I have a great idea - let's do a thread with newspaper/internet articles about tennis players being praised for being classy persons. I'll have a start with this one: A Tribute To A Living Legend by Michael Cecilio Bidding Adieu to Fraulein Forehand, August 17, 1999 "It was only a matter of time before the legend, Steffi Graf, would hang up her racquets forgood. Not because of injuries, or health problems, or off-court woes, or even a departure in form. No, Steffi Graf has chosen to end her illustrious career on her own terms, basing her decision on a lack of motivation. One cannot blame the champion for feeling such a lack of motivation, playing week-in and week-out, travelling incessantly to all stops on the globe. And to do so for 17 years must really take its toll. Add to this the fact that Steffi Graf has achieved everything there is to achieve in tennis, perhaps even twice over. Steffi has nothing left to prove, nothing left to gun for – she’s been there, done that. But perhaps her greatest reason for leaving the tour is not that she has simply achieved everything in tennis, but that she has achieved greatness even at the end of her career. Now there really is nothing for Steffi to prove! She has seen the WTA tour go through many changes, and many generations, and still rank at the top of the game! From deposing Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the 1980’s, to battling for supremacy with Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the early 1990’s, to fending off serious challenges in Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams today, Steffi has been able to maintain her longevity for almost twenty years, and remain at the top of the game throughout. It all began for Steffi as a young thirteen year old who was quiet and somewhat reclusive, letting her tennis racquet do most of her talking. As it turned out, it would be these characteristics which heavily defined Steffi’s personality throughout her career up until the very end. As quiet as she was off the court, on the court, she was explosive. Tracy Austin, a former world #1, played Steffi in what was Graf’s professional debut match, and noted that she was a girl who hit the ball so incredibly hard. What is remarkable is the fact that with the constant evolution of the WTA tour, notably the change of the physical stature of the players and the firepower with which they hit the ball, Steffi was still able to hit it with the best of them. In the 80’s, Steffi could matched Martina Navratilova for physical endurance, and in the early 90’s Seles matched her with pure firepower. Just for good measure, to show that she too could remain a force almost twenty years into her career, she has consistently beaten a lot of the younger, hard-hitting players of today such as Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams. Unlike Martina Hingis and Monica Seles, Steffi Graf did not achieve greatness until after her teen years. She won her first Grand Slam title at the age of 19, three years older than that of Seles and Hingis. But ever since, she has been a force to be reckoned with. The following year after her first major title, she went on to blitz the tour by winning ALL four grand slam trophies in 1988. And don’t forget her gold medal win at the Seoul Olympic Games which gave her the recognition of the golden grand slam! ... 1997 was the year which saw Steffi Graf take an eight month absence from the tour because of a recurring knee injury which required surgery and rehabilitation. During this time, Martina Hingis was clearly dominating the field, winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, coming ever so close to achieving what Graf achieved in 1988 – the Grand Slam. A lot of people questioned the legitimacy of Hingis’s clear-cut reign at the top. Hingis seemed to benefit from Graf’s sidelining, Seles’s off-court traumas regarding her father’s illness, and the under-development of Lindsay Davenport and the Williams sisters at that time. She would return to the tour in mid 1998, however she would find herself losing to a lot of players she used to just hit off the court. It was a trying time for Steffi, who could never be happy with less than perfection. Working her way back to form, Steffi would finally get her just desserts when she slaughtered the field during the indoor carpet season, winning back-to-back titles at Leipzig and Philadelphia (the first time she won tournaments as an unseeded player), and reaching the semi finals of the season-ending Chase Championships. She would finish the year ranked #9, having defeated four of the top 6 players in the world (Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Jana Novotna and Monica Seles) in a period of two weeks. Enter 1999 – the year of triumph. As much as this year will be remembered as her final year on the tour, it will also be remembered as the scene of her greatest triumph. Enter the French Open – where it all began for Steffi and where it all ended. Just prior to the French Open, Steffi was coming off an injury which left her unable to play as many lead up claycourt tournaments as she would have liked. The claycourt tournament which she did play – the German Open – saw her struggle with her form as she bowed out to a player she had beaten all of nine times (Julie Halard-Decugis). Graf had a pretty easy road to the second week, but met her match in teen starlet Anna Kournikova. Anna’s lack of experience against the veteran showed as she was unable to convert on three set points in the second set, eventually losing the second set and the match in a tiebreak. Graf clearly outplayed 2nd ranked Lindsay Davenport in the quarter finals, with Lindsay doing all she could to hang on in a three set battle. The semi finals pitted Graf against her long-time nemesis, 3rd seed Monica Seles. It was a battle which had all the class of two veterans and all the heart of two great competitors. It also showcased some brilliant tennis, with Graf winning in an epic struggle 6-4 in the third. But the championship match was a thriller! Martina Hingis, much to the piquedness of the French crowd, had reached the final stage and was playing for her first French Open trophy. Thankfully, they had Graf to cheer for. It was a fantastic battle to begin with, with some near perfect tennis from both sides on full display. In the course of the match, it seemed clear that Hingis was disturbed by several line calls. But the explosion began in the beginning of the second set, Hingis with a substantial lead over her opponent, began her display of petulance……. And with all the class and professionalism of a veteran champion, Miss Steffi Graf won her sixth and final French Open title, out-poising her younger, brasher, and more fragile opponent for the Grand Slam championship. Two weeks later, she would repeat the glory and reach the Wimbledon final. Along the way she would defeat Venus Williams in a memorable and entertaining three set quarter final, and Mirjana Lucic who gave Steffi a host of problems in the semis. She would not end her Wimbledon career as the champion, but undoubtedly she will long be remembered as the ultimate champion of the grass court major. Steffi Graf – a legend, a champion, a professional, and a winner. With her lethal forehand, her troublesome slice backhand, her devastating serve, Steffi could blow away any opponent on the court. With her champion’s mettle, her undeniable heart, and sheer will to win, she could win any major championship in any given era against many different players. While we are sad to see her depart the tour, we will long remember the player who gave us such excitement, such passion and such joy in watching her play. We commend her on such a fine career, and wish her the best of luck in her future endeavours. Thank you for the memories."