Sabatini: Graf's great rival?

Why in the world did the media continue to refer to Sabatini as "Graf's great rival" during the late 80s early 90s?

Looking at their head to head, it's such a rediculous statement.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
Why in the world did the media continue to refer to Sabatini as "Graf's great rival" during the late 80s early 90s?

Looking at their head to head, it's such a rediculous statement.
Yeah, but depending on the timing of the statement, it's not that crazy. Making the statement anywhere from 1990 to early 1993, it might make sense. From 1990 USO to 1992 Amelia Island, Sabatini was 8-3 vs. Graf. That run includes a 1990 USO victory, other finals victories, and a win in the WTA championship SFs vs. Graf. Who else went 8-3, even 6-5, even 5-6 vs. Graf during an 11-match stretch? At the end of that 8-3 run, Sabatini's H2H with Graf was 11-20. Not great, but possibly worthy of "greatest rival" status, at least at the time. Graf won the last 8 matches of their rivalry, which ended in 1995 and the final H2H was 28-11 in Graf's favor. But no one would have known this during or shortly after Sabatini's 8-3 run. Based on results it looked like Sabatini was finally a legit rival to Graf (after starting 3-17) and might continue to be so.

In comparison, From 1989 French Open to 1993 Australian Open, Seles was just 4-6 vs. Graf, though those four wins included 3 Slam finals wins over Graf. Graf won 4 of the last 5 matches thereafter and ended up with a 10-5 H2H lifetime. Always surprised they didn't play more, even with Seles gone for those two+ years. Sabatini played Graf 39 times. Seles only 15?!

So, Sabatini played Graf a LOT more and had more wins in a smaller time frame, so I sort of understand why she was pegged as "greatest rival," at least for a certain period.

Also, consider that "greatest" means just that - the greatest of whomever is there at the time. It doesn't have to mean that the rivalry is that great - just a better rivalry than versus other opponents. Graf really didn't have a Chris-Martina thing going on with anybody, except maybe pre-hiatus Seles, who, again was 4-6 vs. Graf (relatively decent), with 3 Slam finals victories among the four wins.
 
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DMan

Professional
Yeah, but depending on the timing of the statement, it's not that crazy. Making the statement anywhere from 1990 to early 1993, it might make sense. From 1990 USO to 1992 Amelia Island, Sabatini was 8-3 vs. Graf. That run includes a 1990 USO victory, other finals victories, and a win in the WTA championship SFs vs. Graf. Who else went 8-3, even 6-5, even 5-6 vs. Graf during an 11-match stretch? At the end of that 8-3 run, Sabatini's H2H with Graf was 11-20. Not great, but possibly worthy of "greatest rival" status, at least at the time. Graf won the last 8 matches of their rivalry, which ended in 1995 and the final H2H was 28-11 in Graf's favor. But no one would have known this during or shortly after Sabatini's 8-3 run. Based on results it looked like Sabatini was finally a legit rival to Graf (after starting 3-17) and might continue to be so.

In comparison, From 1989 French Open to 1993 Australian Open, Seles was just 4-6 vs. Graf, though those four wins included 3 Slam finals wins over Graf. Graf won 4 of the last 5 matches thereafter and ended up with a 10-5 H2H lifetime. Always surprised they didn't play more, even with Seles gone for those two+ years. Sabatini played Graf 39 times. Seles only 15?!

So, Sabatini played Graf a LOT more and had more wins in a smaller time frame, so I sort of understand why she was pegged as "greatest rival," at least for a certain period.

Also, consider that "greatest" means just that - the greatest of whomever is there at the time. It doesn't have to mean that the rivalry is that great - just a better rivalry than versus other opponents. Graf really didn't have a Chris-Martina thing going on with anybody, except maybe pre-hiatus Seles, who, again was 4-6 vs. Graf (relatively decent), with 3 Slam finals victories among the four wins.
The media played up the "rivalry" from the time they first played - 1985. Graf won that first one, and didn't lose to Sabatini until 1988; I believe after 11 matches. Gabby beat Steffi 2x in 1988, but also lost to her in the SF of the French, the finals of the US Open (when Graf captured THE Grand Slam) and the Olympics. Sabatini won 1 more time in 1989. Otherwise Graf owned her.

Until.....the 1990 US Open. When Gabby did emerge as a true rival to Steffi. As noted, she went 8-3 vs Graf for a period of time, including 5 straight wins, which was phenomenal, as no one beat Graf when she was at the top of her game that many times in a row.

I believe the 1991 Wimbledon final was a huge win for Steffi, and a blow for Gabriela. Sabatini definitely had Graf's number at the time. As it turns out, Gabby only beat Steffi two more times, in early 1992, when Steffi was still going through her funky patch. With Graf's 1992 Wimbledon semifinal win over Sabatini 6-3,6-3 Steffi officially hammered the door shut on keeping that rivalry open or truly competitive.
 
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urban

Legend
Deep approaches to the backhand side of Graf. Graf was vulnerable on the slice backhand. Sabatini had a good volley and creative forecourt game, sadly only developed by Kirmayer since 1990, after some other coaches coached into a new Vilas. With a bit better serve, she would have beaten Graf at Wimbledon. But she served only eggs. I still hum about Sabatini taking a floater ball of Graf at 30-30 and 6-5 in the Wim final 1991, which would have gone out and give her mp.
 

mistik

Hall of Fame
Sabatini was a tougher opponent For Graf compare to ASV. That is a fact. However Gaby is No Monica either.
 

BTURNER

Legend
I contend that all that early career play as opponents and as doubles partners gave Gabby an edge. Sabatini was not among the great movers of her era, yet she could read that forehand, anticipate where to defend, from the backcourt and the net, well enough to frustrate Graf. Her heavy topspin could drive Graf back further beyond the baseline, until Steffi felt her timing was such she could hit through that spin on the rise and not make errors. And then there was that heavy backhand slice, that Gabriella used to approach with and some great feel at net. Being one handed on the backhand was a real advantage vs Graf secondary to the greater reach off that wing. That was where her phenomenal inside-out forehand went.

Sabatini had a complicated game to play against, and a better tactician than given credit for. What she did not have was a killer desire, a champion's heart or the physical or emotional stamina to hang tough.
 
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Sabatini was IMO never Graf's biggest rival.

1987 to 1989- Navratilova
1990 to early 1993- Monica
mid 1993-1996- Sanchez Vicario

I cant seriously argue Sabatini was a bigger rival than the player I listed in each of those periods during those periods. The only argument is Navratilova 87-89 but Navratilova beat Graf in 2 slam finals, and took her to 3 sets in the finals 4 other occasions. Easily a bigger and better rival, even if Sabatini had more wins, but all in smaller venues.
 
Sabatini was a tougher opponent For Graf compare to ASV. That is a fact. However Gaby is No Monica either.
That is not a fact. It is an opinion, and one with more sentiment than merits or careful thought on your part I suspect. ASV and Sabatini both beat Graf about a quarter of the times they played. The huge difference is ASV took Graf out FOUR times in slams. ASV could have single handedly prevented Graf from breaking Court's record. That is huge. 2 of her other final losses to Graf- 1995 Wimbledon and 1996 Roland Garros, are 2 of the best slam finals in history. Sabatini has nothing close to that. Only 1 slam victory over Graf, in a match Graf played like utter crap (she played halfway decent in 3 of her 4 slam defeats to Sanchez), and her most epic defeat- Wimbledon 91, was more an epic chokefest by both women than some classic.

ASV's outrageous defense and ability to force Graf to keep hitting an extra ball, and mental fortitude were bigger nuisances to Graf than anything in Gaby's game.
 

KG1965

Legend
Why in the world did the media continue to refer to Sabatini as "Graf's great rival" during the late 80s early 90s?

Looking at their head to head, it's such a rediculous statement.
... because they have met 40 times ;
... because the system had to find a half worse than Graf.

Seles > Graf >>>>Sabatini

OOOps
Evert > Navratilova (until it had a normal physical)
 
In the late 80s it did make sense in fairness to think of Gaby as Graf's main emerging rival. She beat her 3 times in 88-89 vs 0 for Navratilova who was getting older and would likely soon age out of her prime (if she hadnt already). Nobody thought Seles would be so great so quickly, even if she showed alot of potential. Sabatini also had burst on the scene with so much promise at 15. One would expect eventually that would blossom into a really great player, not just an excellent one, but it never happened.
 

Boom-Boom

Hall of Fame
Yeah, but depending on the timing of the statement, it's not that crazy. Making the statement anywhere from 1990 to early 1993, it might make sense. From 1990 USO to 1992 Amelia Island, Sabatini was 8-3 vs. Graf. That run includes a 1990 USO victory, other finals victories, and a win in the WTA championship SFs vs. Graf. Who else went 8-3, even 6-5, even 5-6 vs. Graf during an 11-match stretch? At the end of that 8-3 run, Sabatini's H2H with Graf was 11-20. Not great, but possibly worthy of "greatest rival" status, at least at the time. Graf won the last 8 matches of their rivalry, which ended in 1995 and the final H2H was 28-11 in Graf's favor. But no one would have known this during or shortly after Sabatini's 8-3 run. Based on results it looked like Sabatini was finally a legit rival to Graf (after starting 3-17) and might continue to be so.

In comparison, From 1989 French Open to 1993 Australian Open, Seles was just 4-6 vs. Graf, though those four wins included 3 Slam finals wins over Graf. Graf won 4 of the last 5 matches thereafter and ended up with a 10-5 H2H lifetime. Always surprised they didn't play more, even with Seles gone for those two+ years. Sabatini played Graf 39 times. Seles only 15?!

So, Sabatini played Graf a LOT more and had more wins in a smaller time frame, so I sort of understand why she was pegged as "greatest rival," at least for a certain period.

Also, consider that "greatest" means just that - the greatest of whomever is there at the time. It doesn't have to mean that the rivalry is that great - just a better rivalry than versus other opponents. Graf really didn't have a Chris-Martina thing going on with anybody, except maybe pre-hiatus Seles, who, again was 4-6 vs. Graf (relatively decent), with 3 Slam finals victories among the four wins.
Pretty interesting analysis. Plus Gaby was so glamorous :)
 

suwanee4712

Professional
After such a long run for the Martina-Chris rivalry and with the looking inevitability of Chris' retirement, the media was desperate for a replacement. It wasn't without merit because it did look as if Steffi and Gaby would be battling for many years to come. The series record was never close, but the number of three set matches did lend itself to the air of a rivalry.

By 1990, some believed that Gaby was already washed up and were so eager to jump on the Capriati wagon that they passed right over Monica. They were wrong about that, and they were wrong to give up on Gaby as she played some of her best tennis between the 1990 US Open and 1992 French Open.

In my opinion, Graf's great "rival" really depends on the year. It hurt her that Monica was more or less taken out of the game in that the end of her career lacked that one great player to really push her. Despite Sanchez' limited success, Graf still knew that every match she played depended upon how she played no matter what her opponent did.

Gaby's best rivalries were with Sanchez and MJ Fernandez. But those series weren't as prominent.
 
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BTURNER

Legend
After such a long run for the Martina-Chris rivalry and with the looking inevitability of Chris' retirement, the media was desperate for a replacement. It wasn't without merit because it did look as if Steffi and Gaby would be battling for many years to come. The series record was never close, but the number of three set matches did lend itself to the air of a rivalry.

By 1990, some believed that Gaby was already washed up and were so eager to jump on the Capriati wagon that they passed right over Monica. They were wrong about that, and they were wrong to give up on Gaby as she played some of her best tennis between the 1990 US Open and 1992 French Open.

In my opinion, Graf's great "rival" really depends on the year. It hurt her that Monica was more or less taken out of the game in that the end of her career lacked that one great player to really push her. Despite Sanchez' limited success, Graf still knew that every match she played depended upon how she played no matter what her opponent did.

Gaby's best rivalries were with Sanchez and MJ Fernandez. But those series weren't as prominent.
I found Evert's matches vs Sabatini, much more enthralling than those with Graf all the way through to her retirement. Stylistically both were entirely different back-courters than Evert had faced in eons, but the greater variety in Gabby's game, their more similar athletic levels and ebbs and flows in their matches lent themselves to a more tactical contest. compare the percentage of three setters/ tiebreakers in the Sabatini-Evert rivalry and the Graf-Evert rivalry.
 
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suwanee4712

Professional
I found Evert's matches vs Sabatini, much more enthralling than those with Graf all the way through to her retirement. Stylistically both were entirely different back-courters than Evert had faced in eons, but the greater variety in Gabby's game, their more similar athletic levels and ebbs and flows in their matches lent themselves to a more tactical contest. compare the percentage of three setters/ tiebreakers in the Sabatini-Evert rivalry and the Graf-Evert rivalry.
In some rivalries, watching their matches gets repetitive and starts to feel like a rehash. I felt that way sometimes with Steffi-Gaby. That is, until Gaby started varying her tactics more against Graf. And then it became predictable again. I was glad that I got to see their last great match, the 1995 US Open Semi. It was like one last hurrah where Gaby really forced Steffi to play well to win.

With Chris, Gaby is giving her another puzzle to solve. Chris just happens to be very good with puzzles. :) My favorite story from a match between these two was told by Mary Carillo about their not as famous meeting in 1985 at Amelia Island. Everyone talks about the Hilton Head match and the French Open match (understandably so given the circumstances of both), but their Amelia match sounded amazing.

Mary said that somewhere in the third set a frazzled Evert turned to her at courtside and said, "Does she think this is the Wimbledon final?"

All credit to Zina for winning that Amelia tournament over Chris and Hana in the 1985. But I do think that Chris was war weary after long three setters vs. Gaby and Khode back to back.

My favorite match between them was the 1986 French 4R. I kind of feel that Chris having to fight through that match set up her great run of wins over Bassett, Mandlikova, and Navratilova in some of the best tennis that I think she ever played.
 
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kiki

Banned
While she may have taken back seat to Seles,Navratilova and Sanchez as Graf´s most important opponent, I always had lots of respect for one thing Gaby did to reverse Graf´s utmost domination on her: she completely changed her game and became a proficient net player ( improving also her weak first serve) and was the player who gave Graf more trouble with her versatility.

In a slight way, that reminded me of how Borg was able to improve his game in order to become the dominant player we all know he turned to be.To make those changes, dramatic changes is extremely hard to do when you are a top pro.In fact, you can count with the fingers of your hand the top players that have been able to do so.
 
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CEvertFan

Hall of Fame
Sabatini also had a great backhand down the line to Graf's forehand side and she caught Graf with it a great number of times since Steffi was always leaving that side of the court open cause she liked to run around her backhand so much. Sabatini was one of the very few at the time that could consistently catch Graf in those backhand to backhand crosscourt exchanges - bam Sabatini would nail it down the line and it would either be a winner or would draw an error from Graf.

Her net play later (91 US Open onwards) also proved successful.
 
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70後

Hall of Fame
In my view, Graf is a record holder, Sabatini knows how to play tennis. They were never rivals to each other.

Gabriela Sabatini v Steffi Graf Lipton 1991 pt3

22:00 This is the Graf classic run-outside-doubles-alley forehand cc off forehand. The concept is simple in its beauty, every forehand must be hit way, way outside the ad court doubles alley off and cross court, straight at an opponent’s feet. And Graf’s forehand would have been even more lethal using today's racquets. Also, because of her late prep and late contact, ad court off forehand cc happened to be Graf’s most stable, least spray prone forehand.

26:40, 26:50, If the greatest feat of athletics, according to the Graf fan party, is the run around forehand, the run-outside-doubles-alley off forehand cc at opponents feet must be the greatest feat of idiotics. See where Graf is at 26:55, and where the ball is going to Sabatini’s strike zone. This is what happens when you give a very gifted athlete a tennis racquet. No tennis player in history has a sense of the tennis court like Graf. Supremely gifted with high athletic capital but stuck with low tennis assets resulting in play like that, it is difficult to see how she could avoid injuring herself. That was what caused Steffi Graf’s “injuries”. Not overplay, not overtraining, not “bad luck” nor another favourite Graf fan party excuse : “weak ankles”. Of course her ankles were “weak”. Graf’s grinding game was so ridiculously damaging to herself. The joint in the human body is meant to move forwards, not go rocking and rocking around itself from side to side. It wasn’t that she couldn’t be extremely effective with her crude game; there is a catch, the consequence of playing a game that consisted of high physical capital and low game assets was a quick early low peak followed by swift, over depletion resulting in injuries.

In pro tennis there is no such thing as “injuries” or being “ill”. There is only resource management. This places the whole responsibility of physical condition on the player. Either you are efficient in deploying and conserving, or you are not. Your physical capital is your whole responsibility to manage.

I suggest that early on in her career, Graf may have got a leg up by concentrating on what immediately bought quick, dramatic results. She was like a gold mine for her camp. But when people got more used to Graf’s steamroll style of impatiently racing and racing herself and her opponent as fast as she could, she started to face opposing forces. The problem was, Graf’s game of tennis didn’t scale up well. IMO, she could win against, but never outplay a playmaker like Navratilova. Most of Graf’s matches with Navratilova after 1986 followed a pattern of Navratilova winning a set but just being unable to keep up with the pace in the third. MN was a talented tennis player who made herself the best athlete she could be. She started out extremely talented, but rather dumpy. She made herself fit and strong. Like Lendl she didn’t have a good backhand to start with, so she made a good backhand. Then along came Graf who started out as a gifted 24K athlete. Graf was considered mentally tough. Navratilova was considered suspect to nerves. But if you thought about it, Navratilova, just like Lendl, had the mental toughness to fix every single hole in her professional game and make herself the best athlete and player she could be.

Gabriela Sabatini v Steffi Graf Lipton 1991 pt4

4:30 The Graf run outside doubles alley forehand, her next forehand as Sabatini comes in, ends up a malfunction, because of its late preparation and late contact. On the next point, the backhand dtl from Sabatini.

6:15, Graf does the rolled, if you please backhand cc pass/bodyshot (the way she hits it, it cannot be anything but a rolled cc bodyshot) She is hovering and hovering, bouncing and bouncing, but, as the OS is lacking the drivers, she can’t actually enter her setup, and by the time she has to, she hits the ball behind her wrist with her arms glued to her waist when it is already too late with a pure wrist snap, made possible only by the fact that Graf had a strong wrist for a woman, and in the strong racquet era, a wide body graphite racquet so she could still hit a shot that came off the racquet relatively hard even with that technique. 7:02 bh. 12:40 Sabatini serve 15-30, this is what Graf’s game looks like when she is not given the pattern and the shot on her fh that she wants. 13:15, again, the pattern that she doesn’t want. In this match, Graf’s game just plain falls apart, slump, as it did when people started playing Graf the “wrong pattern”. 18:35, Sabatini serves for the match, she starts making some mistakes in allowing Graf to get back a game.

Sometimes, people other than Sabatini also gave Graf the wrong pattern to play. Sanchez in the RG SF 92 first set bagelled Graf in the first set by attacking the Graf forehand side from the back. Then Sanchez somehow got nervous as if it were too successful, too quick and too easy, and gave up what she was doing, seemingly because it worked too well? Or Pierce on her day, if it was her day, always by accident, never by intention, all of a sudden, the Graf fräulein forehand sprayed everywhere.

What worked best for Graf’s game was the “right” pattern of play - moon ball 2 handed backhands to her backhand side - to avoid the powerful fräulein forehand - which was exactly where her off forehand with its late prep and late contact was camped; and from the “right” kind of opponent, the dweeby moon ball 80’s Evert clone types, played everything into Graf’s game, and were no match for her physically anyway. Most people in those days couldn’t keep up with Graf’s pace and power and were usually left in the dust at the start, nor could they out grind her at the far end. Graf had speed, strength and stamina. No wonder she hardly lost a match against these, her favourite sort of opponents. They imitated Evert’s stylish strokes, looking at the grass at the foot of the slope, but they completely missed the mountain of Evert’s real game which was her ruthless accuracy and her work ethic, because iirc, Evert didn’t consider herself that talented, she had to work extra hard to make up for it.

In 1991, Shriver said of Graf : “I’ve never seen anyone so inflexible," "People will eventually catch on to what you're doing. We all got used to the pace. After a year or two, there is no longer that tremendous intimidation factor. We got better at handling Steffi.”

Very telling statement indeed.

But Graf wasn’t inflexible. She just didn’t have anything different.

(Consider Henin who went through a short term drop in results. But she filled out her game after her Wimbledon 2001 final. )
 

70後

Hall of Fame
Graf great tennis movement is one of the most unquestionable teachings in tennis forums. Graf’s immaculate good footwork is a non negotiable precept.

If you thought Graf’s feet looked good while moving, and that made you feelgood, I wouldn’t begrudge you that. If you thought Graf’s legs (the legs! the legs! right?) also looked good while moving while bouncing bouncing bouncing up and down, jolting jolting jolting left and right, and so you thought she had good movement, I wouldn’t begrudge you that. Graf’s tennis movement is often described as “beautiful”, “ballet dancing”. If you thought Graf “danced” and Graf’s beautiful “ballet dancing” turned you on and made you feel great, I wouldn’t begrudge you that. And if Graf’s shy smile made you feel classy, and so you thought she was classy, I definitely wouldn’t begrudge you that. The modelling pics ensured Graf the support of the traditional values demographic.

Yayuk’s one handed backhand, though, was quite impossible for Graf because she couldn’t place her steps to enter into and hit a shot like that.

When Djokovic, for instance, fools around with the Fed back hand off court, he does all these exaggerations complete with comedic effects, BUT, notice he hits it dead clean. The Djokovic one handed bh is a strong technique merely pretending to be foolish. Djokovic can clown all he wants, but his one hander is no joke. Even when Djokovic isn’t serious, he cannot disguise the fact that fundamentally he possesses a great one hander besides his main double hander. His timing both on the ball and his foot step placement is unsurprisingly elite, since he is one of the best ever. Regardless of whether it is 1 hand or 2 hands, Djokovic can never fake the quality of his footstep timing and his step eye placement to enter and execute the shot.

Tennis step placement does not consist of racing and racing twenty steps one way in 0.1 seconds, then racing and racing twenty steps back the other way in 0.1 seconds. It is the precise placing of steps in the optimum position to enter shot setup early, accurately, with the least amount of non steps. Hingis is the total inverse of Graf, all high quality assets, low capital. She wasn’t very fast at running, but she was very good at covering. Incidentally, Hingis had a great one handed backhand drive. Although she didn’t use it often, she did use it when it was the true shot to use. Another one who has great movement is Hsieh. Hardly moves with her micro steps. Serena has great movement too, she sometimes looked clumsy, but she really wasn’t, when she was on top of her game at least, she placed her steps with great timing.

The thing about a ohbh wing like Fed, Henin, Wawrinka, Sampras, CSN, Schiavone, Yayuk, Sabatini, anybody who had mastered it, was that with the same take back, they could hit top, flat, slice, lob, inside in, inside out, all with the same move. You can’t tell what ball is coming. One of the bonuses of a one handed backhand is its versatility. It is difficult to read and defend against a mix of flat, slice, drive, topspin, sidespin.


18:47 Graf’s wrist snap backhand. At 19:15, serve volley by Sabatini. She knows how it is done and can do it even with her damaged puff ball serve.

Graf, who explained her untimely defeat this way: “She was playing very well and I don’t think I was playing well at all.”

“I had nothing, that was the problem,” she said. “It was just difficult to do anything, because I didn’t have the rhythm for anything.

“Nothing came together and I was surprised by that.”

It sounds like it was all Sabatini’s fault!


From a tennis perspective, Sabatini MJF SF was a much better match than the final. Worth seeing for Sabatini’s backhands, bh lob, and bh volleys alone.
 
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70後

Hall of Fame
So once upon a long time, Graf hit a thunderous bh drive. It went like this : this is the Graf Really Big Backhand! Then, amid the roar of the astounded crowd, she would turn and walk quietly and shyly, back to the other side of the court with melancholy, aloof, dignified indifference. Oh that? that’s nothing. Nothing special at all. She can, when and if she aloofly feels like it. But she is too modest to do that too often. Imagine what she would have done with that shot! If only she wasn’t so “stubborn”, if only she did that more! In particular she did this a lot in warmup. Know This : she has a backhand wing every bit as big and powerful as her forehand wing with a whole wide wondrous realm of powerful possibilities (then it never appears). But there were some rather odd things about the really big rolled backhand of Graf. For instance, it was always nothing less than a really big backhand. She couldn’t do different things with it. It was the kind of thing that never worked when it was needed. It only worked when it wasn’t needed. When she did it in a match, there wasn’t the next shot to link up. It was not a tactical rally shot that builds up forward momentum downstream in the rally, like they do today. It was all or nothing and a full stop. She couldn’t go inside in or inside out, or angled cc. She cannot dial up and down the power. She could only hit it at max power, and it only went cc, she cannot use it to place the ball. It is not part of her baseline game routine. If Graf didn’t “use it more”, (the really big rolled backhand) there was a very, very good reason why. There is a proper word for this kind of thing.

Now here is the unfathomable and deranged part : instead of devising such an elaborate really big backhand, why not simply make a real backhand wing instead? Lendl did it. So did Navratilova. Neither had great backhands to start with.

But the derangement didn’t stop there. If Graf didn’t use her Really Big Backhand, it was because, according to the Graf party, “she didn’t need it”, since there weren’t serve volleyers(!!!) BUT, AT THE SAME TIME, Graf also “had to deal with more variety” (!!!) in her era because she played in a much deeper and much stronger era(!!!) And of course Graf had “technically perfect volleys” (!!!) too, technically perfect [this], technically perfect [that], technically perfect [everything] - so long as there wasn’t somebody like an opponent making it technically imperfect for her.

More derangement; 10 years later you had Graf fan party claiming it proved Graf never lacked a Really Big Backhand in her complete game.

Even more derangement; Post Graf when Venus came down with Sjogren's syndrome, some Graf fan party would also become utterly convinced that Graf had also suffered from “debilitating illness” while playing, expanding their Graf narrative to include that one too.

And if that still isn’t sufficiently deranged yet, the Graf party linking of Federer with Graf as a political alliance with the Fed party was truly deranged in drawing an equivalence between the most efficient player ever with an extremely inefficient player, and to compare the most imaginative with the most obstinate. No Fed fan should be able to tolerate Graf’s game. However, it was a kind of anti-Serena political transaction that politically the Graf party got way more out of, imo.

So far as tennis politics is concerned, Graf is a choice of goat, compared to the other two alternatives. However, here is where it gets even more torturous. Interestingly, Serena must “win two more”. That does NOT mean that she is goat. For one set of politics, Serena must “put Court in the bin” by winning just 2 more. Once the ineligible Court is safely out of the way, Graf can be placed over Serena, whether or not Graf is goat. Graf’s early retirement morally adds slams, Serena’s longevity morally deducts slams! Because Graf retired early, her moral slams shall increase by a factor of 10 because “she overplayed”, “illnesses and injuries”, “dad scandals”. By the same logic, Serena’s longevity counts against her, so her slams shall morally decrease by a factor of 10. So the best outcome is probably that Serena does not win two more but just one more. That way Graf cannot be placed over Serena without Court ending up on top again. Tennis is just another pot of politics.
 

THUNDERVOLLEY

G.O.A.T.
Graf earned her GOAT status, and left all others of her generation (and the older generation who were still on tour, like Evert) in the dust. While Sabatini was a good match for Graf, and had memorable matches with her, the big picture shows Graf simply knowing the sport on another level that her contemporaries found troubling to understand.
 
Probably because from 1990-1992 Sabatini was 8-4 against Steffi and at one point beat her 5 times in a row. I think the only other person to beat Steffi that many times in a row was Evert when Graf was a tour baby. Players like Seles and Navratilova never beat Steffi 5 times in a row...so that probably has something to do with it.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
Graf earned her GOAT status, and left all others of her generation (and the older generation who were still on tour, like Evert) in the dust. While Sabatini was a good match for Graf, and had memorable matches with her, the big picture shows Graf simply knowing the sport on another level that her contemporaries found troubling to understand.
I don't see how Graf left Navratilova in the dust. Sure, Graf went 4-0 (losing a set each time) against Navratilova in 1988-1989, but then it was 2-2 in their last 4 matches, including Navratilova winning at the U.S. Open, to finish with a 9-9 head to head record. And, of course, during mostly that same stretch, it was Seles (maybe not covered in your "same generation" criterion) who was taking most of the big titles.

Graf's main claim to GOAT status is based on what she was able to do after Seles was stabbed, not based on leaving Navratilova in the dust while she was still on tour. Because she didn't.
 

THUNDERVOLLEY

G.O.A.T.
Graf's main claim to GOAT status is based on what she was able to do after Seles was stabbed, not based on leaving Navratilova in the dust while she was still on tour. Because she didn't.
Graf was the GOAT when she soared to winning the Grand Slam, and that had nothing to do with Seles (who was not even a factor at that time), which left Navratilova looking as though she was standing still. Graf only added to an untouchable achievement, which she really did not need to be a GOAT. Navratilova desperately wanted that GOAT achievement, but did not have the game to earn it (neither would Seles at the height of her own game, for that matter). Graf did.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
Graf was the GOAT when she soared to winning the Grand Slam, and that had nothing to do with Seles (who was not even a factor at that time), which left Navratilova looking as though she was standing still. Graf only added to an untouchable achievement, which she really did not need to be a GOAT. Navratilova desperately wanted that GOAT achievement, but did not have the game to earn it (neither would Seles at the height of her own game, for that matter). Graf did.
When Graf won the Grand Slam in 1988, she had won 5 Majors while Navratilova had won 17 Majors, including 6 straight Majors from 1983-1984. Graf wasn't even close to Navratilova at that point.
 

THUNDERVOLLEY

G.O.A.T.
When Graf won the Grand Slam in 1988, she had won 5 Majors while Navratilova had won 17 Majors, including 6 straight Majors from 1983-1984. Graf wasn't even close to Navratilova at that point.
The Grand Slam is the zenith of tennis achievements, not majors count. Navratilova never had the ability to win that at any point in her career.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
The Grand Slam is the zenith of tennis achievements, not majors count. Navratilova never had the ability to win that at any point in her career.
But isn't major count at least part of the GOAT equation? Graf is arguably GOAT because she has all those majors AND a Grand Slam among them. What if she had a short career like Austin because of injuries and she had to retire after 1988 - ending her career with 5 majors, including the Grand Slam, and two additional finals. Is she still GOAT? I'm not saying the answer has to be "no" but obviously many would answer no.
 
When Graf won the Grand Slam in 1988, she had won 5 Majors while Navratilova had won 17 Majors, including 6 straight Majors from 1983-1984. Graf wasn't even close to Navratilova at that point.
TV is just doing his/her usual "Grand Slam = GOAT" spiel, which (s)he had to invent to preclude Federer from being GOAT.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
No, as Laver is one of the unquestioned GOAT players for winning the Grand Slam, although his majors count has been passed by others.
Oh, I thought you were talking about "the" GOAT, not "a" GOAT. I agree, if a player wins a Grand Slam at any point, even if it's his/her only 4 Slams, they could be considered a GOAT. I thought you were saying that a player should automatically be considered "the" GOAT with just a Grand Slam, even if another player far exceeded their Slam total (assuming that other player didn't achieve a Grand Slam themselves).
 
Probably because from 1990-1992 Sabatini was 8-4 against Steffi and at one point beat her 5 times in a row. I think the only other person to beat Steffi that many times in a row was Evert when Graf was a tour baby. Players like Seles and Navratilova never beat Steffi 5 times in a row...so that probably has something to do with it.
It is very interesting, that dynamic. The USO 1990 loss was the one and only one time Graf ever lost to Sabatini at a Slam. That year, she had lost the RG final to Seles too. She would lose at RG to Seles again in 92, albeit in a much, much closer match. And of course AO 93 before the stabbing etc. But the only two times Graf met Seles in 1991 which was her worst year after her breakthrough until 1997, Graf won. And very easily at that at the US Hardcourt Championships.

I think Seles took it a trifle easy at US Hardcourt championships and just played badly in general at Hamburg (possibly due to the conditions too, because Graf was quite up and down too that day). Graf also was keen then to avenge her losses to Seles.

While Sabatini really went after Graf in these Masters and other tournaments meetings and Graf was in some kind of horrible mental funk in 1991 and just crumbled. After Amelia Island, 92, Graf never lost again to Sabatini right till the end. It's one of the strangest rivalries I have seen in this sport. Where for one year, Graf simply couldn't dislodge Sabatini at all and yet did it at the exact stage where it mattered most (the grand slam) and afterwards started dominating her again.
 
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I think Seles was Graf's great rival. I think ASV was second. Navratilova third. Sabatini comes fourth.
Seles bettered Graf and usurped her. ASV beat Graf in a couple of slam finals and intercepted Graf's 93-96 period of general dominance impressively. Navratilova denied Graf her first slam finals and was the player Graf usurped. Sabatini did have that impressive stretch vs Graf in 90-92 and did beat her in the USO final, but Graf dominated that rivalry otherwise.
 

THUNDERVOLLEY

G.O.A.T.
Oh, I thought you were talking about "the" GOAT, not "a" GOAT. I agree, if a player wins a Grand Slam at any point, even if it's his/her only 4 Slams, they could be considered a GOAT. I thought you were saying that a player should automatically be considered "the" GOAT with just a Grand Slam, even if another player far exceeded their Slam total (assuming that other player didn't achieve a Grand Slam themselves).
I mean the GOAT players such as Graf, Court and Laver are such because they won the Grand Slam--the zenith of all tennis achievements. Without it, they would be in the "best of the rest" category with players who are rated based--more often than not--on the number of majors they won, such as Navratilova, Federer or Serena.
 
I think Seles was Graf's great rival. I think ASV was second. Navratilova third. Sabatini comes fourth.
Seles bettered Graf and usurped her. ASV beat Graf in a couple of slam finals and intercepted Graf's 93-96 period of general dominance impressively. Navratilova denied Graf her first slam finals and was the player Graf usurped. Sabatini did have that impressive stretch vs Graf in 90-92 and did beat her in the USO final, but Graf dominated that rivalry otherwise.
Remember there is a sizable contingent on here that continues to live in Seles-denial. Not that Gaby was NOT seen as Graf's rival during that period (end of 90-early 92) but the three you mentioned are the ones who could beat Graf more than once on the Grand Slam stage. ASV almost only ever beat Graf when she was off colour. Navratilova gets credit even for the USO 91 win because she was or should have been past it and still beat Graf. And she also pushed Graf all the way in 89. But the Graf that Seles beat at 92 RG or 93 AO was a better Graf than either USO 91 (or W/USO 87) or, for crying out loud, RG 91 of ASV. Even RG 89 was a sort of listless match from Graf. It doesn't matter what people think of the post stabbing Graf-Seles matches or if they want to include the ones where Seles has just broken through in the tour in 89 to paint a rosy picture. Even if you do all that, you can't deny that the one player who beat a better version of Graf at the slams than did the other rivals, was Seles.
 
On the other side of the balance, I will say though that as far as the bad luck argument goes, I consider Venus unluckier than Seles because she was all round complete just like her sister and arguably the finest mover ever in women's tennis. Without her sister being who she was, Venus would be way, way higher in number of slams. If you want to argue that Graf benefited from weak competition, that argument is somewhat applicable to Seles too because her main obstacle to winning slams was Graf and they both devoured the rest for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But even in a very competitive field, Venus still got 7 slams and for sure would have won many more if you put her in the 90s. Both Graf and Seles enjoyed a tremendous athleticism/power dividend by getting there before the rest of the big babes could. Racist slander aside, Venus' physical advantage is nowhere near as overwhelming but what is is her all round technical brilliance, just like her sister. But her sister was better in almost every department by just enough.
 
On the other side of the balance, I will say though that as far as the bad luck argument goes, I consider Venus unluckier than Seles because she was all round complete just like her sister and arguably the finest mover ever in women's tennis. Without her sister being who she was, Venus would be way, way higher in number of slams. If you want to argue that Graf benefited from weak competition, that argument is somewhat applicable to Seles too because her main obstacle to winning slams was Graf and they both devoured the rest for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But even in a very competitive field, Venus still got 7 slams and for sure would have won many more if you put her in the 90s. Both Graf and Seles enjoyed a tremendous athleticism/power dividend by getting there before the rest of the big babes could. Racist slander aside, Venus' physical advantage is nowhere near as overwhelming but what is is her all round technical brilliance, just like her sister. But her sister was better in almost every department by just enough.
Venus I agree is one of the best movers ever..as tall as she is she could be awkward, have balance issues...any number of issues (Davenport had several of them when forced to run). Venus in another life could have been a dancer, so elegant. I think the main difference between Venus and Serena was the mental factor. Overall Serena seems much more equipped to have to battle her sister than the reverse. While the H2H is what it is, it always feels like, except for the very earliest matches, it was really on Serena. Venus won if Serena was off her game enough to allow her to. Not a knock on Venus by any means, but when it came to having to face each other Serena has for the longest time seemed a little better at handling that situation.

That was something Seles had in spades, that mental factor. Even when she returned to the tour a physical shadow of herself, she somehow found a way to come back and claw her way back up. Sure she had all the demons and horrors of what happened playing in her head and they certainly took a horrific toll on her, but the fact that she was able to step on a court again and fight to the level she did...thats something. Not everyone could have had to courage and strength to step onto a court again after what happened to her, thats nerve. That Nerve made her such a rival to Steffi because Seles was just hungry for it, she wasn't a quitter. I always respected her for that. Her record is impressive but that inner strength...thats a rare thing.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
On the other side of the balance, I will say though that as far as the bad luck argument goes, I consider Venus unluckier than Seles because she was all round complete just like her sister and arguably the finest mover ever in women's tennis. Without her sister being who she was, Venus would be way, way higher in number of slams. If you want to argue that Graf benefited from weak competition, that argument is somewhat applicable to Seles too because her main obstacle to winning slams was Graf and they both devoured the rest for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But even in a very competitive field, Venus still got 7 slams and for sure would have won many more if you put her in the 90s. Both Graf and Seles enjoyed a tremendous athleticism/power dividend by getting there before the rest of the big babes could. Racist slander aside, Venus' physical advantage is nowhere near as overwhelming but what is is her all round technical brilliance, just like her sister. But her sister was better in almost every department by just enough.
I get what you're saying, but...Venus was prevented from winning more Majors by happening to have a sister who was slightly better than her. Seles was prevented from winning more Majors due to being stabbed.

And, while Venus was more complete than Seles, it was clear that Seles, who had just turned 19, was adding components to her game. At the 1993 Australian Open, her serve was clearly becoming a weapon (especially in the match against Graf), and she was developing a solid net game (as seen in the SF vs. Sabatini).
 
I get what you're saying, but...Venus was prevented from winning more Majors by happening to have a sister who was slightly better than her. Seles was prevented from winning more Majors due to being stabbed.
I know that and I make the latter argument myself whenever Graf fans try to downplay Seles. My point is simply that Graf and Seles enjoyed an enormous physical dividend that allowed them to dominate the tour the way they could. So yes, Graf remains the luckiest one while Seles is unlucky relative to Graf and not so much compared to Venus.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
Venus I agree is one of the best movers ever..as tall as she is she could be awkward, have balance issues...any number of issues (Davenport had several of them when forced to run). Venus in another life could have been a dancer, so elegant. I think the main difference between Venus and Serena was the mental factor. Overall Serena seems much more equipped to have to battle her sister than the reverse. While the H2H is what it is, it always feels like, except for the very earliest matches, it was really on Serena. Venus won if Serena was off her game enough to allow her to. Not a knock on Venus by any means, but when it came to having to face each other Serena has for the longest time seemed a little better at handling that situation.

That was something Seles had in spades, that mental factor. Even when she returned to the tour a physical shadow of herself, she somehow found a way to come back and claw her way back up. Sure she had all the demons and horrors of what happened playing in her head and they certainly took a horrific toll on her, but the fact that she was able to step on a court again and fight to the level she did...thats something. Not everyone could have had to courage and strength to step onto a court again after what happened to her, thats nerve. That Nerve made her such a rival to Steffi because Seles was just hungry for it, she wasn't a quitter. I always respected her for that. Her record is impressive but that inner strength...thats a rare thing.
I encourage everybody to go back and watch early/prime era Venus and Serena. It's rather remarkable. As for Serena, she's hung on a LONG time past when she was at her best - and watching "fat Serena" get obliterated in four Slam finals or lose to random players in the third round and all the analysis and insults that come with that, you forget how good she really was.

Youtube is a Godsend - to be able to have the history of tennis at your fingertips.

I don't totally get why Venus' slam run ended so abruptly. What does Serena have over Venus? Two things. Probably the best serve, or at least top 2, in women's tennis history (it's finally come undone a bit in the past two years), and simply the ambition/desire to aim for the very top. Eventually Venus seemed to "accept" her lower status and didn't seem that bothered that she wasn't at the very top anymore.
 
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I encourage everybody to go back and watch early/prime era Venus and Serena. It's rather remarkable. As for Serena, she's hung on a LONG time past when she was at her best - and watching "fat Serena" get obliterated in dour Slam finals or lose to random players in the third round and all the analysis and insults that come with that, you forget how good she really was.

Youtube is a Godsend - to be able to have the history of tennis at your fingertips.

I don't totally get why Venus' slam run ended so abruptly. What does Serena have over Venus? Two things. Probably the best serve, or at least top 2, in women's tennis history (it's finally come undone a bit in the past two years), and simply the ambition/desire to aim for the very top. Eventually Venus seemed to "accept" her lower status and didn't seem that bothered that she wasn't at the very top anymore.
As a matter of fact, I WAS watching Serena Venus at USO 2001 last night after posting what I did about Venus. That's just some of the best ball striking you will ever see in the women's game. It kind of washed away some of the ill will I may have borne to Serena over the stunts she's pulled at USO in recent years. All said, she and her sister were the biggest gifts women's tennis could have had and I can only be grateful for that as a tennis fan. Add to that the competition of that time (up to 2007-08) - Henin, Clijsters, Mauresmo, Davenport, Sharapova, even Hingis in the early years - and it's just a mindblowing bounty of amazing tennis. Even 'also rans' got as good as Dementieva back then.
 
And when I say ball striking, I don't mean just power. The sheer repertoire on their groundies, the transition game, the volleys, everything was great. If Seles made up for some of the unorthodoxies of her game with a great tactical mind, Graf used to lack tactically and was wont to plunge into the net without transition steps often times (which is why she got passed and which is why she got cagey about approaching). With Venus or Serena, it was like you couldn't point to a single big chink in their game nor was their playing thoughtless. I think their defensive hustle remains underrated to this day. When they ARE pushed to the wall in a rally, which is not often, they are well able to defend because their strokes have a lot more dynamic range than many of their peers on the women's tour.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
As a matter of fact, I WAS watching Serena Venus at USO 2001 last night after posting what I did about Venus. That's just some of the best ball striking you will ever see in the women's game. It kind of washed away some of the ill will I may have borne to Serena over the stunts she's pulled at USO in recent years. All said, she and her sister were the biggest gifts women's tennis could have had and I can only be grateful for that as a tennis fan. Add to that the competition of that time (up to 2007-08) - Henin, Clijsters, Mauresmo, Davenport, Sharapova, even Hingis in the early years - and it's just a mindblowing bounty of amazing tennis. Even 'also rans' got as good as Dementieva back then.
I became a serious tennis fan in 1985 - Lendl v. Mcenroe at the USO; I graduated from high school in 1991. My early tennis fandom entailed the shift from Evert-Navratilova to Graf-Seles, and on the Men's side from remnants of the Lendl-Connor-Mcenroe era to Lendl-Wilander-Becker-Edberg to the New American generation - Sampras-Agassi-Courier-Chang.

Those eras have a special place in my heart.

Nevertheless, I think that late 1990s/early-mid 2000s era of women's tennis may be my favorite and deepest. Not only the people you named, but Capriati, Kuznetsova, Li Na, Stosur, remnants of Seles, Martinez and Pierce, the second-tier Russians like Myskina, Safina, Petrova, not to mention Ivanovic, Jankovic - and others that I'm probably forgetting.
 
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DMan

Professional
When Graf won the Grand Slam in 1988, she had won 5 Majors while Navratilova had won 17 Majors, including 6 straight Majors from 1983-1984. Graf wasn't even close to Navratilova at that point.
I guess being born 12 years AFTER Martina may have had something to do with it?!
 

DMan

Professional
Venus I agree is one of the best movers ever..as tall as she is she could be awkward, have balance issues...any number of issues (Davenport had several of them when forced to run). Venus in another life could have been a dancer, so elegant. I think the main difference between Venus and Serena was the mental factor. Overall Serena seems much more equipped to have to battle her sister than the reverse. While the H2H is what it is, it always feels like, except for the very earliest matches, it was really on Serena. Venus won if Serena was off her game enough to allow her to. Not a knock on Venus by any means, but when it came to having to face each other Serena has for the longest time seemed a little better at handling that situation.

That was something Seles had in spades, that mental factor. Even when she returned to the tour a physical shadow of herself, she somehow found a way to come back and claw her way back up. Sure she had all the demons and horrors of what happened playing in her head and they certainly took a horrific toll on her, but the fact that she was able to step on a court again and fight to the level she did...thats something. Not everyone could have had to courage and strength to step onto a court again after what happened to her, thats nerve. That Nerve made her such a rival to Steffi because Seles was just hungry for it, she wasn't a quitter. I always respected her for that. Her record is impressive but that inner strength...thats a rare thing.
For the record, Seles never had to "claw her way back up." She was given a co-Number 1 ranking and entry and seeding of #1 into every tournament despite not playing for 27 months.
 

DMan

Professional
Sabatini's rivalry with Graf from 1990-1992 was the only time Steffi had a true rival. Afterall, Gaby found a way to beat Graf 5 consecutive times in a period of 6 months, on clay, hard courts, and indoors. No player was ever able to do that against Graf when she was #1. And yup, that includes Seles.
Consider this: Seles won a total of 5 matches against Graf in 10 years!!! Over a 10 year time span, Graf only list 5 times to Seles. Sabatini was able to notch 5 wins in a mere 6 months. And Gaby had beaten Steffi 3 times in the years prior to her consecutive win streak as well as after.
For a time, Sabatini's game was a threat ton Steffi. Something no other player could claim, with the results to back it up. Yup, tis true.
 
For the record, Seles never had to "claw her way back up." She was given a co-Number 1 ranking and entry and seeding of #1 into every tournament despite not playing for 27 months.
Just because she was handed the number one ranking doesn't mean she didn't have to claw her way back up. She had to prove to everyone she could compete, she had to prove that the decision to give her that ranking was warranted, she had to prove herself to everyone, and prove herself to herself. Just because she was handed the ranking doesn't mean she wasn't facing a huge uphill battle both physically and mentally, as well as the media and everything else. So yes, FOR THE RECORD, she more than had to claw her way back in one way or another.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
Sabatini's rivalry with Graf from 1990-1992 was the only time Steffi had a true rival. Afterall, Gaby found a way to beat Graf 5 consecutive times in a period of 6 months, on clay, hard courts, and indoors. No player was ever able to do that against Graf when she was #1. And yup, that includes Seles.
Consider this: Seles won a total of 5 matches against Graf in 10 years!!! Over a 10 year time span, Graf only list 5 times to Seles. Sabatini was able to notch 5 wins in a mere 6 months. And Gaby had beaten Steffi 3 times in the years prior to her consecutive win streak as well as after.
For a time, Sabatini's game was a threat ton Steffi. Something no other player could claim, with the results to back it up. Yup, tis true.
I mean...from 1990-1992, Seles beat Graf twice in French finals. In 1993, Seles beat Graf in the Australian Open finals. After that Australian final, Seles had won three of the last three Australian Opens, three of the last three French Opens, three of the last three WTA Finals, and two of the last two U.S. Opens. Seles's game was clearly a huge threat to Graf at the French and Australian Opens, and the main question at the time of the stabbing was whether Graf could each reach the finals at the U.S. Open and WTA Finals to face Seles. The proposition of Graf beating Seles at those events was an even bigger stretch.
 
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