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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old May 19th, 2015, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Tennis players movies could be made about

There's one about Li Na in the making. I know there's been one about Maureen Connolly also, and maybe others I'm not aware of?

Who do you think could inspire a rich movie?

I have a lot of examples in mind, but I'll start with two obvious ones:

Alice Marble - her life was truly amazing!

Toupie Lowther - could be colorful!
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2015, 12:26 AM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Lenglen, the first (more or less) modern-media international sports celebrity. But I think it would be difficult to convey just how ground-breaking and mind-blowing this was at the time, because the concept is now so commonplace. Still a lot of story, though, with a tragic ending.

Gibson, the Jackie Robinson of tennis. And with the whole female athlete in the 1950s burden to bear, too.

Helen Hull Jacobs, more or less openly lesbian in a time before it was socially acceptable and some decently dramatic catfights with Helen Wills to spice the plot.

Goolagong, Disney-esque heroine off counting butterflies and bumblebees in a field of wildflowers, versus the villainous troupe of King, Court, Evert, and Navratilova.

Navratilova, the all-American Cold War era feel-good story of escaping the Commie regime for the blessings of Western liberty: Money, fast cars, fast food, fast women, and firearms.

Graf attracted the interest of both the Gods of Tennis and the Gods of Irony for reasons unknown and hilarity, valor, and mayhem ensue.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2015, 10:42 AM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Surely The Monica Seles Story will be making its debut on Lifetime at some stage......

Oh, and Lisa Bonder!
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2015, 03:15 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Lenglen was the first diva .
King the pioneer
Martina Nav ,her life is a roman .
The Navratilova /Evert rivalry who turned in a real and special friendship .
Seles and the stabbing .
I guess all the all time greats deserve a movie
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2015, 10:41 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

"Second Service" about Renee Richards starring Vanessa Redgrave is a great film. How good is Vanessa Redgrave to convincingly play a man!!

Personally, I think so many of the lives led by tennis players (Hana is the archetypal example, Andrea Jaegar is another one, BJK also in contention) are too bizarre for film scripts. There are also the darker sides to so many stars of tennis (bulimia, abuse by fathers/coaches, personal fragility, sexual ambivalence) that would not be pleasant for them to want to see on screen.

If I had to write a film script, I would focus on Martina and Chris between 1973 and 1978 -- the first meeting in Ohio, the doubles partnership and friendship, Martina's defection, a slight cooling and all the divergence as Chris America is seen living it up at Studio 54 while Martina nervously takes her first visit to a dingy, rather different club in the same city.... You could bring in all the 70s decadence, from Burt Reynolds to Rosie's pool parties and brownies. The ending would be Martina running to the other side of the court to embrace Chris at the end of the 1978 Wimbledon final, her first ever Grand Slam singles triumph.*

* This would also mean there could be a sequel, starting with Nancy Lieberman appearing on the scene, bringing in all the 80s hairdos and shoulderpads and ending with the "backhand passing shot that was heard around the world" and the two friends embracing again in the dirt of Roland Garros.**

** Some idiot would try to come up with a third film around the "drama" of the 1988 Wimbledon semifinal which would bomb even more than that recent attempt to revive "V: The Miniseries".
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2015, 11:31 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

I agree for Alice MARBLE and Helen JACOBS.
Suzanne LENGLEN, Helen WILLS, Althea GIBSON, Martina NAVRATILOVA and Chris EVERT of course...

What about Molla MALLORY ?
The unknown norwegian player arriving in America and becoming the best player one year later + her rivalry with Suzanne Lenglen.

And Daphne AKHURST with her great australian career and tragic death.

I would go for Shirley FRY too. The great start especially in doubles, then the come back to "normal life" due to tennis elbow and then the come back in tennis with her 3 consécutives titles in Grand Slam, the number one place and marriage to finish

And because I proposed these players, all three placed in my top favorites, I will add another of my favorites, Sarah PALFREY, because she's... Sarah PALFREY !
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2015, 09:19 AM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Lenglen
Seles

Dancing and Skating through Life


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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old May 22nd, 2015, 12:16 AM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumarokov-Elston View Post
"Second Service" about Renee Richards starring Vanessa Redgrave is a great film. How good is Vanessa Redgrave to convincingly play a man!!

Personally, I think so many of the lives led by tennis players (Hana is the archetypal example, Andrea Jaegar is another one, BJK also in contention) are too bizarre for film scripts. There are also the darker sides to so many stars of tennis (bulimia, abuse by fathers/coaches, personal fragility, sexual ambivalence) that would not be pleasant for them to want to see on screen.

If I had to write a film script, I would focus on Martina and Chris between 1973 and 1978 -- the first meeting in Ohio, the doubles partnership and friendship, Martina's defection, a slight cooling and all the divergence as Chris America is seen living it up at Studio 54 while Martina nervously takes her first visit to a dingy, rather different club in the same city.... You could bring in all the 70s decadence, from Burt Reynolds to Rosie's pool parties and brownies. The ending would be Martina running to the other side of the court to embrace Chris at the end of the 1978 Wimbledon final, her first ever Grand Slam singles triumph.*

* This would also mean there could be a sequel, starting with Nancy Lieberman appearing on the scene, bringing in all the 80s hairdos and shoulderpads and ending with the "backhand passing shot that was heard around the world" and the two friends embracing again in the dirt of Roland Garros.**

** Some idiot would try to come up with a third film around the "drama" of the 1988 Wimbledon semifinal which would bomb even more than that recent attempt to revive "V: The Miniseries".
I really enjoyed this post, S-E but the others are also so interesting, and some of the players' lives you mentioned really deserve to be seen on screen. A lot of details I had no idea about, great to learn.

Witness of an Era of Grandeur
Chris the Ice Lady - Martina Grace&Power
Fraulein Forehand - The Divine Argentine
Merciless Monica - Barcelona Bumblebee
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old May 22nd, 2015, 12:46 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Quote:
Originally Posted by BCP View Post

Oh, and Lisa Bonder!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumarokov-Elston View Post
** Some idiot would try to come up with a third film around the "drama" of the 1988 Wimbledon semifinal which would bomb even more than that recent attempt to revive "V: The Miniseries".
Oh no, I liked the re-boot of V. I was devastated that they canned the third season. I mean, the earth was in serious shit!

Quote:
Originally Posted by calou View Post
Lenglen was the first diva .
King the pioneer
Martina Nav ,her life is a roman .
The Navratilova /Evert rivalry who turned in a real and special friendship .
Seles and the stabbing .
I guess all the all time greats deserve a movie
BJK story.... no doubt.

Even a doco on the cattiness and drama of women's doubles would be awesome.

There's more to life than just being happy.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2015, 03:57 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Was that excerpt from "Martina Unauthorised" too big or did the database just foul up yesterday (was having page loading problems)?
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2015, 11:57 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Since we have some people in the audience who might not be familiar with this particular biography, we present excerpts from Martina Unauthorised, and by "unauthorised" we mean greatly dramaticized and embellished. It's like Chris and Martina also had a rivalry going over whose personal life could be more messed up and borderline!

Part 1 of 3

Portrait: The player

People have written off Martina Navratilova many times since she arrived in the US 21 years ago. Each time she has managed to pick herself up, recreate her game and, as often as not, throw herself into a new love affair. But this week, aged 38, the greatest of women's champions played her farewell tournament.

These are edited extracts from Martina Unauthorised, by Adrianne Blue, published by Victor Gollancz on November 24, at pounds 15.99.

The Guardian
Manchester, UK
November 19, 1994

THE skinny little girl with the cropped brown hair, had been given a racket by her grandmother when she was just four-and-a-half years old. She would spend hours hitting balls against a wall in the village of Revnice where she grew up, 27 kilometres south of Prague.

'I don't remember the exact day or moment when I felt the racket for the first time,' Martina says, 'but I remember having to hold it with both hands. It was an old wooden racket with a wooden handle, no leather grips. I just hit two-handed backhands against the wall.'

All children play pretend games. Martina imagined she was playing against great champions when she hit balls against her favourite wall. 'In my head, I was playing Rod Laver.' Or she was Rod Laver or Rosie Casals or Billie Jean King. At the age of eight, Martina saw her first Wimbledon on television. It didn't matter if the picture was fuzzy. 'I remember watching Billie Jean win, that was in '66. I thought I could do it one day. I don't know why.'

You could see a tennis court from the room in which Martina, an only child, lived with her mother. Martina was told that her grandparents, who lived in a room upstairs, had once owned the whole house and the tennis court opposite. Both now belonged to the Czech state. There were several families living in the big, increasingly decrepit house. The tennis court, no longer in use, was deteriorating.

The family's one great intangible legacy was its sporting tradition. Tennis had entered the family through the female line. Martina's grandmother, Agnes Semanska, had at one time been ranked as the Czech number five. Her most notable victory, one the family still talked about, was a triumph over Vera Sukova's mother in the national championships. Vera Sukova was the first Czech woman ever to reach a Wimbledon final.

Martina's mother Jana, loved sports too. She was a ski instructor in the Krkonose mountains when she met her first husband Miroslav Subert, who was working for the ski patrol. It was not surprising that their child Martina was gifted athletically. When her parents' marriage broke down, she moved with her mother to the family home in the village of Revnice.

She was three-and-a-half when she met Miroslav Navratil who would become her first coach. Two years later he became her stepfather. Navratil, an adequate club player, recognised that Martina had real talent and promised her one day she would be a champion. 'If he had a dollar for every hour he spent with me,' she says, 'he'd be a millionaire.'

When Martina was nine, Miroslav took her to Prague for a try-out with the Czech equivalent of a tennis pro at Klamovka Tennis Club. She passed it. 'I think we can do something with her,' the instructor George Parma said. Next came Sparta, the best club in Prague.

The finest male player since Drobny, Jan Kodes, twice French Open champion, was a member of the Sparta Tennis Club, as was his married sister, Vlasta Vopickova, Czech number one for almost a decade. Martina was soon chosen as Kodes's doubles partner. 'I was a raw player and scared to death of letting down the great Kodes.'

'I encouraged her,' recalled Jan Kodes, now greying but still wiry and agile. In tennis, Czech society is entirely egalitarian in one respect. People think women should play with the same vigour and aggression as men.

Everywhere the moment comes when the promising young player has to demonstrate her power by overwhelming the old champion. The match for the national championship was between Martina and Vlasta Vopickova. The place was called Ostrava. Martina remembers it well. It was the summer before her 16th birthday, 1972. Martina came out on court and immediately attacked. 'That extraordinary slicing backhand, that was very disagreeable,' recalls Vlasta.

The final score was 7-5, 6-2, and Martina won. The match was a rite of passage. 'It meant I was good enough to play on the international circuit.'

To Vlasta too, that day in Ostrava signalled something more than defeat. 'I never beat her any more. And we all knew then she would be a great champion.'

THE SUN rises high above the irrigated palm trees. Blue skies. Green lawns. Black men painting the white houses whiter. Florida on a winter's day in 1973. To Martina, 16 years old, on her first visit to the land of Evert, the sunshine in March, the open skies and open faces, are astonishing. Everything looks so new. Above all, she admires the all-American style of the Fort Lauderdale Tennis Club. It was there she first met Chris Evert.

Tennis was not a teenager's paradise then. The big names were the 30-year-old 1973 world number one Margaret Court, and the number two Billie Jean King, 29. Virginia Wade, whose best ranking was still in the future, was 27. The only precocious teenager was Chris Evert.

Their second meeting, but their first on a tennis court, was later that month, at a tournament in Akron, Ohio. Martina had the ill fortune of drawing Chris in the first round. Instead of dread, Martina says she was 'thrilled to death'. In any event, Martina was not intimidated and before a crowd of a few hundred, on March 22 1973, she battled to a very honourable defeat, Chris winning 7-6, 6-3.

Neither Martina nor Chris realised that the gauntlet had been thrown down and the duel would endure for 80 matches. It was the quiet start of the greatest rivalry in tennis. Martina had more talent than Chris, whose greatest gifts were her sound but limited number of groundstrokes and above all her coolly focused ability to concentrate. As an athlete, Martina was a natural. Her debut caused a stir in Europe where, at least until she started swearing at the linesmen, the crowds preferred her to the so very typically American Chris.

Martina faced Chris Evert at the 1975 US Open semi-final, it was one of the biggest moments of her career so far. The match, which was being played in Forest Hills, New York, would be Chris's fourth bid for the final, but it was only Martina's first.

Yet Martina's thoughts kept spiralling to the moment after the match, when she had an important date. (She lost the match in two sets after becoming very agitated over two disputed line calls.) That night Martina walked nervously into the down-at-the-heel offices of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service in down-town Manhattan.

The American at the desk learned forward and assured her that she would be granted a temporary resident permit which amounted to political asylum. As she was from a Communist country, processing her application would be 'very routine'.

But at 10.30pm, as she walked out of of the government building in one of the scarier parts of Manhattan, deserted by all but rats and criminals, she was jumpy. She half expected Communists to leap from the darkness and drag her on to a tanker waiting at the nearby docks.

'I wanted my freedom,' Martina announced. Three months before she defected, Martina had her first lesbian affair. 'I felt at home. I felt very comfortable with a woman. I realised this is it. And my life was going to be inherently more difficult, but this was how it was gonna be, and that was it. I never gave it another thought.'
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2015, 11:58 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Part 2 of 3

Portrait: The player

People have written off Martina Navratilova many times since she arrived in the US 21 years ago. Each time she has managed to pick herself up, recreate her game and, as often as not, throw herself into a new love affair. But this week, aged 38, the greatest of women's champions played her farewell tournament.

These are edited extracts from Martina Unauthorised, by Adrianne Blue, published by Victor Gollancz on November 24, at pounds 15.99.

The Guardian
Manchester, UK
November 19, 1994

BY the time Martina arrived at the US Open the following year, she was 25 or so pounds overweight, the embodiment of too much high living and too little training. She bought expensive cars, jewellery, clothes. She had become a poor little rich girl.

At first Martina did not see that there was any problem. 'I was 20 years old,' she says. 'I thought I could just rely on my talent for the game.'

This was a great mistake. To succeed in the competitive world of Court, King and Evert, she would have to improve her mind, her body, her game - and her temperament. She needed more strokes to her game, more finesse and less simplisitc court strategy. You couldn't just play to your opponent's backhand.

Her greatest ally, at the start of what would be a career-long journey, was Sandra Haynie, who had been a factor in her life for some months. Haynie, one of the world's best golfers, took her under her wing: 'We learned how to change our diet from Big Macs to vegetables and chicken and salad. We learned to work out and make working out fun.'

Martina began to come out of the slump. They changed her timing, worked on her conditioning, and were now dealing with the temper problem.

'I always thought that she and McEnroe had a lot in common,' Haynie says. 'They expected so much of themselves they were really unable to accept a mistake.'

IN the seeded players' locker room in July 1978, Martina was trying to prepare herself for her first Wimbledon final, which would be against Chris. The moment was not as she and her stepfather might have dreamed.

There had been an unpleasantness in the third set of the semi-final, an argument with the umpire because of Evonne Goolagong's scream when she pulled a calf muscle as she hit a shot. To many in the crowd, Martina had seemed more concerned about the point than about her injured opponent. 'It was funny,' Martina mused, 'because here I got to my first Wimbledon final and I'm the bad guy.'

In the final against Evert, Martina was 2-4 down in the third set. There was only one way she could win now. By breaking the speed limit. Daring to take risks that few players would chance in a Wimbledon final, Martina broke Chris's serve and held her own to level at 4-4. On a winning point, she kissed her wooden racket.

But Chris rallied and teetered on the brink of victory at 5-4. Martina did not crack; Chris did. 'I just served really well,' recalls Martina. 'I got all my first serves in.'

She won 12 of the next 13 points, winning the set and the one-and-a-half-hour match, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. She raised her arms high in triumph. She was the Wimbledon champion. At last. She had finally shown the killer instinct.

THE young Englishman peering out of the bathroom window at the view saw his hostesses, Martina and Rita Mae, strolling arm in arm through the grounds of their Virginia country estate. With their two Japanese dogs yapping at their feet, the women seemed tremendously at ease with each other. Martina in the perennial jeans jacket was the taller, but Rita Mae Brown, who was nearly 11 years older, was socially the more dominant.

It was Rita Mae, the novelist, whose tastes and friends filled the 20-room house. Martina and Rita Mae had started their relationship slowly, months after their first date. Now, in the summer of 1980, their relationship was in full flower.

Rita Mae, author of the hilariously comic Rubyfruit Jungle and Six Of One, was famous not only as a novelist but as a lesbian novelist. If the world number one tennis player wanted to be discreet about her private life, Rita Mae was not the woman to date.

'I didn't think about my image,' says Martina. 'I didn't say l'm not gonna fall in love with you because you're a well-known lesbian writer.' In life as in tennis Martina would always take risks and play at lightning speed and from the net. She suggested they move in together.

Martina had also fallen in love with the rolling hills of the Virginia countryside, which, she says, 'reminded me of my part of Czechoslovakia'. Now they jointly owned a house just outside Charlottesville, with an oak library and nine acres. There were statues on the patio, formal gardens, six bathrooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court.

In Haynie, Martina had chosen a great champion to teach her to be a champion. Now, to educate her mind and sensibility, Martina turned to a 'sophisticated lady'. Rita Mae was a mixture of prima donna and Southern Good Old Gal, feminist and literary light. Martina was pure tennis champion, a village girl who had developed expensive, almost vulgar tastes. The old guru Haynie had offered the quiet, wholesome, sporting life; Rita Mae, the new mentor, had culture and glamour.

Flowers would be arranged around the house. Martina and Rita Mae expected the refrigerator to be stocked, so Becky, a graduate student from the university who looked after things, would take one of the cars - there were several just sitting there - and drive to the local gourmet shop, where she would more or less shop at random for luxury foods. The food didn't necessarily correspond to any future use, it might or might not be eaten. When you opened the fridge, you saw not the commodities, but the concept of powerful, influential, rich women at home.

When they were at home, Martina and Rita Mae would tend to surface about four o'clock in the afternoon, at which time they might run into Adam Mars-Jones, then a graduate student, coming back from the university library on his bicycle. He had been invited to stay at the house by Becky. He was roughly the same age as Martina. Rita Mae was delighted when she heard his first novel would soon be published. She liked to have a literary coterie.

AT one party they gave, Rita Mae hired Adam to play the piano. They took the trouble of moving the piano out of the house on to the terrace. 'She gave me 50 bucks to play cocktail piano at one of her parties, not because I was a good cocktail pianist but because she could say,''My pianist, he's a novelist too.'' She liked that, she liked putting on the style.'

That night, as Some Enchanted Evening rang out over the rolling Virginia hills, Martina stood in the background, as she usually did at these parties. She was becoming less and less enchanted.

Martina sensed that her tennis was going down the tubes, while Rita Mae was telling her not to worry, there was more to life than tennis. It was beginning to be apparent that she would have to make a break.

The parting from Rita Mae was not pretty. 'We began fighting, shouting, crying,' Martina recalled in her autobiography. 'Let's say she did not take it lightly. She was hurt, anybody would be, and we got into one of the nastiest, most physical arguments I ever hope to be in.'
They went from room to room, 'raging at each other'. Finally, 'I raced out of the house, getting into the car before she did, and I jammed it into gear and spun out of the driveway.'

Martina had a licensed pistol she kept in the house for protection against prowlers. It had somehow come to the surface. Now, as the car door slammed on their relationship, Rita Mae happened to see Martina's pistol, and, needing something to throw, hurled it. 'I didn't realise the gun was loaded.' Rita Mae says that to her horror the gun went off. The ricocheting bullet shattered the back window of the car, missing Martina by inches.

It would take Rita Mae a long time to get over Martina, but even depressed, she was talkative and good company. Rita Mae always liked to talk about ovaries as an analogy of the way one talks about men having balls. She used to say as a term of approval, 'That woman has ovaries coming out of her ears.'

She felt that women needed a jocular, strong and unsentimental way of talking about strength. She also talked about ovary-busters and ovary-busting, like ball-breakers and ball-breaking. At the time, a distraught Rita Mae told a few people, who believed it and certainly believed she thought it true, that Martina's first female lover, a tennis player who was older, had 'busted Martina's ovaries'. In other words broken her heart, and ever since then, she believed, Martina had been breaking everybody else's ovaries.

Martina was living in a precarious world. On May 5, 1981, the Billie Jean King palimony scandal struck. It would have great impact on Martina's approach to making her own sexual orientation public. What complicated the whole thing for Martina, just as it had for Billie Jean King, was money. Ever since tennis had allied itself with a tobacco company, the sport had been wedded to commerce.

When the Women's Tennis Association, a go-getting, PR-conscious players' union, was formed by Billie Jean King and others in 1973, a large part of its brief was to make money for the players. And it has. What was worrying Martina at least as much as what people in Richmond and Revnice would think was the effect a lesbian scandal would have on her endorsements and on her sport.

JUDY Nelson was the very incarnation of respectability, not just a member of the country-club set, but also a doctor's wife. Martina had already lived with two women in Texas, Haynie the native and Nancy Lieberman, a New Yorker-turned-Texan. With Judy, Martina would again reside in the Lone Star State, but this time she would be admitted to the 'best circles'.

It was at their first Wimbledon - very early days - that BeAnn, the lawyer's assistant whom some of the tabloid press mistook for Judy, began to work on what would later come to light as the notorious agreement regarding the division of property in case they split.

Judy's parents supported her in what people referred to as her new 'lifestyle'. Her younger son wanted to be with his mother, but in the beginning of the relationship, Dr Nelson insisted that the grandparents chaperone every visit. Martina had arranged a condominium apartment near her and Judy's house where the boys stayed with their grandparents. Later, things would loosen up considerably. There were constraints; there were difficulties; but from that summer of 1984 through about five of the next seven years, the living was easy.

When it came, the 'divorce' from Judy Nelson was of the worst sort, hostile and messy. According to the 'non-marital cohabitation' which the two women had signed, Judy was claiming half of what Martina had earned during their years together.

'For seven years I have supported and assisted Martina, sacrificing many of my own personal goals in the process,' said Judy, who was 45. 'She has left me and pursued another relationship, and left my life in disarray.'

'I not only took care of Judy,' Martina countered, citing salaries and chapter and verse, 'but, of course, her family.'

Many thought Judy had acted out of spite.

'No,' Martina told The Advocate in 1993. 'She really truly believes she deserves half that money. She somehow convinced herself of that. All I know is if I had done what she had done, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror.'
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old May 23rd, 2015, 11:59 PM
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Part 3 of 3

Portrait: The player

People have written off Martina Navratilova many times since she arrived in the US 21 years ago. Each time she has managed to pick herself up, recreate her game and, as often as not, throw herself into a new love affair. But this week, aged 38, the greatest of women's champions played her farewell tournament.

These are edited extracts from Martina Unauthorised, by Adrianne Blue, published by Victor Gollancz on November 24, at pounds 15.99.

The Guardian
Manchester, UK
November 19, 1994

AT the Wimbledon final of 1987, where the going was always going to be tough, Martina took no chances. All season, Steffi Graf - whom Martina regards as her great rival, second only to Chris Evert - had been a giant killer. In the weeks before Wimbledon, Martina, on a losing streak, even switched to Graf's brand of racket. The American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard had given Martina a miniature tennis racket for luck. She stuffed it into her sock and went out on court. She served the first ball of the final to the 18-year-old Graf. Graf won the point.

Martina's supporters in the crowd caught their breath. This was the year Chris Evert would be relegated to the grand-slam semi-finals; was it also the end for Martina? No. Wimbledon again inspired Martina. After 39 minutes, she won the first set. Another half-an-hour and it was over, Martina victorious, 7-5, 6-3. 'I never lost my serve in that match.' And the only time the younger player had led on points was on that first one.

On that calm, windless day Martina Navratilova and the crowd felt tremendous excitement as she equalled Helen Wills Moody's 50-year-old record of eight singles titles. She also became the first woman to match William Renshaw's record of six consecutive titles.

'How many more Wimbledons do you want?' Steffi asked as they awaited the Duchess of Kent's presentation of the trophies. 'Nine is my lucky number,' Martina answered.

BUT BY 1989, as Steffi continued her domination, Martina was visibly fading. Wasn't it time to quit? It was not until her loss to Gabriela Sabatini at Amelia Island, in April 1989, that a despairing Martina telephoned Billie Jean King and said, 'Help.'

Billie agreed to come to her assistance. They changed her volley, they were working on her serve. Billie brought in other people. 'I'm a big believer in bringing other people in, including a lot of different theories.'

They still weren't happy with her serve. Martina would listen to everything, try it, and then choose what she thought would work for her. Some of it did; some of it didn't.

At Wimbledon that year, Martina reached the finals where she lost to Steffi 6-2, 6-7, 6-1. They had nearly done it; but 'nearly' doesn't count. Billie's sympathy was, as ever, highly pragmatic.
'You have 365 more days to prepare.' The rest of the world decided it was too late. But Martina, now 33, still wanted what everyone thought impossible for someone of her age in that tennis climate. She wanted to win a ninth Wimbledon. 'Am I insatiable? Yes,' said Martina. 'Wimbledon is like a drug.'

The following year,every expectation was overturned. It was Zina Garrison, not Steffi, whom Martina had to face in the Wimbledon final. On court, Martina let the well-tuned machine that was her body do its precision work.

As Garrison mis-hit her final backhand, Martina raised her arms, and sank to her sore knees, in what looked like a silent prayer of thanksgiving. She had won 6-4, 6-1.

Chris Evert in the commentary box was suddenly mute. 'I couldn't say a word. I got caught up in the emotion of it. Martina was the greatest grass-court player that Wimbledon had ever seen.'

IT IS June 1994. In the dead of night, Martina pays a visit to her favourite spot: 'Centre Court, when there's nobody here, at night, with just the guard dogs. I was here at full moon,' she says. 'I can feel all those champions out there.'

It is traditional on Wimbledon's first Tuesday, Ladies Day, for the reigning champion to play the opening match on Centre Court. To the consternation of many, but the whoops of more, Graf lost in her first-round match. This fate had never befallen a Wimbledon defending champion in the 110 years of women's play.

For Martina, Steffi's defeat was a blood transfusion. More. It was the miracle that would make the miracle of another Wimbledon title - her tenth - possible to contemplate. The world number three Conchita Martinez was the other finalist. Conchita who? Except to a few aficionados, the 22-year-old Spaniard who had beaten Martina in the Italian Open seemed invisible. Although she had been in the top five for nearly a year and ranked world number three since February 21, Martinez was overlooked even by many in the media.

Martina and Conchita Martinez had never played each other on grass and many thought Conchita was likely to be overawed playing the legend on her legendary turf. But recently she had practised with Martina and, despite the difference in their ages, they were friends.

When Martina and Conchita walked on to the court, the applause was thunderous. Martina's full entourage was in attendance, Billie seated today in the players' box between Martina's coach, Craig Kardon, and her young girlfriend, Danda Jaroljmek. Further along the row were her mother and stepfather.

Conchita won the toss and chose to serve. She won the point. As she won the game, to love, Jana Navratilova tugged nervously at her coral dress. Conchita was not overawed by playing in the final. Martina held her serve. They were both playing very well, Martina taking the risks at the net and chasing the glorious angles, while Conchita from the safety of the baseline sent forth blasts. The crowd was transfixed.

Never before in a Wimbledon final had Martina to concede 15 years, yet the two whose games were so different appeared well-matched. But as Martina played to the supposedly weak Martinez backhand, torrential top-spin shots stormed back. As the first set went to Conchita Martinez, 6-4, Jana Navratilova turned anxiously to her husband, and shook her head.

Then the match was stopped briefly because Conchita had called for a physio. As play resumed, Martina again supplied the momentum. As she won the set, 6-3, Jana threw her arms in the air with the same joyous abandon she had shown when Martina won Wimbledon in 1979.

Yes, they thought, Martina will win it. Yes, hoped the thousands of people in the stands. Yes, hoped most of the millions watching via the networks and satellite. Yes!

But it just wasn't to be. Probably Martina knew before anyone else. In the third set, as first one, then another ferocious passing shot sliced through Martina's defences, she suspected, then knew for sure that Conchita was playing the match of her life.

On the last point, she rushed for a backhand it was unlikely anyone could possibly meet, and missed it. Conchita, victorious, threw her racket into the air.

Martina rushed to the net, to congratulate the victor, who had won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. It was somehow fitting that the young champion had beaten the ageing great one, who was, after all, 37 years and 257 days old. It was sad, too, of course, but it was a sign of the health of the sport.

'It's tough, you know,' Conchita said, 'to take the tenth title away from Martina. I'm really sorry to beat her, but I'm really pleased that I did.'

'I have no regrets,' Martina said. 'I gave it all I had. I lost the bloody match, but what a way to go.'
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

A slice of Graf's life, complete with one of those "only in the movies" moments at the end that pop up with astonishing frequency in her biography.

I can still play tennis
Steffi Graf has been out with an injury for five months.
A Day With Germany's Most Famous Athlete
By Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns
Die Zeit
1997
Nr. 51

She is looking for her passport. On a return flight back from America, she lost her passport twice; luckily, a stewardess discovered it between the seats. But where will the blessed thing be found this time? She is expecting a replacement in Brühl at her parents' house. Therefore, she will make a detour on her way from her apartment on the Neckar River to the airport. And that means taking the Autobahn, left lane.

Compared to her forehand, her handshake is rather gentle. "I'm Steffi," she said in greeting. "Otherwise, I can't do this."

The first question concerned her level of training after five months of an injury break. She answered so curt and dry, like she plays. "The injury I'm working on is difficult to rehab. I still have about a third of the way to go." For each week that she must sit out of her sport means she must work two weeks to "definitely" regain her form.

She is wearing a warm-up suit with a yellow jacket and black pants. Occasionally she brushes back her brown hair with her hand, so that the small pearls on her ears come into view. As the rain falls harder and the windshield wipers of her BMW barely keep up with the downpour, she mentions her visit to her pharmacist shortly before our departure. She has been going there for years to pick up "balms to fight pain." "Then, the pharmacist suddenly asked me softly: 'Steffi, must you really still do all this?' " She has to laugh as she thinks about it. Then she turns off at the Brühl Airship Circle exit. "There it is, the Fortress."

The siege has been going on for a good year. Sometimes, up to ten TV crews have been lurking in front of the gate. "Day and night, and then they even acquired a crane for themselves." She says it without really thinking as she parks the car in the garage and her dogs greet her. Three German shepherds and this mutt that she saw rooting through the trash cans in Moscow's airport. So she took it with her.

In the cellar, a white shield with the legend "For the Honored Citizen of Brühl" gathers dust as it hangs on the wall. Steffi Graf goes ahead with short, quick steps. By a light switch, she seems not quite sure of herself anymore, then proceeds up some stairs behind a stack of blue tennis rackets.

The living room? Just like many others in Germany. Except for the glass display case with trophies from Wimbledon and a massage table that obstructs passage to the wet bar. Next to it is a photograph in a silver frame; it shows her, with her head leaning close to her mother. "She is in America at the moment."

The duration of our stay in this house lasts only as long as a young woman needs to get changed for the evening. The passport -- and then she is already back in the car again. The gates at the end of the entrance are closing behind her. Steffi Graf waits until the doors fall completely shut. "Maybe it would have been more clever to simply bring some coffee out to the reporters, yes, maybe."

When her father and manager was arrested on tax evasion charges the year before last, she was in an airplane on the way to Florida. At a stopover in Atlanta, her brother suddenly appears at the gate. "I saw his face. At first, I thought there was a death in the family." Arrested. "The ground opened up beneath me, a feeling -- like I was on quicksand."

She speaks softly, she has doubts if she can find such a comparison to adequately describe the moment. "Sometimes, I only had the wish to finally know everything."

When she returned to Germany after the US Open, she had the winner's check for over $600,000 in her pocket. She didn't know where to go. And she also didn't know where to go with the check. That would be the last time that something like that happens to her. Everywhere, sports agents raised their hands, international operations consultants offered their services. Ion Tiriac, too. "He said to me, 'We will only do what suits you. You decide what you want to do.' "

Possibly, the solution might have been playing tennis and nothing else. But it concerned her, "to keep an overview." Thus, she establishes Steffi Graf Sport GmbH in Mannheim. She appoints a man by the name of Hans Engert as her business manager. Once ranked 70th in the world, an association's coach afterward. She has known him for as long as she has played tennis. She puts her "entire package of trust" on the desk "with Hans."

Mannheim Airport. An enchanted place, especially on an evening on which one gradually loses sight of the blue band of navigational lights along the runway in the December mist. A tower, with a hanger diagonally behind it, weakly illuminated by the lights. Travelers who want to leave now do well to know the way.

Over the years, "Mannheim-Neuostheim" has marked the beginning and the end. From here, she started out for Roland Garros and Wimbledon; here, the sovereign of tennis returned from her throne back to everyday life.

In 1996, she won the All England Lawn Tennis Championships for the seventh time. As always, it was on a Saturday. She stayed in London, since the Champions' Dinner was, as always, on Sunday. But then, the others still lingered over dessert, she climbed into an airplane. She landed in Mannheim well after midnight, the blue lights along the runway were specially switched on her once more. She got behind the wheel of her car. Two hours later, she sat across from her father. She told him.

She keeps at it to this day. Even after her knee was operated on in Vienna, she met with him. These visits in prison, "I take them upon myself," says Steffi Graf, the words follow each other slowly. "I just would like to know how he is -- he is still my father."

She guided her car past all the barriers and parked directly in front of the hangar, where Manager Engert, a man of gigantic size, already waited for her. On this evening, she shall fly in the chartered Lear Jet from Mannheim to an exhibition in Brno, Czech Republic. She had confirmed the trip at the beginning of the year, when no doctor yet knew how damaged her left knee really was.

Now, she certainly can't play in the tournament, but she will hold press conferences and TV interviews, the details of which are in a fax from Brno. Engert has it in his pocket, she doesn't want to see it. As the plane takes off, Steffi Graf turns up the collar of her coat and settles deep into her seat.

It seems that before public appearances, she dies a thousand deaths behind the scenes. Sometimes she shakes her head and doesn't even understand herself. "I will never learn how anymore." Sometimes she only says: "They don't ever leave me in peace."

She mentions the tournaments in London, Paris, and Hamburg quite especially. She took her free time here and there and walked in the city, "then they follow me every step I take." Once, the experience engraved itself in her, she found a hiding place only behind a large advertising column. She waited for a while, turned around with relief, "and I again looked into this lens."

Or even doing that which pleases her. She went to Hamburg for a concert. Carlos Santana. Because she already suspected something, she kept her distance from the stage. But he spotted her in the crowd and wouldn't ease off on her until she came up on stage next to him. Steffi Graf with a rattle in her hand. In front of three thousand people, she had to play along, "I could have screamed."

It's different on the tennis court. She has stopped being surprised about it. Madison Square Garden, all the cameras aimed at her, the stands full to overflowing. "But I feel sure of myself there," says Steffi Graf, "Because I can still play tennis."

Strictly speaking, it was only a small false step brought on perhaps by a slight unevenness in the lawn of the center court at Britain's Eastbourne. It happened on June 13, 1996, one day before her 27th birthday.

Suddenly, she feels a "hellish pain" in her left knee. She goes to her doctor and had an MRI performed. Only an irritation, at worst an inflammation of the patellar tendon, goes the misdiagnosis. So she continues to play. And how she played! Manager Engert summarizes it: "If a doctor says to her it will only hurt, but that nothing worse can happen, then she knows no mercy."

An exhibition tournament in Bratislava, Federation Cup in Austria. After Wimbledon and the US Open, she competes in Leipzig, only a few balls, then can't take one step more. In the finals of Philadelphia, she retires. She wins the Chase Championships in five sets against Martina Hingis. At the beginning of the year at the Australian Open in Melbourne, she plays with an infected toe. The doctor gives her antibiotics in spite of the heat, she physically breaks down in the quarterfinals.

In Tokyo, the pain in her knee returns. A three month break. After Berlin and Strasbourg the old misery returns again. The doctor speaks about damage to the cartilage for the first time. At the French Open it is finished: The cartilage is torn apart, the kneecap is out of place, the meniscus is damaged. Steffi Graf changes her doctor.

She recalls this last year and a half, then, as a bookkeeper crosses off the last item in the budget, she recounts the last bit of her story. In June, as Wimbledon is taking place without her, she has just been operated on and lies in bed. But was she at odds with herself? The television in her hospital room remains switched off "not because it would have hurt me to watch it. It didn't interest me. I was only interested in being able to play again myself."

As the jet lands in Brno, Steffi Graf says: "I believe I was always made of iron, I do. Even as a kid." She looks out the window as the plane taxis down the runway, then pulls her head back. "Oh, great." Spotlights and cameras have turned out for her arrival. As she disembarks, she wears a smile.

Brno during Advent, and the glow from the lowest angle makes Steffi Graf look like a figure of light. Wherever she goes, the people form a row, but the longer the lane becomes, the more she accelerates her steps. At an autograph session at a sports store in the town's center, she sits at the front edge of her chair, ready to go, just like during a changeover at a tennis match.

Their microphones bore in closer, but she remains still, although everything in her wants to leave. She places one foot on top of the other, and sometimes she taps her hands against her thighs. Each question is a new millstone, yet the world only wants to know the one thing: Steffi, when is your comeback?

As though it concerned only that alone.

"I want to play, I want to get moving, tennis is so much fun." Solely because of this effort of will. She says it again and again, and no one wants to believe her that it can be so simple.

Brno's World Trade Center at eight in the morning: Left and right, the cleaning crew are running up the stands with their vacuum cleaners. Below on the court stands a young woman with a ponytail and a short black skirt. "More light would do well," she grumbles while sending a look that could kill up to the hall's ceiling.

But then. Backhand, forehand, slice. As though there would be no tomorrow. She thrashes the ball over the net and into the net. Backhand, forehand, forehand. Above all, the forehand. Sometimes she seems to be a little amazed herself. She sees the ball behind her, and it seems that she really did enjoy the moment a little. But then she turns herself away, new balls.

One of the few spectators at the edge of the court is Pavil Slozil. The former coach who accompanied her on her rise to number one. It's been years since they went their separate ways, but whenever Steffi plays in his home country, then Slozil comes, sits down, and is astonished. "Already almost perfect again," he judges. Then his thoughts wander back. "She never had an excuse [alternate: apology] ready; I always did. After five years with this woman, I knew that it was time to change my life."

Occasionally, Manager Engert catches himself in the process, like in the morning at breakfast he runs through the tournaments which start off the new tennis year next January: Brisbane, Sydney, and if not Sydney, then maybe Tokyo. But in the next moment, he takes it all back again. "She burns like always. Isn't that already enough?"

Tennis and business. Engert knows what that means. Namely, there were times when Steffi was practicing that he took a racket in hand. "Sometimes I even won a set." That's over. "There is no point anymore," says Engert. "I can't hit with her anymore, nor with anyone else, either. I have forgotten how to play tennis."

At first, he thought the problem was with his eyes. Yet, it is obvious that his athletic decline was accompanied by his new task of tidying up of operations in the office. Engert doesn't make much fuss over this realization, however. Even if business partner Steffi stands in front of him from time to time and says: "Hans, come on!" It is just so, "even if she doesn't believe me."

At the Christmas party at Brno's Hotel "International," the mood rises as she comes out one more time for the photographers before her farewell. She holds no discussion, she doesn't touch any cake, either. She is simply only there.

"One more Wimbledon, a dish of strawberries, and after that the end?" The question pleases her. Heinz Günthardt, her coach, supposedly once thought aloud in this direction. Of her own accord, she mentions boxers. "If they miss the right time to stop, that is more dramatic."

She had barely finished speaking when there is a small bang from the next table over where no one is sitting. A small glass ashtray bursts into a thousand pieces. "But that can't happen," she says. A secret signal from the tennis gods? "I don't think so," says Steffi Graf. "They still know me. I would try it again in 1999."

An hour later, she is sitting in the plane back to Mannheim. As the landing gear doors close, she mentions the question she heard in Brno that pleased her best of all: "Is your tendency for these black pants and skirts also an expression of your dark personality?"

She shakes from laughing. The two sides of her long coat slide away from her knees. Flawless. The scar on her left one can barely be seen.

Steffi Graf ist seit fünf Monaten verletzt.
Ein Tag mit Deutschlands berühmtester Sportlerin
Tennis kann ich doch
Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns
DIE ZEIT
1997
Nr. 51

Sie sucht ihren Paß. Auf einem Rückflug von Amerika verlor sie den Paß gleich zweimal, glücklicherweise entdeckten ihn die Stewardessen zwischen den Sitzen. Aber wo sich das gute Stück diesmal befindet? Einen Ersatzpaß vermutet sie in Brühl, im Hause der Eltern. Also fährt sie von ihrer Wohnung am Neckar zum Flughafen noch diesen Umweg, und das heißt Autobahn, linke Spur.

Gemessen an ihrer Vorhand, ist ihr Händedruck eher sanft. "Ich bin Steffi", hatte sie zur Begrüßung gesagt. "Sonst kann ich das nicht."

Die erste Frage galt ihrem Trainingsstand nach fünf Monaten Verletzungspause. Sie antwortete so kurz und trocken, wie sie spielt. "Ich nehme nur schwer Muskeln an, es fehlt noch ein Drittel." Eine Woche auszusetzen in ihrem Sport bedeute zwei Wochen schuften, um wieder in Form zu kommen, "definitiv".

Sie trägt einen Trainingsanzug mit einer gelben Jacke und einer schwarzen Hose. Gelegentlich streift sie mit der Hand die braunen Haare zurück, so daß die kleine Perle an ihrem Ohr zum Vorschein kommt. Als der Regen stärker wird und der Scheibenwischer ihres BMW kaum noch mitkommt, erwähnt sie den Besuch bei ihrer Apothekerin kurz vor der Abfahrt. Seit Jahren gehe sie dorthin, um sich "Salbe gegen Schmerzen" zu holen. "Da fragt mich die Apothekerin doch plötzlich leise: Steffi, mußt du denn das alles wirklich noch machen?" Sie muß lachen, als sie daran denkt. Dann biegt sie ein in den Brühler Luftschiffring. "Da ist sie, die Festung."

Vor gut einem Jahr die Belagerung. Manchmal hätten bis zu zehn Fernsehteams vor dem Tor gelauert. "Tag und Nacht, und dann besorgten sie sich einen Kran." Sie sagt es so dahin, als sie den Wagen in der Garage parkt und ihre Hunde sie begrüßen. Drei Schäferhunde und dieser Mischling. Den sah sie am Moskauer Flughafen, als er in Mülltonnen wühlte. Also nahm sie ihn mit.

Im Keller steht das weiße Schild "Für die Ehrenbürgerin von Brühl" verstaubt an der Wand. Steffi Graf geht voraus, mit kurzen, schnellen Schritten. Bei einigen Lichtschaltern scheint sie sich nicht mehr ganz sicher, dann führt hinter einem Stapel blauer Tennisschläger eine Treppe hinauf.

Das Wohnzimmer? So wie viele andere auch in Deutschland. Bis auf die Glasvitrine mit der Schale aus Wimbledon und die Massagebank, die jetzt den Durchgang zur Hausbar verstellt. Daneben ein Photo in einem Silberrahmen; es zeigt sie, den Kopf eng an die Mutter gelehnt. "Sie ist zur Zeit in Amerika."

Der Aufenthalt in diesem Haus dauert gerade so lange, wie eine junge Frau braucht, um sich für den Abend umzuziehen. Der Paß - und dann ist sie auch schon wieder im Wagen. Das Tor am Ende der Einfahrt schließt sich hinter ihr. Steffi Graf wartet, bis die Türen ins Schloß fallen. "Vielleicht wäre es klüger gewesen, den Reportern damals einfach einen Kaffee hinauszubringen, ja, vielleicht."

Als ihr Vater und Geschäftsführer vorletztes Jahr wegen Steuerhinterziehung verhaftet wurde, saß sie im Flugzeug nach Florida. Bei einem Zwischenstopp in Atlanta steht ihr Bruder plötzlich im Warteraum. "Ich sah in sein Gesicht. Erst glaubte ich an einen Todesfall in der Familie." Verhaftet. "Vor mir tat sich der Boden auf, ein Gefühl - wie auf Treibsand."

Sie spricht leise, sie hat Zweifel, ob solche Vergleiche diesen Moment hinreichend beschreiben können. "Irgendwann hatte ich nur noch den Wunsch, endlich alles zu wissen."

Als sie von den US Open nach Deutschland zurückkommt, hat sie den Siegerscheck über 750000 Dollar in der Tasche. Sie weiß nicht, wohin. Und auch nicht, wohin mit dem Scheck. Es soll das letzte Mal sein, daß ihr so etwas passiert. Überall heben Sportagenten die Hand, international operierende Berater empfehlen ihre Dienste. Auch Ion Tiriac. "Er sagte mir, wir machen nur, was zu dir paßt. Du entscheidest mit."

Möglicherweise wäre das eine Lösung gewesen, Tennis und sonst nichts. Aber ihr ging es darum, "den Überblick zu behalten". Also gründet sie in Mannheim die Steffi Graf Sport GmbH. Zum Geschäftsführer bestellt sie einen Mann namens Hans Engert. Ehemals auf Platz 70 der Weltrangliste, danach Verbandstrainer. Sie kennt ihn so lange, wie sie Tennis spielt. "Dem Hans" legt sie ihr "ganzes Vertrauenspaket" auf den Schreibtisch.

Flughafen Mannheim. Ein verwunschener Ort. Zumal an einem Abend, an dem sich das blaue Band des Leuchtfeuers entlang der Startbahn allmählich im Dezembernebel verliert. Ein Tower, schräg dahinter ein Flugzeughangar, beleuchtet von schalem Licht. Reisende, die jetzt noch wegwollen, tun gut daran, den Weg zu kennen.

Über die Jahre markiert "Mannheim-Neuostheim" den Anfang und das Ende. Von hier startete sie nach Roland Garros und Wimbledon, hier kehrte die Herrscherin im Welttennis von ihrem Thron in den Alltag zurück.

Im Jahr 1996 gewann sie die All England Lawn Tennis Championships zum siebtenmal. Wie immer war es ein Samstag. Sie blieb in London, denn das Champions Dinner war wie immer erst am Sonntag. Dann aber, die anderen waren noch beim Nachtisch, stieg sie ins Flugzeug. Weit nach Mitternacht landete sie in Mannheim, die blauen Lampen längs der Landebahn hatte man eigens für sie noch einmal angeschaltet. Sie setzte sich hinter das Steuer ihres Wagens. Zwei Stunden später saß sie ihrem Vater gegenüber. Erzählte ihm.

So hält sie es bis heute. Auch nachdem sie in Wien am Knie operiert worden war, hat sie ihn getroffen. Diese Besuche im Gefängnis, "ich nehme sie auf mich", sagt Steffi Graf, langsam die Worte hintereinandersetzend. "Ich möchte einfach wissen, wie es ihm geht - es ist doch mein Vater."

Sie hatte ihr Auto durch alle Sperren gelenkt und direkt vor dem Hangar geparkt, wo Manager Engert, ein Mann von hünenhafter Gestalt, schon auf sie wartete. An diesem Abend soll sie der gecharterte Lear Jet von Mannheim zu einem Schauturnier ins tschechische Brünn fliegen. Zugesagt hat sie die Reise Anfang des Jahres, als noch kein Arzt wußte, wie zerstört ihr linkes Knie wirklich war.

Nun kann sie zwar das Turnier nicht mitspielen, aber sie wird Pressekonferenzen geben und Fernsehinterviews, die Einzelheiten stehen auf einem Fax aus Brünn. Engert hat es in der Tasche, sie will es nicht sehen. Als die Maschine abhebt, schlägt Steffi Graf den Kragen ihres Mantels hoch und drückt sich tief in den Sitz.

Es kommt vor, daß sie vor öffentlichen Auftritten hinter der Bühne tausend Tode stirbt. Manchmal schüttelt sie dann den Kopf und versteht sich selber nicht. "Ich lern' das nicht mehr." Manchmal sagt sie aber auch nur: "Die lassen mich ja nicht in Ruhe."

Sie erwähnt die Turniere in London, Paris und Hamburg, die ganz besonders. Nehme sie sich zwischendurch die Freiheit und gehe in die Stadt, "dann folgen sie mir auf Schritt und Tritt". Einmal, es hat sich ihr eingegraben, fand sie als Versteck nur den Platz hinter einer Litfaßsäule. Sie wartete eine Weile, drehte sich schon erleichtert um, "und ich sah wieder in diese Ojektive".

Oder sie tat das, was sie gerne macht. Ging in Hamburg zu einem Konzert. Carlos Santana. Weil sie es schon ahnte, hielt sie Abstand zur Bühne. Aber er entdeckte sie in der Menge, ließ nicht eher nach, bis sie neben ihm stand. Steffi Graf mit einer Rassel in der Hand. Vor ihr dreitausend Menschen, sie ließ es mit sich machen, "ich hätte schreien können".

Auf dem Tennisplatz ist das anders. Sie hat aufgehört, sich darüber zu wundern. Der Madison Square Garden, alle Kameras zielen auf sie, die Tribünen voll bis obenhin. "Da fühle ich mich sicher", sagt Steffi Graf. "Denn Tennis kann ich doch."

Genaugenommen war es nur ein kleiner, falscher Schritt. Vielleicht eine kleine Unebenheit im Rasen des Center Courts im britischen Eastbourne. Es passierte am 13. Juni 1996, einen Tag vor ihrem 27. Geburtstag.

Plötzlich spürt sie einen "höllischen Schmerz" in ihrem linken Knie. Sie geht zu ihrem Arzt, Kernspintomographie. Nur eine Reizung, allenfalls eine Entzündung der Patellasehne, lautet die falsche Diagnose. Also spielt sie weiter. Und wie sie spielt. Manager Engert faßt es so zusammen: "Wenn ein Arzt ihr sagt, es tut nur weh, aber es kann nichts passieren, da kennt sie keine Gnade."

Ein Schauturnier in Bratislava, der Federations Cup in Österreich. Nach Wimbledon und den US Open tritt sie in Leipzig an, ein paar Bälle nur, dann kann sie keinen Schritt mehr machen. Im Finale von Philadelphia gibt sie auf, das Masters-Turnier gewinnt sie gegen Martina Hingis in fünf Sätzen. Bei den Australian Open in Melbourne Anfang des Jahres spielt sie mit einem vereiterten Zeh. Der ärztliche Dienst gibt ihr trotz der Hitze ein Antibiotikum, sie bricht im Achtelfinale körperlich ein.

In Tokio kommen die Schmerzen im Knie zurück. Drei Monate Pause. Danach Berlin und Straßburg, wieder die alten Leiden. Erstmals spricht der Arzt von einem Knorpelschaden. Bei den French Open ist es soweit: Der Knorpel reißt auseinander, die Kniescheibe ist verschoben, der Meniskus angerissen. Steffi Graf wechselt den Arzt.

Erinnert sie sich dieser letzten anderthalb Jahre, dann tut sie das wie ein Buchhalter, der lästige Etatposten abhakt. Als im Mai Wimbledon ohne sie stattfindet, liegt sie frisch operiert im Bett. Aber deshalb hadern? Der Fernseher im Krankenzimmer bleibt ausgeschaltet, "nicht, weil mir das Zuschauen weh getan hätte, es interessierte mich nicht. Mich interessierte nur, wieder selber zu spielen."

Als das Flugzeug in Brünn aufsetzt, sagt Steffi Graf: "Ich glaub', ich bin immer schon eisern gewesen, ich glaub', schon als Kind." Sie schaut aus dem Fenster, bis die Maschine ausrollt, dann zieht sie den Kopf zurück. "Na Klasse", stößt es aus ihr heraus, Scheinwerfer, Kameras. Als sie aussteigt, trägt sie ein Lächeln.

Brünn im Advent, und Steffi Graf als Lichtgestalt, die Glanz in den letzten Winkel bringt. Wo sie hingeht, bilden die Menschen ein Spalier, aber je länger die Gasse wird, desto mehr beschleunigt sie ihre Schritte. Bei einer Autogrammstunde in einem Sportgeschäft in der Innenstadt sitzt sie auf der Vorderkante ihres Stuhls so startbereit wie beim Seitenwechsel eines Tennismatches.

Bohren sich ihr Mikrophone entgegen, dann bleibt sie stehen, obwohl alles in ihr weiterwill. Mit einem Fuß tritt sie auf den anderen, und manchmal schlägt sie ihre Hände dazu noch gegen die Oberschenkel. Jede Frage ein neuer Mühlstein, dabei will die Welt doch nur das eine wissen: Steffi, wann ist dein Comeback?

Als ob es allein nur darum ginge.

"Ich will spielen, ich will mich bewegen, Tennis macht so viel Spaß." Allein deshalb diese Willensanstrengung. Sie sagt es immer wieder, und niemand will ihr glauben, daß es so einfach sein kann.

Brünn, World Trade Center, morgens um acht. Links und rechts ziehen Putzkolonnen mit ihren Staubsaugern die Ränge hoch. Unten auf dem Platz steht eine junge Frau mit einem Zopf und einem kurzen schwarzen Rock. "Mehr Licht würde guttun", brummt sie, wobei sie mit ihren Augen ein paar Giftpfeile zur Hallendecke sendet.

Aber dann. Rückhand, Vorhand, Slice. Als gäbe es kein Morgen. Sie drischt die Bälle über das Netz und in das Netz. Rückhand, Vorhand, Vorhand. Die vor allem. Manchmal scheint sie selbst ein wenig erstaunt. Sie sieht dem Ball hinterher, und es scheint, als koste sie den Moment tatsächlich ein wenig aus. Aber dann dreht sie sich weg, neue Bälle.

Einer der wenigen Zuschauer am Spielfeldrand ist Pavil Slozil. Jener Trainer, der ihren Aufstieg zur Nummer 1 begleitete. Seit Jahren gehen sie getrennte Wege, aber wenn Steffi in seiner Heimat spielt, dann kommt Slozil, setzt sich hin und staunt. "Schon wieder fast perfekt", urteilt er. Dann wandern seine Gedanken zurück. "Sie hatte nie eine Entschuldigung parat, ich immer. Nach den fünf Jahren mit dieser Frau wußte ich, daß es Zeit war, mein Leben zu ändern."

Gelegentlich ertappt sich Manager Engert dabei, wie er morgens beim Frühstück die Turniere durchdekliniert, mit denen im Januar das neue Tennisjahr beginnt: Brisbane, Sydney, und wenn nicht Sydney, dann ja vielleicht Tokio. Aber im gleichen Augenblick nimmt er alles wieder zurück. "Sie brennt noch immer, ist das nicht schon genug?"

Tennis und Geschäft. Manager Engert weiß, was das heißt. Es gab nämlich Zeiten, da nahm er beim Training von Steffi Graf gelegentlich den Schläger in die Hand, "manchmal gewann ich auch einen Satz". Vorbei. "Es hat keinen Zweck mehr", sagt Engert. "Ich kann ihr keinen Ball mehr zuspielen, und auch keinem anderen. Ich habe Tennis verlernt."

Zunächst dachte er, es liege an den Augen. Doch es ist offensichtlich, daß sein sportlicher Niedergang einherging mit seinen Aufräumarbeiten im Büro. Viel Aufhebens macht Engert von dieser Erkenntnis jedoch nicht. Auch wenn Geschäftspartnerin Steffi immer mal wieder vor ihm steht und sagt: "Hans, komm doch!" Es sei eben so, "auch wenn sie mir nicht glaubt".

Auf der Santa-Claus-Party im Brünner Hotel "International" steigt die Stimmung, als sie den Photographen zum Abschied noch einmal erscheint. Sie hält keine Rede, sie schneidet auch keinen Kuchen an. Sie ist einfach nur da.

"Noch einmal Wimbledon, ein Schale Erdbeeren, und danach Schluß?" Ihr gefällt die Frage. Heinz Günthardt, ihr Trainer, habe auch schon mal laut in diese Richtung gedacht. Von sich aus erwähnt sie Boxer. "Wenn die den Zeitpunkt zum Aufhören verpassen, ist das dramatischer."

Sie hat kaum zu Ende gesprochen, da gibt es auf einem Nebentisch, an dem niemand sitzt, einen kleinen Knall. Ein gläserner Aschenbecher, zerplatzt in tausend Teile. "Das gibt's doch nicht", sagt sie. Ein geheimes Signal der Tennisgötter? "Ich glaube nicht", meint Steffi Graf, "die kennen mich doch. Ich würde es 1999 wieder versuchen."

Eine Stunde später sitzt sie im Flugzeug nach Mannheim. Als sich die Klappen des Fahrwerkes schließen, erwähnt sie jene Frage, die ihr in Brünn von allen am besten gefallen habe. "Ist Ihr Hang zu diesen schwarzen Hosen und Röcken auch Ausdruck einer schwarzen Seele?"

Sie schüttelt sich vor Lachen. Die beiden Mantelhälften rutschen von ihren Knien. Makellos. Die Narbe links ist kaum noch zu sehen.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old Jun 10th, 2015, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Tennis players movies could be made about

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumarokov-Elston View Post
Personally, I think so many of the lives led by tennis players (Hana is the archetypal example, Andrea Jaegar is another one, BJK also in contention) are too bizarre for film scripts. There are also the darker sides to so many stars of tennis (bulimia, abuse by fathers/coaches, personal fragility, sexual ambivalence) that would not be pleasant for them to want to see on screen.
Thanks for your overall rich input. In response to the part quoted above, I'd like to say that the fact some tennis players were "bizarre" add to the interest one would have to make a movie about them. All the dark sides are what keep movies from being bland. Complete pictures are made of shades. And that whole picture doesn't end to be negative (shouldn't), to the contrary, if the director has brain and talent, it ends to be enriching and going beyond the sport of tennis, despite using the world of tennis as a source of inspiration.

But all that is fantasy, it's not like I plan to make any movie myself.
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