Steffi Graf runs for a forehand at the net during the 1993 French Open.

For women’s tennis, Steffi Graf will always be regarded as a legendary figure. With her record-breaking 22 major titles during the Open era, she is considered the greatest player of all time by many fans and observers who followed her career from start to finish.

For younger generations and those who discovered tennis in the twenty-first century, Graf is, at the very least, a mythical figure. She is the German superstar who won Wimbledon 2016 and matched Serena Williams with her own 22nd major.

Enjoying Williams’ victories brings back memories of Graf’s skill as a player, her elegant demeanor, and the contributions she made to women’s tennis during her heyday.

When 18-year-old Graf defeated Martina Navratilova in the 1987 French Open final, tennis fans all over the world realized she was the real deal.

In her Tennis Magazine profile with Peter Bodo, she admitted to being bashful but having a good sense of humor. Though the young Graf wore plain white Adidas tracksuits and had frizzy hair, her futuristic style of tennis was already taking the world’s best players by storm.

Graf was the first and last of her kind in the tennis world. At five foot ten inches, she was powerful but lean. Her strong legs and gazelle-like footwork allowed her to blast her forehand and retrieve difficult balls, which was the best part about her tennis game. She possessed many of the same graceful movements and artistic footwork as men’s tennis great Roger Federer.

It was impressive to watch her move smoothly to the advertisement corner and hit her signature inside-out forehand with the same form and straight posture. Viewers of American television may recall the late Bud Collins referring to her with great enthusiasm as “Fraulein Forehand.” Her impact on tennis changed the game from Chris Evert’s gentler groundstrokes to those of Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, and the Williams sisters, who became future big-hitters.

Graf embodied the efficiency that her native nation was known for; she was dependable, quick, and admirable. She continued to be a straightforward yet tasteful example of tennis beauty even as her career grew into stardom. Her style was sleek and athletic, but also refined and traditional. When she was endorsing products, women tennis players were not as well-known as they are now, compared to lesser stars in the modern era.

 

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