But everything else should be left private and not be in the
eye. I'm here to play tennis, that's what I became known for, that's what
I'm here for and that's what should be written about."
The Perils of Fame
Yet Graf may be one of the world's most recognizable woman athletes.
want to know everything about their Steffi and expect her to be frequently
visible. However, Graf defends her privacy and lifestyle as stubbornly as
she hits her slice backhand. She has been castigated by Martina
for not participating in WTA politics, and has been scolded by Chris
Billie Jean King and Mary Carillo for not making enough public
"Have you ever know a more reluctant superstar than Steffi Graf?" asked
Carillo. King answered, "No. She doesn't get it."
"It's not my personality," Graf said. Her best friend on the tour, Rennae
Stubbs, added, "You can't crucify Steffi for that, that's the way she is.
Accept the fact that she is an incredible role model, a good sport, has
guts, determination, and you don't see her throwing her racket and telling
people to go and whatever, which Martina did several times. She's been an
incredible No. 1 and people love her. What's wrong with that? Maybe other
people can't handle that."
For the past couple of years, Graf has become more comfortable off-court,
showing off her wit and coy sense of humour while making a number of TV
appearances, including impressive stints on the Late Show with David
Graf says that WTA politics "is not me" and that she "would go crazy"
spending a lot of time in the locker room debating the ranking system et
But at age 27, she is more at ease with her public, even though she pines
for more quiet time. "I've learned to live with it," she said. "Sometimes
was not exactly annoying but uncomfortable for me. Sometimes [the fame]
bother me and sometimes it doesn't. When I have a break I have a pretty
normal life. It's not like people come up to me constantly. When I'm
tournaments, I deal with it."
Graf, who maintains residences in New York and Florida as well as Bruhl,
added, "Now it's easier, especially in America. It just amazes me
how known I am around the world. Especially [in the US] it amazes me
there are so many people here and so many stars. I can go out in old
and people recognize me; but people are very respectful here and easy to
live with. The only problem I have is overseas and having to deal with the
press, I've always been honest with that."
Stubbs says Graf is coming into her own. "She's maturing," Stubbs said.
"She's 27 and it's time to adjust to the fact that she's going to be
for the rest of her life. She has to realize that people are going to
recognize her, and [she should] not have a chip on her shoulder and try to
enjoy a little more. Not in the fact that she should enjoy being well
and people loving her for that, but to enjoy the fact that people enjoy
because they like her."
Other than her remarkable records, it is somewhat a wonder that Graf shows
up as the most popular women's player in nearly every poll, because up
two years ago, she exhibited very little emotion on court. In a sport
fans have worshipped the likes of powderkegs Navratilova, Connors, McEnroe
and Becker, Graf - like Evert before her - has been a controlled exception
to the rule. "On the court I've always been very focused," said Graf.
people are more outgoing than others and I'm not that kind of person. I
to stay concentrated, but I think over the years I have loosened up. I am
not fake on the court. It doesn't mean that outside of tennis I don't
That isn't the case."
Stubbs said that fans respect Graf's consistent ethics. "She's so likable
because she never put one wrong foot forward," Stubbs said. "Everything
that's happened in her life has been because of someone else or something
else. It's not that she's ever put herself in a bad position. People love
her because of that."
Monica and Me
At Wimbledon this year, Navratilova loudly criticized Graf, saying that
never-ending string of injuries gives Graf a built-in excuse just in case
she loses. But Graf still respects Navratilova's game a great deal,
Martina her toughest foe. "Martina was always the most difficult because
her attacking style," Graf said. "I had to improve my backhand, serve, I
to get more aggressive. But I'm usually the one pushing myself."
While it comes as no surprise that a brooding perfectionist considers her
own superego her most strident taskmaster, it is somewhat shocking that
didn't point to Seles as her greatest nemesis, considering that it was the
Yugoslav-American who knocked Graf off her No. 1 throne during 1991-1992.
can be safely said that Seles is the only player of Graf's era who has
better than the German during a portion of Graf's prime. The fact is that
during '91, '92 and the first half of '93, Seles won seven out of nine
Slam finals, including two extremely significant defeats of Graf. The
occurred in their fabulous '92 French final (10-8 for Seles in the third
set). The second and more important victory was Seles' 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 '93
Australian Open final-round win where both women appeared to be playing
their best and Seles was a handful of winners better.
Graf says that for the first time, she felt that she might not be the best
player on the planet even on her finest day. "It was a match where I
well and she just played better," Graf said. "Sometimes before I didn't
that well when I lost, but that time I played well. I was really
disappointed after that match. I really, really was. I couldn't raise my
game just a little bit and she did. That made me feel down."
Graf says that prior to last year, she was intimidated by Seles' game.
game did [intimidate me]," Graf said. "It's an unusual left-handed game
I wasn't too comfortable with my backhand, so obviously I felt more
intimidated by her game."
Word has it that when Seles was stabbed in Hamburg in April of 1993,
reaction was one of horror. "I hope it wasn't one of my crazy fans," said
Graf, whose familiarity with nutty fans goes back to 1989, when a lovesick
supporter showed up at her doorstep and slashed his wrists in front of
Seles' assailant Guenther Parche was one of Graf's psychotic fans and his
assault on Seles not only took away the game's best budding rivalry, but
stained his heroine's career, perhaps irreparably. For in the two and a
years that Seles was emotionally healing, Graf won five Grand Slam titles,
each one of them with an asterix attached to it.
With every tournament she played, Graf had to face media questioning about
whether she missed her rival, about the lack of competition and as to
whether she had spoken to Seles. Graf said repeatedly that she tried to
contact Seles to comfort her, but couldn't get through.
When Seles was about to return to the tour and broke her silence, she
claimed that Graf had never reached out to her. The victim was essentially
telling the world the apple of her assailant's eye was a cold fish. Graf
shocked and withdrew into herself. This may be why Graf, who was hurt by
accusation, places Navratilova over Seles as her greatest foe. "Monica's
good with the press, she knows how to work the angles," Stubbs said. "The
thing that makes me upset is to accuse Steffi of not caring, and I know
cared tremendously. We didn't know where Monica was, no one could get hold
of her. Even Monica's management company couldn't find her. When [the
stabbing] happened, everybody was extremely upset and concerned. But after
two years when no one heard from her.....there has to be a little give and
The Graf camp, which calls Steffi one of the most caring, loyal and
supportive individuals around, was stung by Seles' attitude. "The fact is
that when Monica was on the tour she didn't care about anybody, she didn't
say hello to anybody, she didn't give anybody the time of the day," Stubbs
said. "She was quoted as saying she didn't talk to anybody ranked lower
her. Well guess what, when you are No.1 in the world, that means you don't
talk to anybody. She was never friendly. To come back and accuse us of not
caring is like the pot calling the kettle black."
The pot and the kettle's first post-stabbing match in the final of the
U.S. Open was one of the most dramatic in tennis history.
On the surface, a rusty and overweight Seles entered the final looking as
invincible as ever, blowing away the field at the Canadian Open and
every noteworthy opponent in Flushing Meadows. Graf was once again
vulnerable, as her father Peter, had just been jailed on charges that he
her tax advisor evaded some $13 million in taxes on Steffi's income.
Playing with a bad back and a wounded psyche, Graf had huge doubts as to
whether she had improved enough to blunt the now wildly popular stabbing
victim's relentless ground strokes. But all the work Graf put into making
her serve a weapon and giving her backhand more variety paid off, as she
prevailed 7-6, 0-6, 6-3. "I didn't feel ready to beat her for many
I was in terrible physical shape and I wasn't able to practice, I wasn't
physically or mentally ready," Graf said. "But I was able to come out well
and it was very important to me. I don't think it made my life different
my approach different, but there were a lot of things going on and I was
able to stand up to the pressure and that made me feel good."
Stubbs was more direct. "Steffi was vindicated," Stubbs said. "Monica was
playing great and it showed people that you never know, Steffi could have
won the titles even with Monica still there."
Taxes, Loyalty and the Great Beyond
Seles was gracious to Graf after her loss, just as she was after Graf beat
her in the final of the '96 U.S. Open, saying that "Steffi is definitely
1, everyone can see that." But Seles is not empathetic with what Graf has
been going through, watching her father rot away in a Mannheim prison the
past 14 months. "You can't compare the two [my stabbing and her taxing
situation]," Seles said.
Last year, Seles' father Karolj was less than sympathetic, calling Graf
"knife No. 1" and wondering "what kind of a person can play tennis when
their father is in jail."
Graf would not respond directly, but Stubbs did. "Steffi is not interested
in getting involved in a public fight," Stubbs said. "If someone has a
vendetta against her, she'll take it up with them. She's got an incredibly
thick skin with what people do and say around her. She just worries about
the people she cares about. Whether her father is in jail and is going to
trial, she's still a pro and has a job to do. She's not about to go back
Germany, let the press eat her up and let the whole circumstance take her
over. The tennis is her solace."
"Believe you me, the first person Steffi thinks about when she wakes up in
the morning and goes to bed at night is her father. To say that she
care is just wrong. This has been going on for over a year now, what is
supposed to do, sit at home and wilt away? This isn't a situation that she
got herself into, this is a situation that someone else got her into."
Even though Peter almost took Steffi down the tubes with his this time,
Steffi is still the loyal daughter and even dedicated her '96 French Open
victory to him. "I believe [the dedication] helps him and that's why I'm
trying to see him whenever I can," Graf said.
Yet German law has prohibited Steffi from seeing her beloved father, the
who designed Fräulein Forehand, more than a couple times. Stubbs says Graf
isn't angry at Peter, but still doesn't understand why he did what he did.
"It's not an 'I hate you anger' because he is her father. It's done. It's
over. Steffi has to stand by and deal with the consequences the best way
For the first time in her life, Graf has had to enter the world of high
finance, a world she says she was "ignorant of" and told the "N.Y. Times"
full of people "who are only interested in your money." Graf has been
to act like a corporate raider, firing her financial advisor in Germany
getting rid of her long time agent, Advantage International's Phil De
Piccioto. To date, she has also plunked down $15 million in taxes and
penalties. "In the future, I'll bear more responsibility and have to make
more financial decisions," Graf told the German magazine Focus. "What else
was I supposed to do when I was 15, 16 or 17 years old besides trust my
father and his advisers? And later, why should I do anything differently,
when everything appeared to be running well? There was no sign for me that
everything wasn't in order."
Stubbs says Steffi is not to blame. "You talk to any player on the tour
ask them where their finances are and I guarantee 80 percent of them have
idea.......If you're a millionaire by the time you're 16, I'm sorry, you
have no idea what the hell you're doing..........Tennis is too individual
and focus-oriented to worry about anything else."
Graf is not worried about the near future, not as long it holds fresh cans
of yellow balls. She is super rich, so she will not have to worry about
future pursuit of funds when she retires. Her hobbies include museums, art
and music, but is doubtful the rest of her life will encompass mostly
Her true passion is animals, her German Shepherds Max and Dacho, and her
Golden Retriever, Joshua. "The only reason why I miss being at home is
because of my dogs," she said. "When I'm home I'm constantly with them.
They're such an important thing in my life."
As Hesse remarked in Zarathustra's Return, "You must unlearn the habit of
being someone else or nothing at all, of imitating the voice of others and
mistaking the faces of others for your own."
Maybe Graf's sweet, painful and spectacular waltz in tennis was a mistake,
because nearly perfect players must deal with masses of humanity, while
surreal Steffi is more at ease with lesser species. "I loved animals from
day one, I always dreamed of being an animal doctor," she said.
Graf plans on taking a safari during the next year. Who knows, maybe she
will buy a jungle estate similar to Isak Dinesen's in Out of Africa. Or
maybe she will pitch a tent in Kenya and teach gorillas in the mist the
proper service motion. To live like Dian Fossey out of the reach of star
gazers is a dream that sometimes runs through Graf's mind. "I sometimes do
[wish that]," Graf beamed. "I sometimes do."