Sportstar archives: The enigmatic champion, Steffi Graf

STEFFI GRAF enters the tall glass doors of the midtown Manhattan Parker-Meridien hotel in a manner akin to how she consistently makes her way to and from the most esteemed tennis courts and clubhouses worldwide: hastily. Her pale blue eyes brighten as she walks into the lobby, and she gives a quick smile. Graf, dressed in a black skirt and a thin gray cashmere sweater, is as cool as she always seemed on the court despite the scorching late-summer afternoon in the city.

I apologize. I’m not late, am I? “I recently returned from setting some riding stuff from Miller’s,” she said, referring to the renowned horse store she visited before leaving for an Arizona vacation. It’s five minutes past our scheduled four o’clock hour, but three hundred seconds is a long time in Eastern Graf Impatient Time.

Graf has decelerated sufficiently to discuss her illustrious 17-year career, spanning 107 singles titles and 22 Grand Slam titles (two fewer than Margaret Court’s record). Graf’s remarkable accomplishment is heightened by her proficiency on all surfaces: she has won on the grass at Wimbledon seven times, the clay at Roland Garros six times, the Deco Turf II at Flushing Meadows five times, and the Rebound Ace in Melbourne four times. She’s currently in the middle of the Graf World Tour, a six-continent, four-month retirement celebration that includes clinics with kids, exhibitions against pros, and a plethora of other events.

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