I began ruining the furniture,” Steffi Graf says with nostalgia of her early tennis experiences.

During a recent MasterClass discussion in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Steffi Graf recalled how she became involved in the sport at a very young age and the role that her father Peter and mother Heidi played in her early days.

The power couple lost the exhibition mixed doubles match against Simona Halep and Andrei Pavel, who are local favorites. The German was in the city for the SportsFestival. After the match, Graf talked about how her parents helped her career. She recalled how she used their furniture as a net until she broke it, which made her mother tell her to go practice on a real court.

When I was three or four years old, I started playing tennis. I’m not sure if it was tennis but I was carrying around the racket. My parents were both into tennis and played. My dad was a trainer, so his intensity was always a little stronger.” Steffi Graf commented.

The German continued, “It began when we used the furniture in the house as the net. When I got too good and started breaking the furniture, my mom told me to go out of the house and get on the court. So it was an early introduction and a fascination with the sport, and someone who pushed me a bit into the sport. My mom would help me get to the tournaments and support me. It gave me the balance of a family.”

At thirteen, Steffi Graf became a professional. At a very young age, Steffi Graf—who turned 55 on June 14—began playing professional tennis. In October 1982, at the age of 13, she participated in her first professional event at Filderstadt, Germany, where she was defeated by American Tracy Austin in straight sets.In 1987, the German achieved her maiden Grand Slam victory at the French Open and rose to the top of the world rankings in the same year. She has the second-most Grand Slam victories of any woman in the Open Era at the end of her illustrious career, having topped the rankings for 377 weeks.

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