A question for people that saw Sabatini in the late 80s and early 90s

Am I right if I think her career was like this or am I missing something

-in the late 80s and until mid 1993 she was a top 5 player that could sometimes beat the best players (graf, navratilova in the 80s, seles) or make them work very hard to beat her
-after RG 1993 she declined a lot, no longer challenging Graf, becoming notoriously worse than Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez, something that most people wouldn't have expected in 1988-1992
-her decline was caused by the psychological damage caused by the accumulation of chokes and wasted opportunities

-she had a chance to become number 1 by beating Anke Huber in some random tournament, partied the night before that match, and lost to Anke Huber, I think this was in 1991.
-she had a chance to become number 1 by winning the wimbledon final in 1991, which she almost does and had many chances to do it during the match, but she lost 68 in the third set.
-she had another chance to become number in roland garros 1992, but she lost to Seles in the semifinal after leading 42 in the third set
-in roland garros of 1993 she had an epid choke against Mary Joe Fernandez, she lost 1-6 7-6(4) 10-8 even though she was leading 6151 or something like that. she never recovered from that, that was the tipping point.
after that she stops being a top 5 player, never challenges the best players anymore, ends up retiring very young.

I didn't get to see her by the way, but this is my take from what I've seen of her in videos of her matches, and from what Ive read of her. She was like a Mauresmo with a bad serve and mentally weak.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
While your assessment is a bit harsh, I am forced to agree. Somewhere midway through those losses, I lost faith in her. Still, Graf took her seriously since Gabby could push her. I thought Gabby would have accomplished more, even with her wobbly serve.
 

Ultra 2

Professional
The reason she pushed Graf she knew her very well since they were doubles partners. They were probably close friends too. Unfortunately for her she played during the time when Grad and Seles were dominant.
 
She was always overhyped and overrated during her playing career. Annoyingly so. She was good, but was never going to be as good as the hype and inflated expectations were.

3-15 slam semi final record is by far the worst in tennis history.
 

boredone3456

G.O.A.T.
As harsh as this assessment is, and I'm not saying its not accurate, she also from 1990-1992 was 8-4 against Steffi including beating her 5 times in a row at one point. I think she's the only player other than Evert when Graf was just starting to score that many consecutive wins over Graf at any point in time in Grafs career. So for all the mental blocks, choking, lack of delivery and issues she had...she still had something.
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
Am I right if I think her career was like this or am I missing something

-in the late 80s and until mid 1993 she was a top 5 player that could sometimes beat the best players (graf, navratilova in the 80s, seles) or make them work very hard to beat her
-after RG 1993 she declined a lot, no longer challenging Graf, becoming notoriously worse than Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez, something that most people wouldn't have expected in 1988-1992
-her decline was caused by the psychological damage caused by the accumulation of chokes and wasted opportunities

-she had a chance to become number 1 by beating Anke Huber in some random tournament, partied the night before that match, and lost to Anke Huber, I think this was in 1991.
-she had a chance to become number 1 by winning the wimbledon final in 1991, which she almost does and had many chances to do it during the match, but she lost 68 in the third set.
-she had another chance to become number in roland garros 1992, but she lost to Seles in the semifinal after leading 42 in the third set
-in roland garros of 1993 she had an epid choke against Mary Joe Fernandez, she lost 1-6 7-6(4) 10-8 even though she was leading 6151 or something like that. she never recovered from that, that was the tipping point.
after that she stops being a top 5 player, never challenges the best players anymore, ends up retiring very young.

I didn't get to see her by the way, but this is my take from what I've seen of her in videos of her matches, and from what Ive read of her. She was like a Mauresmo with a bad serve and mentally weak.
#3: No one knows whether her decline was caused by the psychological damage caused by the accumulation of chokes and wasted opportunities.
#4-6: Those are myths. There ever was a Huber match after which Sabatini would have been #1. And would not have been #1 by winning Wimbledon 91 or FO 92.
#7: Sabatini recovered enough to win the YEC 94.

Sabatini was a far better player than Mauresmo. Yes, her serve was average and tended to break down in big matches.
But a mentally weak player doesn't beat the great Steffi 11 (!) times, 7 times in three-setters, 3 times with 7-5 or 7-6.
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
The reason she pushed Graf she knew her very well since they were doubles partners. They were probably close friends too. Unfortunately for her she played during the time when Grad and Seles were dominant.
I don't think Sabatini beat Steffi so often because both were doubles partners.
What about Steffi would she have learned by playing doubles with her?
A doubles match is quite different from a singles match.
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
She was always overhyped and overrated during her playing career. Annoyingly so. She was good, but was never going to be as good as the hype and inflated expectations were.

3-15 slam semi final record is by far the worst in tennis history.
How many players in the open era have made 18 slam semis?
And of Gaby's 15 semi final losses 12 were against Steffi, Seles, Navratilova and Evert...

Sabatini is perhaps the most underrated woman player ever today.
 
How many players in the open era have made 18 slam semis?
And of Gaby's 15 semi final losses 12 were against Steffi, Seles, Navratilova and Evert...

Sabatini is perhaps the most underrated woman player ever today.
If Sabatini is underrated today, it only partly compensates for how overrated she was during her playing career. With the constant hype around her you would think she actually was Graf, Seles, or Navratilova, rather than a 1 slam wonder who had only a comparable singles career to Novotna or Martinez, without Novotna's doubles career to go with it.
 
As harsh as this assessment is, and I'm not saying its not accurate, she also from 1990-1992 was 8-4 against Steffi including beating her 5 times in a row at one point. I think she's the only player other than Evert when Graf was just starting to score that many consecutive wins over Graf at any point in time in Grafs career. So for all the mental blocks, choking, lack of delivery and issues she had...she still had something.
While this is true Graf was playing absolutely AWFUL in 1991 imparticular, where most of those wins were. Even in 90 and 92 was not fully herself, but 1991 was the worst tennis of her career given age and other elements, other than "maybe" early 1997 when she was badly injured. Something Sabatini and Seles fans imparticular conveniently ignore when using results that period to buff them up further, as well as numerous others (Navratilova fans buffing up 34 year old Martina's win over a bad Steffi in the 91 U.S Open as some supposed proof how vastly inferior Graf is, when it was her first win over her in 4 whole years, lol).

If she had that bulk of success during a period Sanchez Vicario wasn't beating Graf in slam semi finals 6-2, 6-0, when Sanchez wasn't able to beat a healthy Graf in straight sets at the U.S Open and beat her , mid 30s Navratilova wasn't 2-1 vs Graf and nearly won all 3 matches, and a clearly pre prime Novotna didn't get 3 of her 4 career wins over Graf, I would be far more impressed.
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
If Sabatini is underrated today, it only partly compensates for how overrated she was during her playing career. With the constant hype around her you would think she actually was Graf, Seles, or Navratilova, rather than a 1 slam wonder who had only a comparable singles career to Novotna or Martinez, without Novotna's doubles career to go with it.
Sabatini was not overrated during her playing career.
She was rated accordingly after she beat Steffi 11 times and came very close to the #1 ranking in 1991/92 during a time when two ATGs (Steffi, Seles) ruled the world.
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
While this is true Graf was playing absolutely AWFUL in 1991 imparticular, where most of those wins were. Even in 90 and 92 was not fully herself, but 1991 was the worst tennis of her career given age and other elements, other than "maybe" early 1997 when she was badly injured. Something Sabatini and Seles fans imparticular conveniently ignore when using results that period to buff them up further, as well as numerous others (Navratilova fans buffing up 34 year old Martina's win over a bad Steffi in the 91 U.S Open as some supposed proof how vastly inferior Graf is, when it was her first win over her in 4 whole years, lol).

If she had that bulk of success during a period Sanchez Vicario wasn't beating Graf in slam semi finals 6-2, 6-0, when Sanchez wasn't able to beat a healthy Graf in straight sets at the U.S Open and beat her , mid 30s Navratilova wasn't 2-1 vs Graf and nearly won all 3 matches, and a clearly pre prime Novotna didn't get 3 of her 4 career wins over Graf, I would be far more impressed.
In her greatest years ever, 1988/89, the great Steffi lost only five matches.
One against Sanchez in the FO 89 final when still suffering from a food poisoning and having other female "health problems".
One against Shriver in the YEC 88 final while having a severe cold.
And - in full health - three times against Gabriela Sabatini.

I am still very impressed.
 

boredone3456

G.O.A.T.
While this is true Graf was playing absolutely AWFUL in 1991 imparticular, where most of those wins were. Even in 90 and 92 was not fully herself, but 1991 was the worst tennis of her career given age and other elements, other than "maybe" early 1997 when she was badly injured. Something Sabatini and Seles fans imparticular conveniently ignore when using results that period to buff them up further, as well as numerous others (Navratilova fans buffing up 34 year old Martina's win over a bad Steffi in the 91 U.S Open as some supposed proof how vastly inferior Graf is, when it was her first win over her in 4 whole years, lol).

If she had that bulk of success during a period Sanchez Vicario wasn't beating Graf in slam semi finals 6-2, 6-0, when Sanchez wasn't able to beat a healthy Graf in straight sets at the U.S Open and beat her , mid 30s Navratilova wasn't 2-1 vs Graf and nearly won all 3 matches, and a clearly pre prime Novotna didn't get 3 of her 4 career wins over Graf, I would be far more impressed.
True Graf was in a major slump due to personal issues and things, but at the same time Sabatini was the ONLY one able to establish that kind of dominance over Steffi during this period.

For instance in 1991 Graf was 2-0 against Seles while being 1-4 against Sabatini (should have probably been 0-5 had Gabby not majorly choked the Wimbledon final)

Sabatini at one point won 7 of 8 matches against Graf and was within several points of being overall #1 for most of 1991. If she was as good against Seles during this time as she was against Steffi she probably could have gotten #1.
 
True Graf was in a major slump due to personal issues and things, but at the same time Sabatini was the ONLY one able to establish that kind of dominance over Steffi during this period.

For instance in 1991 Graf was 2-0 against Seles while being 1-4 against Sabatini (should have probably been 0-5 had Gabby not majorly choked the Wimbledon final)

Sabatini at one point won 7 of 8 matches against Graf and was within several points of being overall #1 for most of 1991. If she was as good against Seles during this time as she was against Steffi she probably could have gotten #1.
Yes, but match up issues were part of that. Graf was a favorable match up for Sabatini (and yet despite that Sabatini is 11-29 lifetime and I think 1-11 in slams), Seles contrary to what many Seles fans seem to believe is a favorable match up for Graf (yet Seles did go 4-3 and 3-1 in slams in 90-93 which just shows how great Seles was that period, even with Steffi subpar some of it), and Sabatini was a favorable match up for Seles. When you combine Seles, unlike Graf, being at her peak this period, being a better and mentally tougher player than Sabatini, and being a bad match up for Sabatini naturally, Sabatini was never realistically going to be having close to that kind of success vs Seles. She did well to beat her easily in the Italian Open twice, and should have beaten her atleast once in a slam, probably at a French, but alas was not mentally strong enough. And even during the period Graf was struggling and vurnerable, and Sabatini at her peak form, Sabatini was generally an easier match up for most of the other top players of the time- Capriati, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, Novotna, than either Graf or Seles, hence why she never quite rose to even #2 above Steffi.
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
Yes, but match up issues were part of that. Graf was a favorable match up for Sabatini (and yet despite that Sabatini is 11-29 lifetime and I think 1-11 in slams), Seles contrary to what many Seles fans seem to believe is a favorable match up for Graf ...
Seles generally was a better player than Sabatini of course.
And yes, Steffi's records against both players show that - relatively speaking - Seles and her style of tennis was a more favorable match up for Steffi.

Just imagine Steffi would have won this one FO 92 final match (she lost 8-10 in the third set).
She then would have been 4-0 win/loss in 1991/92 against Seles, Seles's two greatest years ever!
 

Johnny505

Semi-Pro
Gaby made an impression on me back then was her 2nd serve........watch some of the available matches and see for yourself.
 

Ultra 2

Professional
I don't think Sabatini beat Steffi so often because both were doubles partners.
What about Steffi would she have learned by playing doubles with her?
A doubles match is quite different from a singles match.
pretty sure they just didn’t do doubles drills. You get to know each other tendencies by playing with each other for years.. among many other things
 
Thanks for the answers
My impression is that Sabatini had success against Graf in the 1990 1991 period, because she became more aggressive, not from the baseline, but rushing to the net. She didn't have the serve to serve and volley, but she had a pretty good net game, especially the drop volley. And knowing that Graf would always always hit a slice backhand made her feel safe approaching the net.
After mid 1993 she just reverted to playing topspin and slice from the baseline like a lesser version of Conchita Martinez

The bad serve of Sabatini had to be a mental block issue, because her smash wasn't bad. And serve and smash are almost the same shot.
 

BTURNER

Legend
The one attribute people forget about Sabatini, that I think was a hidden key, was her anticipation. She was not the best mover by any stretch, but her defensive skills from the baseline and volleying were so much better than we can credit with speed, or agility. She could read/predict the shot/pattern earlier and more consistently than most. It gave her some well deserved wins against baseliners like Evert, Graf (especially) by reading the 'winner' and Sukova Shriver, Novatna, etc by reading the serve, and the direction/depth of the volley.

She gets a lot of balls back against players known for the accuracy and disguise of their shots.
 
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JasonZ

Professional
Thanks for the answers
My impression is that Sabatini had success against Graf in the 1990 1991 period, because she became more aggressive, not from the baseline, but rushing to the net. She didn't have the serve to serve and volley, but she had a pretty good net game, especially the drop volley. And knowing that Graf would always always hit a slice backhand made her feel safe approaching the net.
After mid 1993 she just reverted to playing topspin and slice from the baseline like a lesser version of Conchita Martinez

The bad serve of Sabatini had to be a mental block issue, because her smash wasn't bad. And serve and smash are almost the same shot.
so djokovics smash failure is also a mental issue?
 
Seles generally was a better player than Sabatini of course.
And yes, Steffi's records against both players show that - relatively speaking - Seles and her style of tennis was a more favorable match up for Steffi.

Just imagine Steffi would have won this one FO 92 final match (she lost 8-10 in the third set).
She then would have been 4-0 win/loss in 1991/92 against Seles, Seles's two greatest years ever!
Yes to all of that.

That is why I dismiss the ideas Seles was some mortal lock to dominate Graf forever and ever as some suggest.

In addition to all that you and others have mentioned Seles also never had an injury or illness (well until the February 93, right before the stabbing, her first big one, which is just a sign her luck in that area like no player was going to last forever). She was outstanding her 2, 2.25 years of dominance, but she also was living a bit of a charmed life with everything going her way. Winning every single incredibly close match (some of that was her mental toughness of course, but there is always a bit of element of luck too). I mean when you think about it is pretty amazing and unrepeatable for a player who lost a slam final 6-2, 6-1 and was down in the 3rd set of 5 or 6 other slam matches, to lose only 1 slam match in 2 years. Avoiding Graf both years at the U.S Open on courts faster than she ever once beat her head to head. Not a single injury or illness. And every top player of the time, minus Graf who she rarely played, and maybe Capriati who she also rarely played and was only a contender on hard courts back then, being a naturally favorable match up for her. Which is in contrast to say if she had peaked in the late 90s era where nearly every top player was a naturally bad match up for her- Williams, Davenport, Hingis, even Novotna (who nearly beat Seles in both their pre stabbing matches but was not even a top 10 regular back then). No personal problems either, which wasn't the case for nearly all her rivals, and we know would not have been the case forever with the impending tragedy of her dad contracting cancer and going through a 4 year long gradual death. So the idea such a perfect chain of events could continue like that is simply unfeasible.
 
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