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Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

The following portrait of Sylvia Hanika was originally published in German in the book “Tennis in Deutschland. Von den Anfängen bis 2002. Zum 100-jährigen Bestehen des Deutschen Tennis Bundes”/“Tennis in Germany. From its Beginnings to 2002. On the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the German Tennis Association.”

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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

Sylvia Hanika – A Player with a Mind of Her Own

By Angela Beru

“It was March 28, 1982, and everything was going according to plan for Martina Navratilova. In the final of the Masters in New York the athletic American was leading, 6-1, 2-0, against 22-year-old Sylvia Hanika, from Ottendichl, near Munich. Sylvia Hanika had started the final featuring two left-handed players very nervously, and nobody in Madison Square Garden believed that the young German could make up such a deficit against Martina Navratilova of all players.

“But Sylvia Hanika did not give up on herself or on the match. Point by point, game by game, she began to catch up; from being 0-2 behind she won the second set to level the match. At first apparently bemused, then disbelieving and, in the end, furious, Martina Navratilova shook her head, gesticulated, moaned and groaned, and, at 4-4 in the third set, had her serve broken decisively. Beside herself with rage, the great Martina flung her racket into the stands, but no one could help her anymore. Two forehand errors, two unreachable volleys by Sylvia Hanika and the first great sensation in German tennis was complete. Syliva Hanika had become the first German to win the season-ending championships featuring the world’s best players, five years before Steffi Graf’s first triumph.

“Sylvia Hanika, who was born on November 30, 1959, in Munich, the daughter of a builder, can rightly consider herself the pioneer of the miracle in women’s tennis in Germany. Long before the unique career of Steffi Graf, the blonde from Bavaria with a mind of her own helped make German tennis headline news. In those years victories were the order of the day for Sylvia Hanika.

“In 1981, the lefthander reached the final of the French Open, where she lost to Hana Mandlikova. In 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1984, she reached the quarter-finals at the US Open, while in 1990, a year before her the end of her career, she even reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. At tournaments in the early and mid-eighties she was always amongst the favourites to win; from September to December 1983, she was ranked number five in the world. She feels that she is the one who paved the way for the future ‘Graf Generation’: ‘After all, I was the first one to really make it to the top.’

“Sylvia Hanika followed her own distinct path. She seldom made compromises, was consistent and unerringly pursued her own goals. She remembers that, at that time, things were more difficult for her as a woman. In addition, she had to do everything on her own initiative, without the support of the German Tennis Association. ‘It was clear that I was rubbed up the wrong way.’ She travelled around the world without the usual entourage common today. The words ‘tennis parents’ had no meaning in the Hanika household: ‘Sport was my hobby, I liked playing it. In our house the whole family was not supported by a tennis-playing child.’

“The girl who was talented at and enthusiastic about sport began playing tennis only at the age of twelve, a late start, but one which she still considers ideal: ‘Tennis is a sport that requires a certain physical and mental maturity, and you don’t have that yet when you’re five years old.’ It quickly became clear that Sylvia Hanika was not only a talented local player, but also had what was required for a great career. In the end she decided to pursue such a career herself, of her own free will, without any parental pressure, ‘because I enjoyed it so much and wanted to see how far I could go.’

“However, she did not take the sport lightly: ‘I took the sport very seriously from the start, not casually. I trained hard and worked hard on myself, but the motivation always came from within me.’ When Sylvia Hanika was 15 years old, the then German national coach, Richard Schönbron, called her a ‘one in a century talent’. The five-year-old Steffi Graf and her parents once featured among the spectators at a tournament in Mannheim watching Sylvia Hanika train back in those days.

“Success came quickly. Sylvia Hanika won her first tournament in 1981, in Seattle. Other German players followed in her wake: Bettina Bunge, Eva Pfaff, Claudia Kohde and, finally, Steffi Graf. They put the ‘Made in Germany’ stamp on women’s tennis. Despite her great success, Sylvia Hanika was not a favourite with tennis administrators. Her independent nature and her unpredictable character meant that she never became a regular Federation Cup player.

“In the second half of the 1980s, injuries kept Sylvia Hanika from making further progress. However, in 1987, with her uniquely ambitious nature, she climbed back up to number 14 in the world rankings from a position outside the top 50. After the US Open in 1991, she decided to end her tennis career due to tennis elbow. Without any sadness, as she stresses: ‘I had a great time, but I always knew that there would be a time limit. I’m happy with the way it went, but I don’t look back often.’

“She is also not jealous of the huge sums of money available since she retired, which have made even average players multi-millionaires. ‘I wouldn’t like to change places. There are no personalities nowadays.’ Sylvia Hanika won $100,000 for her success at the Masters in 1982. At the end of 2001, the winner of the same tournament in Munich won well over one million dollars.

“She also has no links with her former fellow travellers from back then. ‘I have no connections with tennis anymore. I live in the present. I don’t look back.’ She hardly plays much either: ‘Sometimes in winter, but not at all in summer.’ Sylvia Hanika doesn’t watch tennis on television either. ‘Only Pete Sampras, he’s really a great player, I like to watch him playing now and again. Otherwise there’s no one who really excites me.’

“Sylvia Hanika has always remained true to herself.”
-----

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2014, 08:34 PM
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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

I thought Sylvia had a tough game. Her use of angles and spins were creative. Even when she lost badly to Martina or Chris, I thought it was because they knew to bring their "A " game against her. She definitely had their respect as a player.


However, Sylvia was a difficult player to embrace. She seemed like a loner which also comes through in that profile. She didn't lack for confidence. Often something she said or did would be controversial.

I agree with the profile, she made her mark on the tour.

"I cannot survive in this world with my honesty." Hana Mandlikova
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2014, 11:14 AM
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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

The snippet below comes from the Sports Illustrated Vault and touches on the "tough to embrace" aspect mentioned by HanaFan.

The 1981 Avon Championships

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vau...53/2/index.htm

After an initial loss to Jaeger, Bunge progressed to the semifinals, where she lost 6-2, 7-5 to Navratilova. The other losing semifinalist was Hanika. Both she and Bunge are members of the West German Federation Cup team, but Hanika, 21, is a 5'8" blue-eyed blonde of a different stripe. She is an attacker with a big lefthanded serve and an even bigger persecution complex. At the conclusion of her second-round loss to Jaeger, Hanika cursed at her in German. Jaeger, who understands German, ran into the dressing room in tears. Two days later, after Hanika had lost to Jaeger again, her seventh loss in seven meetings, she explained her feelings. "Always when you play her you get bad calls," Hanika said. "I like her very much off the court, but on the court she's not so nice. She always tries to influence the linesmen and the umpire."

Jaeger beat Hanika not with bad calls but with phenomenal patience. Their three-set semifinal match took 2� hours, and Jaeger prevailed the way she usually does—by keeping the ball in play and waiting for errors. "I have no patience when I do anything else," she says. "Tennis is the only thing I've got it for. I go into a restaurant with my mom and I want to order and get out of there in two seconds. I don't even think I have patience in another sport. But I'm glad tennis is the only thing I have it in. I wouldn't want to sit around and be patient my whole life. It would be sort of boring."
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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

Another SI short mention of Sylvia at the 1983 winter Championships. Frustratingly they didn't cover her big win in New York in 1982.

...

Even though the Slims draw consisted of the top 15 players in the world, plus wild-card entry Evonne Goolagong, most everyone figured that the only person who could make Navratilova falter was Navratilova. In other words, she might take the apple in the Apple as she had done in 1982, when she blew a 6-1, 3-1 lead against Hanika in the finals. This year Hanika distinguished herself by playing her quarterfinal match against Austin in one of the ugliest outfits ever seen on a tennis court—a navy blue top with turquoise and pink trimming and matching navy blue short shorts that served to accentuate her powerful thighs. Against Navratilova in the semis, Hanika, who ranks No. 8 on the computer and is perhaps the only woman in the game who can stay with Navratilova in the bench press, switched to white but kept the hot pants. When someone asked her about the source of her strength, she answered, "Maybe it's the shorts."


Hanika said her strategy against Navratilova would be "to make power from baseline." With her heavy topspin off both sides, she figured to keep Navratilova away from a death watch at net. No charge for dreams. On Hanika's service games, Navratilova smugly hung back, waited for a shorty from short shorts, and then chipped and came in to net. On her own service, Navratilova was untouchable, giving up only two points in the first set. At 6-1, 3-1 she faced her only break point of the match. Well aware of what had happened to her at the same juncture a year ago, Navratilova threw in a "scroogie," a first serve, sliced wide, that Hanika barely touched.
"Then I knew it was all over," Navratilova said later. These days she's pretty matter-of-fact. "I'm surprised if I make an unforced error."
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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
Another SI short mention of Sylvia at the 1983 winter Championships. Frustratingly they didn't cover her big win in New York in 1982.
The self-styled and undisputedly so Dickschädel (Pig-head, let's just say) certainly did not have many friends or admirers on the tour or behind the scenes, so it's almost not surprising.

MISSES NAVRATILOVA AND HANIKA IN FINAL
By NEIL AMDUR
March 28, 1982
New York Times

Wendy Turnbull's roller-coaster ride in the $300,000 Avon tennis championships ended yesterday when Sylvia Hanika beat her in a third-set tiebreaker for a berth against Martina Navratilova in today's final.

The top-seeded Miss Navratilova won her 27th consecutive match of the year, 6-4, 6-3, from Anne Smith in the opening semifinal at Madison Square Garden. But the match that finally pumped enthusiasm and drama into the double-elimination event was Miss Hanika's 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 victory over Miss Turnbull. Miss Hanika won the tiebreaker, 7 points to 2.

Over the first three days, Miss Turnbull had been erratic, playing thoughtfully against Kathy Jordan on opening night, losing in 44 minutes the next night to Miss Navratilova and then pulling out a three-set victory against Mima Jausovec for a spot in the semifinals.

Yesterday's two-hour thriller had 10 deuce games, interesting rallies and close line calls. Dulled from a late-night three-set doubles match after her Friday night singles, Miss Turnbull committed 18 unforced errors in the first set.

''It was pretty tough to get going,'' she later said. ''We didn't finish until 1 o'clock this morning. Then it was really tough to sort of come down after playing two matches and then try to sleep, get up and come out and practice, and you're on the court 12 hours later.''

To find her rhythm against Miss Hanika's heavy assortment of topspin shots, Miss Turnbull wisely slowed the speed of her shots in the second set, stayed in the back court more often and let Miss Hanika dictate the pace.

The strategy worked. When Miss Turnbull pushed a backhand dink over the net to win the second set and square the match, she crossed herself and smiled.

She changed the pace and angle of her first serves to hold from 2-3, 15-40, and many in the crowd of 13,779 cheered. But Miss Hanika's stinging topspin shots prevailed in the tiebreaker.

She opened with a backhand cross-court shot that Miss Turnbull volleyed into the net on the forehand. A dipping forehand return of serve down the middle was too low for Miss Turnbull's first volley, and Miss Turnbull left herself at 0-3 with a double fault.

Miss Hanika made it 4-0 with a running forehand pass down the line. Then a topped backhand return down the middle on the sixth point nullified Miss Turnbull's attempt at a first volley.

Miss Hanika has beaten Miss Navratilova only once in eight matches, on clay in the French quarterfinals. The 22-year-old West German had lost her six previous matches to Miss Turnbull.

The final, with a $100,000 first prize, will follow the third-place match, which starts at noon. Miss Navratilova and Pam Schriver scored a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Miss Smith and Kathy Jordan in the doubles final yesterday, with the winners sharing $25,000.

William J. Corbett, the Avon director of public relations, said that even if Miss Navratilova lost the final, the company would add $500 to her $52,000 runner-up check to allow her to pass Chris Evert Lloyd ($3,691,352) in career earnings.

The generosity may be Avon's farewell thank-you to Miss Navratilova, who has won 52 of 56 sets and sustained interest on the tour this year in the absence of Mrs. Lloyd, Tracy Austin and Hana Mandlikova. Avon is rumored to be bowing out as a corporate sponsor next month.

Miss Navratilova beat Miss Smith, her former doubles partner, for the 16th time in 17 matches. Miss Smith's only victory over her came in the third round of the 1980 Canadian Open, when Miss Navratilova, leading by 5-4 in the first set, had to retire with back spasms.

Miss Smith never led in the 56-minute semifinal. She lost her serve in the opening game, again at 15 when she pulled to 3-all, and a third time at love with the score 4-all.

In nine service games, she managed to win the first point only three times, which continually left her in catch-up situations. Miss Navratilova's problem in the first set, aside from some admitted lapses in concentration, might have been in trying to do too much, an occupational hazard when one is familiar with a rival's game. An example was her attempt to volley behind Miss Smith to keep her off balance, when her natural backhand volley is a cross-court shot.

Unable to finish some points quickly, Miss Navratilova left herself vulnerable to passing shots and lobs, which Miss Smith utilized to break the defending champion at love in the sixth game and again at 15 two games later.

''Maybe we were trying to outthink each other too much and forgot about hitting the ball,'' Miss Navratilova said of the consecutive breaks between the sixth and ninth games.

Serving for the first set at 5-4, Miss Navratilova faced the prospect of still another break, as she trailed, 0-30 and then by 30-40. But a heavily spun first serve to the backhand pulled Miss Smith far off the court and set up an easy forehand winner. Miss Navratilova then held from deuce for the set with a backhand volley placement and a smash.
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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

MISSES NAVRATILOVA AND HANIKA ADVANCE
By NEIL AMDUR
March 26, 1982
New York Times

Two weeks ago, Wendy Turnbull gave Martina Navratilova her most difficult match of the year before losing in three long sets. Last night, Miss Navratilova needed only 44 minutes to reach the semifinals of the Avon tennis championships with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Miss Turnbull at Madison Square Garden.

It was Miss Navratilova's 26th consecutive singles triumph and another indication that the top-seeded defending champion may have too much strength and diversity for this eight-player field.

Joining Miss Navratilova in tomorrow's semifinals of the $300,000 double-elimination tournament will be Sylvia Hanika of West Germany, who defeated Anne Smith, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. Misses Navratilova and Hanika, with 2-0 records, will have a rest today in singles while Mima Jausovec and Miss Turnbull play for one semifinal spot and Miss Smith faces Kathy Jordan for the reamining berth. Miss Jordan defeated Bettina Bunge, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, in a match that ended at 1:39 this morning.

Miss Hanika Rallies

After dropping a first-set tiebreaker, 7 points to 4, Miss Hanika said, ''I thought I had lost the match.'' However, her topspin strokes and concentration improved in the last two sets.

Serving at 3-2 in the third set, Miss Hanika saved one break point and held serve with aggressive volleying. A topped backhand crosscourt passing shot and a forehand winner saved her from deuce for the match in the 10th game.

''She was playing well the whole match,'' Miss Hanika said. ''In the second and third set, I was concentrating better on the big points. In the first set, I let them go.''

Miss Jausovec eliminated Barbara Potter, 7-6, 7-5. For the second consecutive match, Miss Potter led in each set, this time holding five set points with Miss Jausovec serving at 2-5, 15-40, in the opening set, and then with another set point serving at 5-4, 40-30 in the second set. 'I'm Fighting Myself'

Miss Potter tried to explain why she seemed to execute so brilliantly only to squander other opportunities with questionable unforced errors.

''The boot's a little big, still,'' she said, alluding to a maturity gap in her streaky serve-and-volley game. ''I'm fighting a battle and the biggest battle seems to be against myself.''

Having reached the top 10 in the women's computer rankings, Miss Potter, at 20 years old, is within striking distance of greatness. What she needs perhaps is to study the approach of another talented lefthander, John McEnroe, who often accomplishes more with touch and skillful shot selection than impetuous bravado.

At the moment, minus the challenge of Chris Evert Lloyd and Tracy Austin, Miss Navratilova believes she has ''all the bases covered.'' She has lost only seven games in two matches.

Given her close showing in the last meeting against Miss Navratilova and her impressive 6-1, 6-3 opening-round victory over Miss Jordan Wednesday, Miss Turnbull had reason for pre-match optimism. But when a career rivalry stands at 20-5, as it did in Miss Navratilova's favor here, the pillars of Miss Turnbull's confidence remain more straw than stone. Miss Turnbull Falters

For five games, the match went on serve, and many in the announced crowd of 11,194 at Madison Square Garden began to sense that Miss Turnbull might pose a challenge.

But faced with her first break point serving at 2-3, 30-40, Miss Turnbull's foundation collapsed. She served a game-ending double fault, and Miss Navratilova swept the next two games for the set.

Miss Turnbull mustered one rebuilding attempt breaking Miss Navratilova at 15 for 2-3 in the second set with a forehand pass and forehand volley winner. But just as quickly, she lost her serve at love, and then declined to attend the traditional post-match news conference.

''Once I got ahead, Wendy didn't seem to have the fighting spirit she had two weeks ago,'' Miss Navratilova said, of their 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 match in Dallas. ''I don't know why.''

The Jausovec-Potter match again demonstrated why serve-and-volley stylists lose sleep against baseliners. Miss Jausovec, saying afterward, ''I was just trying to hang in there,'' was steadier when it counted, escaping set points on Miss Potter's errors and then rushing to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker. She won the playoff, 7-3.

Serving at 5-4, 40-30, in the second set, Miss Potter impatiently drove a forehand past the baseline on Miss Jausovec's service return. From deuce, another forehand sailed wide, and a double fault into the net squared the set at 5-all.

Miss Jausovec held at 30 for 6-5 and then broke for the match at 30 on Miss Potter's netted forehand and a backhand volley error.
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Re: Sylvia Hanika – A Player With a Mind of Her Own

MISS NAVRATILOVA TOPPLED IN FINAL
By NEIL AMDUR
March 29, 1982
New York Times

Last Wednesday, after her first match in the $300,000 Avon women's tennis championships, Sylvia Hanika was asked if anyone could beat Martina Navratilova in the season-ending event. After all, Miss Navratilova had not lost a match all year.

''I think if I were playing her, and I played like this, she would have to play very well to beat me,'' was her reply. ''She doesn't like to play topspin.''

Yesterday, in a stunning windup to the indoor circuit, the 22-yearold West German rebounded from a 1-6, 1-3 deficit and ended Miss Navratilova's 27-match winning streak, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, for the title and the $100,000 first prize.

''I still can't believe it,'' Miss Hanika told the crowd of 15,081 at Madison Square Garden, as she clutched a bouquet of red roses and a check that represented her largest payday as a professional. ''This is the happiest day of my whole life.''

Franz Hanika, a builder, also could not believe that his daughter had won the eight-player, double-elimination event when she telephoned home to Munich after the match. But perhaps the most shocked individual was the top-seeded Miss Navratilova, whose bid for a perfect season and the No.1 world ranking floundered.

After playing an almost flawless 23-minute first set that resembled John McEnroe attacking Bjorn Borg's baseline topspin game, Miss Navratilova was upstaged by a strong-serving southpaw rival whose only previous major-tournament credential came as runner-up to Hana Mandlikova in the French Open last spring.

Saying ''it was not a matter of luck; I made good shots and good points,'' Miss Hanika lost only 2 points in five service games in the final set. By contrast, Miss Navratilova struggled from 15-40 in the first game, 15-30 in the third and 30-all in the seventh before losing her serve at 30 in the ninth game, faulting four of six first serves.

She also lost her cool after netting a game-ending forehand at 30-40. She threw her wooden racquet to the ground, and it bounced off the green synthetic Sporteze carpet and over a sideline barrier, landing in front of the first row of spectators.

''I was hitting my first serve well in the third set and maybe she got shaky,'' said Miss Hanika, who is ranked eighth in the world and won all four of her matches in the tournament. ''The pressure was on her. I had nothing to lose.''

It was the third time in the last seven months that Miss Navratilova had played a superb, textbook-type opening set in a major final, only to lose. The other times were against Tracy Austin at the United States Open and the Toyota Series.

''I know you tried, but you won't make me cry again,'' she told the applauding crowd after the 1-hour-37-minute match, alluding to the emotional response from the spectators at last summer's Open.

Even Avon's attempt to make Miss Navratilova the career earnings leader (ahead of Chris Evert Lloyd's $3,691,352) by adding a $500 bonus to her runner-up check of $52,000 proved unsuccessful. Lindsey Beaven, the tour director for the Women's Tennis Association, called it a ''nice gesture'' but said the W.T.A. would not recognize the bonus as official prize money.

Miss Hanika may be the Ivan Lendl of the women's tour. Her youth, heavy topspin, high service toss, European clay-court roots, steady improvement and commitment closely parallel Lendl's.

The game that gave her the confidence to challenge Miss Navratilova's serve-and-volley style was the sixth in the second set, with the defending champion serving at 3-2. In the previous game Miss Hanika had escaped from deuce and had held with a backhand net-cord winner and a backhand pass down the line.

Miss Navratilova fell behind, 0-30 and 15-40. The next 8 points were a blur of brilliance by both players, with Miss Navratilova saving 4 break points on almost unbelievable reflex volleys and Miss Hanika finally breaking serve for the first time on a stinging forehand cross-court return of a first serve and a forehand pass down the line.

''I really didn't change anything,'' Miss Navratilova insisted afterward. ''She just started hitting winners all over the place.'' Not quite. While Miss Hanika uncoiled four winners for another break to 5-3 and saved 3 break points to hold from deuce for the set, the mental attitude of both players shifted noticeably.

Miss Hanika, admittedly nervous at the outset, powered first serves to the backhand and attacked. Miss Navratilova's first-serve percentage skidded from a respectable 68 and 83 in the first two sets to 45. And instead of trying to feed Miss Hanika short, sliced, offspeed balls down the middle, as she had done successfully in the opening set, she grew more unsettled as the pace intensified and Miss Hanika passed her and put away shots.

''What I'm mad about is that I didn't do anything in the final set,'' Miss Navratilova said. ''I didn't play scared, but I didn't do anything. She ended up coming to the net more than I did.''

In dominating the tour this year, winning 54 of 58 sets before yesterday, Miss Navratilova had said she was playing ''better than ever.'' But major titles are usually won by the player who is the strongest, mentally and physically, and Miss Hanika, her head buried in a towel for concentration on the changeovers, maintained that commitment and held serve at love for the match.

''Have you ever played a better match?'' Miss Hanika was asked, after she admitted that she had walked onto the court at the start saying to herself, ''Don't lose 6-love, 6-love.''

''I don't think so,'' she said.

Shift by Sponsor

Avon was expected to announce that it would shift to a ''lesser role'' on the women's tour. Bill Corbett, director of public relations, said that the company, which had sponsored the championship and Futures circuit in recent years, would announce its plans today. Speculation is that the Women's Tennis Association has prepared a revised format for next year, with a 30-week circuit spanning the entire year and replacing the winter circuit.

The likely replacement for Avon as sponsor is the Phillip Morris Company, which began the women's tour in 1970 under its subsidiary, Virginia Slims.
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