News: How Steffi Graf lost her joy

Steffi Graf played her final Grand Slam match at Wimbledon 25 years ago today, unaware of the fact. Boris Becker had already bid his goodbyes on the stage a few days before. It marked the end of an era in German sport, even if it wasn’t obvious at the time.

On July 3, 1999, 25 years ago today, Steffi Graf, the long-time tennis dominant, stepped onto Wimbledon’s center court for the final time as a player. The eighth triumph in London, the 23rd Grand Slam trophy, was the target that the player of the century had in mind that day but ultimately missed – Lindsay Davenport of the United States won her first and only victory on the sacred turf with 6:4, 7:5. Her opponent Graf was unaware that it was her final Grand Slam appearance. Six weeks later, she made an unexpected announcement about a decision she had been thinking about for weeks: she was retiring from active sports immediately.

The 1999 Wimbledon tournament proved to be the end of the golden years in German tennis: just a few days before Graf’s final, Boris Becker announced the end of his career following his stunning round of 16 defeat against Patrick Rafter.

STEFFI GRAF AND BORIS BECKER RESIGNED SOON AFTER EACH OTHER. The two retirements occurred under completely different circumstances: Becker, who was far from his peak form at the time, had intended to retire in 1997 and then returned – it was clear to all fans that this would be his final performance, even if he only made it official later.

The case was different for the second major pillar of the German tennis boom: Graf had just completed the most emotional months of her career: in Paris, she had celebrated her 22nd and most beautiful Grand Slam victory against the young Martina Hingis, followed shortly thereafter by the Wimbledon final.

Graf also found satisfaction in her personal life during this period, thanks to a burgeoning romance with teammate Andre Agassi, although her body took a toll after 17 years on the professional tour. Graf had only been able to bear the strain with painkillers for a long time, and she did not even finish her most recent match. Due to a strained thigh, she lost against American Amy Frazier in San Diego in early August with scores of 6:4, 5:7, and 1:2.

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