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Paris • Tennis • My Favorite Player • STEFFI GRAF • Now Stephanie Graf Agassi

Former women’s singles champion Steffi Graf of Germany in action during her opening first round match against Miss G. Leon Garcia of Spain on Centre Court at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships which began Monday 22nd June 1998. Steffi won 6-4,6-1.EPA PHOTO/WOLFGANG KUMM/MB/MPC



By Nancy Gill McShea


FRENCH MEMORY – Thirty years ago this week, Steffi Graf was victorious in the second of her 6 French Open singles titles on her way to winning the 1988 Golden Grand Slam in singles, with victories at the Australian and French Opens, The Championships at Wimbledon, the US Open and a Gold Medal at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. A glorious achievement! I was sitting in Louis Armstrong Stadium at the 1988 US Open when she defeated Gabby Sabatini to lock up the Golden Slam. I watched her exhale in joy and run to embrace her family. Steffi was my favorite female tennis player. I began following her when she was 13 and spotted her walking around the grounds of the U.SOpen like a kid. I cheered watching her collect 22 Grand Slam singles titles, including 6 French trophies – in 1987, 1988, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1999. She is the only tennis player who has won each Grand Slam tournament at least four times.


And like my late mentor Gene Scott, I prefer to observe and enjoy pro athletes’ personalities and reactions to joy and stress as they share their expertise with us on courts and fields rather than peek behind closed curtains to inspect personal lives. I once mentioned a favorite player to Gene. He responded, “He’s not my Churchill!” I did not ask him who that might be.


Gene was • “THE VOICE” of tennis, he knew everybody’s story but refused to gossip in print. Same here. I enjoyed learning about Steffi through tennis. She defeated Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in the 1988 French final and apologized to the crowd and later to Zvereva in the locker room. She had character. I was excited when Steffi first upset Pam Shriver at the Open in 3 tie breakers. She was very determined and loved her sport. I once watched her exit Armstrong in a snit when she lost to Martina who tried to give her a hand for the audience. She could become angry. I laughed during one of her Grand Slam matches when a guy in the stands yelled to Steffi, “Will you marry me?” and she yelled right back, “How much money do you have?” She had a sense of humor. I felt sad when she lost her last Grand Slam final to Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 7-5 at the 1999 Wimbledon Championships. She was courteous.


I cried when she retired during the women’s season ending championships at Madison Square Garden. She wore a black dress, as I recall, and waved to the crowd. Steffi moved on to family life with Andre Agassi and their children. She stays active with charity work, including Children for Tomorrow, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1998 to aid children and families affected by war and other crises. Finally, Steffi Graf was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004…. A word of advice: please refer to her now as Stephanie!


Editors Note:

Nancy Gill McShea has spent 40 years writing over 2,500 tennis articles about the game’s stars — pros, collegians, juniors, league players, officials, volunteers, etc. — and 87 of USTA Eastern’s Hall of Fame profiles. To showcase those stars, Nancy has connected with the sport’s legends throughout the country and received five press service awards — as the Public Relations Director/Writer/Editor for the USTA Eastern Section; the Managing Editor/Writer for Eastern Roundup and Passing Shot magazines; a Copy Editor/Columnist for Tennis Week magazine; a Sectional Reporter for Tennis USA and USTA; a Columnist for Newsday; and a Staff Writer for College and Junior Tennis magazine. In 2011, She co-authored the book, Tennis in New York, with Dale Caldwell.

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