by Jim Klein
This topic can start tennis wars. It brings out the passion of the weekend warrior and the avid tennis player who lives, breathes and eats the sport of tennis. Everyone has an opinion on this topic; as do I.
My pick for greatest tennis player of all time, men or women goes to Steffi Graf; but what is the definition of “greatest of all time”. For me it is a 12 month period of time. Doesn’t need to be in the same calendar year (nice if it is) but it does need to be consecutive. I don't get caught up in the "battle of the sexes", I am just interested in who did what. “Who” would be Steffi Graf and “What” she did is completely amazing and unprecedented.
Who would have guessed in 1988 Steffi Graf would have won what then became known as the “GOLDEN SLAM”. This incredible feat is accomplished by winning all four grand slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) in the same calendar year and the Olympic Gold medal in that same year. I believe Graf’s achievement to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest achievements in sports history. Michael Jordan at his best won three NBA Championships in a row 1991-1993 and Olympic Gold in 1992.
The competition was fierce in 1988. In the finals, Graf beat former number one Chris Evert in Australia (6-1, 7-6), dominated Natasha Zvereva at the French Open (6-0, 6-0), former number one Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon (5-7, 6-3, 6-1) and Gabriela Sabatini at the US Open (6-3, 3-6, 6-1).
On to the Olympics. The last leg of this incredible journey was only a short break away in Seoul, Korea. Since Graff accomplished the Golden Slam there have been seven opportunities for another Golden Slam, no man or woman has come close! For the first time since 1924 Tennis was back in the Olympics. With the US Open only a few weeks behind them, Graff would again face off with friend and adversary Gabriela Sabatini in the finals for Olympic gold. Steffi Graff showed no middle set hiccup in her quest to do what no player has done since; win the Golden Slam. Graf dominated Gabriela Sabatini 6-3, 6-3 to take the gold.
Great champions know that records are made to be broken but maybe somewhere in the back of Steffi Graf’s mind she believes this one will stand the test of time. Only time will tell.
It should be noted that from the Australian Open in 1988 to the next Australian Open in 1989 Mrs. Graf won five Grand Slams in a row and seven out of eight slams in 1988 and 1989. Graf’s only loss came from Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the finals of the 1989 French Open. Steffi was one slam away from winning all eight Grand Slams in a row by the end of 1989. Unbelievable!!
Highlights of Steffi Graf’s Golden Career:
•Golden Slam 1988
· 22 Grand Slam Singles Titles
· 186 weeks at Number One
· Most consecutive Major Finals in a row: 13
· Only player who has won four singles titles at each Major tournament.
· Only player to have four times won three of the four Major singles titles in a calendar year: 1989, 1993, 1995, 1996.
Tennis Player Magazine wants to know who your pick for “greatest” of all time is. We’d love to post your opinions.
TPM would like to acknowledge WTA, Wikipedia and steffi-graf.net