She was known as the “Ice Maiden” on the court as she never showed any emotion and hardly ever smiled, but she was, without doubt, the best female tennis player of all time.
|Birthplace:||Mannheim, West Germany|
|Height:||5 ft 9 in|
Steffi Graf was born on 14th June 1969 in Mannheim, Baden-Wuthemberg, West Germany, and took up tennis at the age of 5 when her father Peter gave her a wooden racket. He coached her and she went on to win 22 Grand Slam singles titles and was the 2nd among male and female players to achieve this behind Australian Margaret Court’s 24 in 1988. She became the first and only player, male or female to achieve a calendar year Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam singles titles and the Olympic Gold Medal in the same calendar year.
Graf was very close to her father and the only time she showed emotion was when he was arrested in 1996. He had been Graf’s business manager and he was accused of setting up front companies and complex financial maneuvers to avoid paying tax on his daughter’s multi-million dollar tennis income between 1989-1993. He was formerly charged and retained in detention until the trial.
Graf was not allowed to visit her father in prison as the authorities thought she might have been her father’s accomplice and wanted to keep them apart. Peter Graf had served 15 months in jail when the case was brought to trial in 1997 and on January 24th he was found guilty of evading taxes on his daughter’s earnings but they exonerated Graf saying they were satisfied she did not know of her father’s misdeeds. The trial took place in the South-Western City of Manheim and Judge Joachim Plass ordered 58-year-old Peter Graf to be jailed for three years and nine months.
Before her romance with Agassi Graf was dating Mick Hucknall from “Simply Red” for a year and then had a seven-year relationship with racing driver Michael Bartels. They had just split up when Agassi and Graf unexpectedly were the surprise winners of the French Open in 1997 and danced together at the Champions Ball. Shortly after that they started dating but kept their relationship quiet, Graf had always obsessively protected her private life and their love blossomed on the beach in Florida.
Graf retired in 1999 and began marketing her line of handbags in her native Germany, she also represented a mobile phone company. She has been the Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund since 1984 and she is also Chairperson of “Children For Tomorrow” which was established to provide medical aid to needy children to help overcome mental and emotional trauma and grow up with the perspective of a new life and a better future.
Agassi and Graf were married at a small private ceremony in the backyard of their home on October 1st, 2001. Both were barefooted and wearing jeans and wore wedding rings made of the twirly blast. District Judge Michael Cherry pronounced them husband and wife and four days later their first child Jade Gil arrived six weeks prematurely. Their daughter Jaz Elle was born on 3rd October 2003.
It took Graf a long time to realize that with Agassi she could share something special and unique and she admits her husband is “just perfect.” When she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport, Rhode Island in 2004 it was a very emotional occasion for Graf and Agassi. It was her husband who presented the Citation to her and in her acceptance speech she said, “Tennis has allowed me to get to this incredible journey,” she turned to Agassi and said, “The best part about this journey is that it has led me to you.”
Graf is now a mature, happy wife and mother and she relishes the everyday routine of family life such as dropping off and collecting the children from school.