Steffi Graf’s Golden Slam

Steffi Graf is seen as one of tennis’ best ever players, winning 22 Grand Slams but 1988 was the year that will never be beaten. 

The German star competed a Calendar Golden Slam when she won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open along with an Olympic Gold medal.

Last Word on Tennis decided to revisit this unforgettable year when a 19-year-old made history.

Background

Graf was such a talent she turned professional at just 13 years of age in 1983 but had broken into the top ten within a couple of years. 

She had not recorded a title win but had consistently performed, regularly reaching the latter stages of events with highlights at Slam level being consecutive semi-finals at the US Open. 

In 1987 she made her breakthrough at the majors as she claimed her first Slam at the French Open by beating  world No. 1 Martina Navratilova 8-6 in the deciding set. 

The Czech would gain her revenge at Wimbledon, winning in straight sets before they met in the US Open showpiece.

Again Graf fell to a disappointing loss but by that time had overtaken the Czech as world No. 1 in August for the first time in an impressive year where she finished with a 75-2 record. 

The Golden Slam

Australian Open

Unsurprisingly, as one of the favourites for the title, Graf reached the quarter-finals with the minimum of fuss, losing just 13 games and not dropping a set.

This was the furthest the German had been in Melbourne, having only competed three previous times but not since 1984. 

Hana Mandlikova, the defending champion, was her first major test but Graff was in imperious form winning 6-2, 6-2. 

It was an all-German affair in the last-four as she faced eighth seed Claudia Kohde-Kilsch but the world No. 1’s procession continued and she won for the loss of just five games.

The final was the blockbuster many wanted, with No. 3 Chris Evert, a woman who had never failed to reach this stage, winning the tournament twice previously.

Graf stunned her by easing to the opening set 6-1 and despite Evert making it more of a contest in the second, the German claimed her maiden Australian Open win on a tiebreak. 

French Open 

As defending champion, the German was in even better form than in Australia as she made the quarter-finals, not losing more than four games in a match.

She thrashed poor Bettina Fulco 6-0, 6-1 to set up a semi-final with Argentine fourth seed Gabriela Sabatini. 

Finally Graf was given a match but prevailed 6-3, 7-6 where she would meet a surprise opponent in the final.

Natasha Zvereva, the 13th seed had shocked Martina Navratilova with a straight sets fourth round victory and with Chris Evert losing a round earlier to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario it meant this was the first Slam final without either Evert or Navratilova since the 1981 French Open final.

If Graf’s route to the final was a procession, the final itself took on new levels of simplicity as she thrashed the Belarusian 6-0, 6-0 in 34 minutes, meaning she had recorded six 6-0 sets throughout the tournament. 

This remains the quickest Slam final of all time and the first ‘double bagel’ in a major final in the Open Era. 

Wimbledon 

Despite having achieved two steps of the Calendar Golden Sld, Graf came into Wimbledon as second favourite due to Navratilova having won the last six championships. 

For a third straight Slam she eased into the quarter-finals without a challenge and promptly defeated Pascale Paradis 6-3, 6-1 to meet third seed Pam Shriver in the semi-final.

She battered Shriver for the loss of just three games to set up a meeting with Navratilova, the best two players in the world.

Facing the Czech on grass was the ultimate test and although Graf led 5-3 in the opening set, Navratilova won six straight games to take the set. 

In an outstanding display however, the German won 12 of the next 13 games to seal a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 and end the Czech’s dominance at the All England Club. 

US Open

The last Slam left to win was at Flushing Meadows and true to form, Graf sauntered to the quarter-finals without breaking sweat and this carried on with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Katerina Maleeva.

She was due to meet Chris Evert in the semi-finals but the American had to withdraw due a stomach illness.

This walkover saw Graf meet Gabriela Sabatini in the final as she attempted to win the calendar Slam. 

The German star predictably won the first set as it seemed a formality but Sabatini fought back to level, winning the second set 6-3.

However, Graf was on a mission and steamrolled the Argentine 6-1 in the deciding set to seal her first title at Flushing Meadows and the Calendar Slam.

This stands as the only Calendar Slam to be achieved on three surfaces ((grass, clay, hard court), as all other Grand Slams in tennis history were achieved before the introduction of hard courts at the US Open in 1978. 

Olympics

The Olympics in Seoul was the final hurdle for Graf to clear and she after receiving a bye in the first round, she won her first two matches comfortably.

A three-set win over Larisa Savchenko set up a semi-final with eighth seed Zina Garrison and Graf won comfortably 6-2, 6-0. 

Again her opponent in the Gold medal match would be Gabriela Sabatini but in an easier contest than their US Open final, Graf won 6-3, 6-3 to seal an historic achievement. 

What happened next

That year also saw the German icon also win an Olympic bronze medal in doubles and a Wimbledon doubles title alongside Sabatini. 

She picked up in 1989 where she had left off, winning the Australian Open. That year also saw her triumph again at Wimbledon and the US Open as well as making the French Open final, losing in three sets to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. 

Until her retirement a decade later, she won a further 14 Slams to end with a total and at the time, Open Era record of 22. 

These Slams were as follows: four Australian Opens, six French Opens, seven Wimbledons and five US Opens making the only person to have won each Grand Slam tournament at least four times.

This included three more times claiming three of the four majors in a single year, a losing finalist in Australia to Monica Seles in 1993 and she was absent from the Australian Open in 1995 and 1996.

She also had great success at Wimbledon with seven titles in nine years with her final Slam coming at the French Open in 1999 after consecutive years without a major. 

Main Photo:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.