Re: Bettina Bunge – A Citizen of the World
Bettina Bunge – A Citizen of the World
By Wolfgang Scheffler
“It was the time before Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, a time in which tennis imports were very welcome in Germany. In May 1979, there appeared for the first time at the German Open in Berlin a young girl who played excellent tennis and had German parents, but behind whose name was unfortunately written the abbreviation USA. Research showed that the blonde had been born on June 13, 1963, in Adliswil, Switzerland, the daughter of an export and import merchant, and that she had spent her childhood in Peru and her teenage years in Miami, Florida. Her talent at tennis was obvious from the fact that she had entered her first tournament, in Peru, at the age of 11, and that she had won the Peruvian Championships at the age of 13.
“Six months later [in October 1979], when this talented young player took part in another tournament in Germany, this time in Filderstadt, she was ranked number 31 in the world, but the abbreviation USA still appeared behind her name. That was when German officials arranged for her to switch countries. This was a logical step. After all, Bettina Bunge had taken part in the World Junior Championships at the end of 1978 – as a German. The fact that she also spoke fluent German brought her to the attention of German tennis officials. Richard Schönbronn, German national coach at that time, Gerd Gauch, overall head of sport, and Margot Dohrer, head of women’s sport, agreed on a contract in Filderstadt with Bettina Bunge’s mother.
“From then on the citizen of the world played for Germany, particularly since the issuing of a German passport for her was a mere formality. In Filderstadt, Schönbronn rhapsodized about a ‘jewel’ and ‘one of the greatest tennis talents in the world’, ‘a player whose game was exactly like the successful game played by the American players of that era’. Meanwhile, overall head of sport Gerd Gauch exulted in the fact that he had got a bargain. ‘She gets less than 30,000 Deutschmarks for taking part in the Federation Cup. She is the cheapest player who has ever joined the German Tennis Association because we’ve never paid for her to spend time training nor have we incurred any other type of expenses due to her.’
“Bettina Bunge was quickly made a member of the German Federation Cup team, and began training immediately with Sylvia Hanika in Munich. The following year she represented Germany in the Federation Cup together with Hanika. Neither player was particularly well-disposed towards the other. ‘Well, we manage,’ was Bettina Bunge’s response when asked during an interview with ‘tennis magazin’ if she got on well with her teammate from Bavaria, who was then the number one in the German rankings. However, the fans were agreed: Bettina Bunge was the real number one in German women’s tennis.
“Bettina Bunge, 17 years old, with blond hair, which she always kept in place with a headband, made her successful appearances at German tennis tournaments popular. For the first time the abbreviation ‘B.B.’ appeared in German tennis. Bettina Bunge, who spoke German, Spanish and English fluently, but still always looked taciturn, and was sometimes even gruff in front of journalists, had more to offer than a pleasant appearance. She could also play great tennis and had an elegant technique which made every stroke look effortless. She was also a player who was not afraid of making risky approaches to the net and even occasionally played serve-and-volley tennis.
“In 1982, she won both the singles and doubles titles at the International German Championships in Berlin. She outplayed the American Kathy Rinaldi in the singles final, 6-2, 6-3. In the semi-finals the 15-year-old American had defeated Sylvia Hanika, from Munich. In the same year, 1982, Bettina Bunge was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon where she lost to the 25-year-old Martina Navratilova in fifty minutes, 6-2, 6-2. In that year, Bettina Bunge also won two tournaments, in Oakland and Tokyo, beating Sylvia Hanika in the final of the latter tournament.
“At the beginning of 1983, Bettina Bunge was ranked number 6 in the world – her highest ranking. Shortly afterwards there were already signs that the end of her tennis career was approaching. From then on she was constantly plagued by injuries, had hearing difficulties and had to undergo several operations. In the meantime, the media in Germany wondered, how ill is Bettina Bunge really?
“Bettina Bunge tried again and again to repeat her former successes. During the first of her comebacks she made it to the semi-finals of the German Open in Berlin where she had no chance against 15-year-old Steffi Graf. Berlin had a new crowd favourite, Germany a new tennis superstar. The girl from Brühl occasionally played doubles with Bettina Bunge, not without success. In 1986, they won the doubles event at the Tokyo tournament together, against Manuela Maleeva and her sister Katerina. In that year Bettina Bunge had also reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but lost again to the all-conquering Martina Navratilova.
“Shortly afterwards Bettina Bunge disappeared from the headlines. Now and again one read of her struggle to return to the tennis scene. After her last failed attempt at a comeback in 1990, she appeared in the gossip columns as the alleged partner of the millionaire Heinrich Thyssen. However, the two were really only good friends. Bettina Bunge, who is once more living in Miami, has completely withdrawn from the tennis scene. The player whose initial appearance on the tennis scene attracted broad media coverage in Germany, had left without a word.”
Last edited by newmark401; May 16th, 2014 at 06:55 PM.