Was Graf "slumping" during Seles' supremacy?

The sample size is too small to make a judgement either way. The burden of proof is on those saying Seles would dominate Graf, when the h2h evidence just doesn't support this. Very hard to argue that Monica would not get at least 5 more slams however. I also wonder if Graf would have been pushed to improve her game & take the net more. It would have been a fascinating rivalry no doubt.
I think the burden goes both ways because Seles was 19 as of the Australian Open 93 win and well placed to keep getting better. For Graf, 19 was her earth shattering year. Even if we assume Seles peaked a little earlier than Graf, she would have still had another couple of years of peak performance left in her. So yes, the four slams Graf won between 93-94, those are the ones that would have come under attack. I do not think those matches would have been blow outs because both the RG and AO wins were hard fought. But I would favour Seles during that period because that's where their rivalry was at the point where she was taken out of the tour.

Said another way, in 2008, I wasn't looking at Fed's easy 2006 win over Nadal at Wimbledon but the much more competitive 2007 one. And Fed was distinctly playing below his 2007 level so we did fear a loss at Nadal that time, which is how it panned out. The fact that prior to the match Fed had a 2-0 H2H advantage over Nadal on grass had zero bearing on the result. Because Nadal was closing the gap with each year and Fed was getting older. That is roughly how I see the Graf-Seles rivalry panning out (that the effect of Graf wins over pre-prime Seles and in non-major meetings in 91 should be ignored) with two obvious differences - Seles had no such clear cut advantage on one surface as Nadal does on clay and secondly, the physical gap between the two would have started to close as Seles passed her early 20s, say in 96-97 because Graf was clearly the better athlete of the two. Fed enjoyed no such advantage over Nadal.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
The sample size is too small to make a judgement either way. The burden of proof is on those saying Seles would dominate Graf, when the h2h evidence just doesn't support this. Very hard to argue that Monica would not get at least 5 more slams however. I also wonder if Graf would have been pushed to improve her game & take the net more. It would have been a fascinating rivalry no doubt.
I see the question and the burden of proof differently. Seles had just turned 19 and had won the last 3 Australian Opens, the last 3 French Opens, the last 3 WTA Finals, and the last 2 U.S. Opens. That's a stronghold on 4/5 biggest tournaments, with Wimbledon still obviously being Graf's playground. I think the burden is firmly on those saying that Graf could have turned the tables and starting sharing the wealth w/Seles.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
I see the question and the burden of proof differently. Seles had just turned 19 and had won the last 3 Australian Opens, the last 3 French Opens, the last 3 WTA Finals, and the last 2 U.S. Opens. That's a stronghold on 4/5 biggest tournaments, with Wimbledon still obviously being Graf's playground. I think the burden is firmly on those saying that Graf could have turned the tables and starting sharing the wealth w/Seles.
The problem is that Graf wasn't getting to many of those finals, so that it looks like she was struggling independent of Seles. Of course you may interpret that as Graf being scared to face her, but I don't. That's why I don't recognize the Fed-Nadal analogy, because the lopsided nature of the h2h, which wasn't present here. In fact Graf still had the upper hand there.
 
The problem is that Graf wasn't getting to many of those finals, so that it looks like she was struggling independent of Seles. Of course you may interpret that as Graf being scared to face her, but I don't. That's why I don't recognize the Fed-Nadal analogy, because the lopsided nature of the h2h, which wasn't present here. In fact Graf still had the upper hand there.
Graf wasn't scared to face her, but it was nevertheless getting easier for Seles to beat her in going from RG to AO. Some have this theory that it was the AO turf that didn't suit Graf so much. That may be so, but the AO match also had less errors and was more high quality than RG and Seles still won more easily than at RG. It was also the first time there were signs of Graf getting a little exhausted by the physical battle in the end. Which is why imo the signs point to Seles having a good two years over Graf in 93-94. Maybe until part of 95 and from Wimbledon 95, Graf would likely take control of the rivalry again.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
The problem is that Graf wasn't getting to many of those finals, so that it looks like she was struggling independent of Seles. Of course you may interpret that as Graf being scared to face her, but I don't. That's why I don't recognize the Fed-Nadal analogy, because the lopsided nature of the h2h, which wasn't present here. In fact Graf still had the upper hand there.
It's definitely not a perfect analogy, but that cuts both ways. From 2005-2007, Nadal beat Federer at the French Open, but was 0-2 against him at Wimbledon and hadn't made even the SF of a hard court Major. It wasn't until Wimbledon 2008 that Nadal would beat Federer at a non-clay Major.

Conversely, teenage Seles was making Major finals everywhere and was 2-1 against Graf at the French (the one loss when she was 15) and had recently beaten Graf on hard courts at the Australian Open in 1993 before being stabbed.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
Get your points; just find it hard to meaningfully extrapolate from 2 3 set matches. If Rafa had gone away after wimbledon 2007, it would have been wrong to extrapolate Fed beats Nadal in future at Wimbledon, despite Nadal tiring in the 5th of 07.
 
It's definitely not a perfect analogy, but that cuts both ways. From 2005-2007, Nadal beat Federer at the French Open, but was 0-2 against him at Wimbledon and hadn't made even the SF of a hard court Major. It wasn't until Wimbledon 2008 that Nadal would beat Federer at a non-clay Major.

Conversely, teenage Seles was making Major finals everywhere and was 2-1 against Graf at the French (the one loss when she was 15) and had recently beaten Graf on hard courts at the Australian Open in 1993 before being stabbed.
Of note though Nadal's Wimbledon win over Fed in 2008 proved out to be a one off. He could not even beat a 37 year old Federer in last years Wimbledon in good form. Not dumping on Nadal who I think is an excellent and underrated grass player (despite his inconsistent stretch there at one point) but in the big picture 2008 was not a foreshadowing of things to come by any means it turns out.

And I think Nadal is a better grass court player than Seles would have ever wound up being personally. I do think Seles might have won 1 Wimbledon if she weren't stabbed in a year she avoided both Graf and Novotna if I had to guess. And note the word might. You might feel more optimistic and that is fine. Like all what ifs surrounding the Seles stabbing nobody will ever know.

Nadal was also not losing matches on grass to Federer 6-1, 6-0 or 6-2, 6-1 at any stage. And Seles was never completely owning Graf on any surface (unless you count rebound ace as a surface maybe, kind of a sub surface) the way Nadal did Federer on clay, or doing fairly well against her on all surfaces the way Nadal was vs Fed from Day 1.
 
On the Graf-Seles situation overall I think both sides misrepresent a lot of things.

Graf DID go through a legit drop in form and slump in 90 and 91, and even 92 her play and results were nowhere near as consistent as usual, that is completely seperate of Seles as far as I can see. Many Seles fans are in denial about that. Of course that is not Seles's fault and she did earn all her wins those years and deserves full credit for them but a representation she was dominating while a fully peak Graf was there is completely wrong.

That said what many Graf fans are either in denial about, or many fail to recognize is in late 92/early 93 Seles was getting noticeably stronger from even the majority of that period she was winning all those slams. There was a noteable difference in the last months of 92 and first months of 93 to even say the 2 years before that. Her serve was getting bigger, she was having many less close matches except when she played people like Graf, she was getting noticeably stronger, and even more comfortable at the net. She was actually lifted to a higher level, and this would have made Graf's return to the top that much harder even as she was legitimately regaining consistency and form around the same time.

Of course there are many other elements at play. Seles had never had a major illness or injury up to that point, not even one. That would not have lasted forever. Some of Graf's poorer results at some point could have been a loss of confidence, Seles being away and being gifted slam finals by pathetic chokes of opponents (Fernandez and Novotna) aided that lift in confidence again. Seles's dad would have contracted cancer and gotten ill and Seles would have been dealing with that regardless, the stabbing does not magically stop that tragic event. This whole process lasted from 95-98. So many other alternating factors which both sides conveniently ignore depending what suits their own agenda.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
Get your points; just find it hard to meaningfully extrapolate from 2 3 set matches.
I agree those matches tell us little about how the Seles/Graf H2H would have gone. But that's why I default to Seles winning 3 straight Australian Opens, 3 straight French Opens, 3 straight WTA Championships, and 2 straight U.S. Open when she was stabbed at 19. It would have been tough to maintain that level of success, although she was clearly improving, but it's tough to see Graf all of a sudden dethroning her.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
Of note though Nadal's Wimbledon win over Fed in 2008 proved out to be a one off. He could not even beat a 37 year old Federer in last years Wimbledon in good form. Not dumping on Nadal who I think is an excellent and underrated grass player (despite his inconsistent stretch there at one point) but in the big picture 2008 was not a foreshadowing of things to come by any means it turns out.

And I think Nadal is a better grass court player than Seles would have ever wound up being personally. I do think Seles might have won 1 Wimbledon if she weren't stabbed in a year she avoided both Graf and Novotna if I had to guess. And note the word might. You might feel more optimistic and that is fine. Like all what ifs surrounding the Seles stabbing nobody will ever know.

Nadal was also not losing matches on grass to Federer 6-1, 6-0 or 6-2, 6-1 at any stage. And Seles was never completely owning Graf on any surface (unless you count rebound ace as a surface maybe, kind of a sub surface) the way Nadal did Federer on clay, or doing fairly well against her on all surfaces the way Nadal was vs Fed from Day 1.
Yeah, I could see Seles winning 1 or maybe even 2 Wimbledons, but I don't think she ever would have been great on grass.
 
I agree those matches tell us little about how the Seles/Graf H2H would have gone. But that's why I default to Seles winning 3 straight Australian Opens, 3 straight French Opens, 3 straight WTA Championships, and 2 straight U.S. Open when she was stabbed at 19. It would have been tough to maintain that level of success, although she was clearly improving, but it's tough to see Graf all of a sudden dethroning her.
Since the Graf-Seles discussion has been redone so endlessly that it isn't even that interesting to me I wonder about some other players.

Hingis is one example. She rose to the top in 97 which people could see possibly coming in late 96, but her rise to the top was made much easier by Graf going down with injuries. And Seles out of shape, dealing with her fathers illness and weight issues. What possibly changes about this trajectory without the Seles stabbing. Seles would still be dealing with her fathers illness, but she would be coming off a different trajectory many of the years previous. Graf probably is still injured but if she is not as dominant with Seles around, maybe she paces herself better and isn't as injured. How much do things stay the same or change for her.

Pierce is another interesting one. She had a rise in 94 and 95, with that epic run the RG final and winning the 95 Australian Open. She also suffered from the massive expectations placed on her after that Australian Open with the weak field and Graf injury proned and Sanchez possibly taking over #1, the French press building up the pressure she could soon be #1 which was part of her collapse from that point forward.

Then of course there is Sanchez Vicario. Perhaps the biggest one of all. She won 3 slams after the Seles stabbing.
 

pat200

Semi-Pro
70s your bias and telenovella type of conspiracy theories makes you lose all credibility tbh.

This topic has been debated to death. The things we can all agree on:
1- Graf was slumping
2- Seles was winning almost all the big tourneys minus wimbledon.
3- Graf was not making it to most GS finals hence why Seles was never dominating her. Their record h2h pre stabbing was 6-4 for Graf and 3-2 for Graf in Seles's peak.
4- Had Seles not been stabbed, she would definitely win more slams and Graf less, but not to the extent many seem to fantasize.
5- Since there is no way to know exactly what could have happened, history remembers Graf with 22 GS and Seles with 9 GS

Anything else and you either are a super biased Seles or Graf fan, and you need to get a healthy grip on life and move on just as these 2 wonderful champions have. Sheesh...
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
4- Had Seles not been stabbed, she would definitely win more slams and Graf less, but not to the extent many seem to fantasize.
This would be my main point of possible disagreement. Yes, some people say crazy things such as, "Seles would have won 30 Majors." But I think most say something along the lines of Seles finishing with 1 or 2 more Majors than Graf (e.g., 18-17). And I think that's a fair projection, although, as you note in point 5, we'll never know.
 
This would be my main point of possible disagreement. Yes, some people say crazy things such as, "Seles would have won 30 Majors." But I think most say something along the lines of Seles finishing with 1 or 2 more Majors than Graf (e.g., 18-17). And I think that's a fair projection, although, as you note in point 5, we'll never know.
I think a projection of their winning a combined 35 is too low a number personally. If you assume then winning almost all the 93-95 majors between them (a fairly safe bet) that alone brings them almost to 35 (to 35 if they somehow sweep all the 93-95). And while any majors from say 2000 onwards is probably unlikely, I would assume atleast an additional couple, possibly more, in the 97-99 period.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
I think a projection of their winning a combined 35 is too low a number personally. If you assume then winning almost all the 93-95 majors between them (a fairly safe bet) that alone brings them almost to 35 (to 35 if they somehow sweep all the 93-95). And while any majors from say 2000 onwards is probably unlikely, I would assume atleast an additional couple, possibly more, in the 97-99 period.
Fair point. I threw out that 18-17 number without really plotting out the Majors. So, maybe 20-19 or something like that.
 

Devtennis01

Semi-Pro
Seles was a terrible match up for Graf and could really attack her backhand. Seles was also mentally tough and was not afraid of Graf and got under her skin in big matches. In fact, she relished competing with her, thrived on it. Graf had not really had anyone challenging her like that once she started dominating. Seles started beating her in big matches in 1990 and it wore on Graf quickly. She lost for the first time before a final at slams since USO '86 at Wimbledon '90 to Garrison. She lost the US Open final to Sabatini. At the 91 AO she lost to Novotna in the QF. Sanchez beat her in the RG SF 0 and 2. She certainly slumped and it did not help that Seles knocked her confidence. The tennis world was no longer Graf's, and it really shook her. All those losses in slams were to great players on those surfaces, but the old Graf would have edged them somehow or other, through belief more than anything. Seles took that belief from her and I imagine Graf was ill prepared for it to happen quite so soon. But Seles changed the game and when players like her come along, nothing is the same afterwards.

At Wimbledon '91, Graf got things back on track, but only just, vs Sabatini, who she was also struggling against after handling early in her career. Navratilova beat her at the USO'91 for the first time in 4 years. Seles would have been in the final. It's hard not to think that that might have preoccupied Graf a little.

In 92, Graf started to get to grips with the new order of things. She played a brilliant RG and an excellent Wimbledon. She still struggled, though, at the USO losing to Sanchez. There was also a loss to Capriati in the Olympics final.

This 90-93 Graf was a very different Graf to the dominant one. A much patchier one, still capable of huge highs, but not the mentally toughest player on tour anymore and prone to more lows than before. There was a lot going on off court in her personal life, but I am not accepting that as a reason for her dip in form. Graf was an absolute professional. She may have wanted to think she was distracted by off-court drama, but, imo, she was really rattled by what was going on in the tennis world and with Seles taking over at the top and beating her in big matches. It must have been very hard for Graf to imagine getting back on top the way Seles was so confident and simply, in big matches, mentally tougher.

Graf, played a great AO '93 final versus Seles, but that third set was ominous considering how things were going in slams for Graf overall, and she was certainly still able to compete with her, and had a fair few wins even in Seles' dominant period, but that was two slams in a year that Seles had proven to be the grittier and better player. The head to head was not lopsided, but Seles had a 3-1 lead in slam finals, and it's those matches that build or break the confidence of the likes of Graf and Seles. They were breaking Graf and building Seles.

I am not sure Graf would have gotten back to her good old days had Seles not been stabbed. I think she would have kept winning Wimbledon (94, 95, 96) and giving Seles big battles, maybe sneaking in another slam or two here or there (USO most likely). I think she'd have retired in '97 once the injuries kicked in, having had a great career and winning 13/14 slams and going down as an ATG but not a GOAT contender, leaving Seles to deal with Hingis and I think Hingis would have usurped Seles before the Williams' came along. Graf might have ended up sixth best after S. Williams, Navratilova, Evert, Seles and Court.

Seles getting stabbed gave Graf a new lease of life, but I am not convinced she would have gotten into her 95/96 shape with such confidence had she continued to suffer slam final defeats to Seles at 93 'RG and AO '94, etc.

So, yes, she was slumping, but it was Seles who got her into that slump, and Seles who got her out of it, on those occasions Graf got herself together in slams and Seles bought out the best in her, or the best of Graf's second best, and then, inadvertently and so sadly, it was Seles who helped Graf out of that slump for a much longer period.
 
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Seles was a terrible match up for Graf and could really attack her backhand. Seles was also mentally tough and was not afraid of Graf and got under her skin in big matches. In fact, she relished competing with her, thrived on it. Graf had not really had anyone challenging her like that once she started dominating. Seles started beating her in big matches in 1990 and it wore on Graf quickly. She lost for the first time before a final at slams since USO '86 at Wimbledon '90 to Garrison. She lost the US Open final to Sabatini. At the 91 AO she lost to Novotna in the QF. Sanchez beat her in the RG SF 0 and 2. She certainly slumped and it did not help that Seles knocked her confidence. The tennis world was no longer Graf's, and it really shook her. All those losses in slams were to great players on those surfaces, but the old Graf would have edged them somehow or other, through belief more than anything. Seles took that belief from her and I imagine Graf was ill prepared for it to happen quite so soon. But Seles changed the game and when players like her come along, nothing is the same afterwards.

At Wimbledon '91, Graf got things back on track, but only just, vs Sabatini, who she was also struggling against after handling early in her career. Navratilova beat her at the USO'91 for the first time in 4 years. Seles would have been in the final. It's hard not to think that that might have preoccupied Graf a little.

In 92, Graf started to get to grips with the new order of things. She played a brilliant RG and an excellent Wimbledon. She still struggled, though, at the USO losing to Sanchez. There was also a loss to Capriati in the Olympics final.

This 90-93 Graf was a very different Graf to the dominant one. A much patchier one, still capable of huge highs, but not the mentally toughest player on tour anymore and prone to more lows than before. There was a lot going on off court in her personal life, but I am not accepting that as a reason for her dip in form. Graf was an absolute professional. She may have wanted to think she was distracted by off-court drama, but, imo, she was really rattled by what was going on in the tennis world and with Seles taking over at the top and beating her in big matches. It must have been very hard for Graf to imagine getting back on top the way Seles was so confident and simply, in big matches, mentally tougher.

Graf, played a great AO '93 final versus Seles, but that third set was ominous considering how things were going in slams for Graf overall, and she was certainly still able to compete with her, and had a fair few wins even in Seles' dominant period, but that was two slams in a year that Seles had proven to be the grittier and better player. The head to head was not lopsided, but Seles had a 3-1 lead in slam finals, and it's those matches that build or break the confidence of the likes of Graf and Seles. They were breaking Graf and building Seles.

I am not sure Graf would have gotten back to her good old days had Seles not been stabbed. I think she would have kept winning Wimbledon (94, 95, 96) and giving Seles big battles, maybe sneaking in another slam or two here or there (USO most likely). I think she'd have retired in '97 once the injuries kicked in, having had a great career and winning 13/14 slams and going down as an ATG but not a GOAT contender, leaving Seles to deal with Hingis and I think Hingis would have usurped Seles before the Williams' came along. Graf might have ended up sixth best after S. Williams, Navratilova, Evert, Seles and Court.

Seles getting stabbed gave Graf a new lease of life, but I am not convinced she would have gotten into her 95/96 shape with such confidence had she continued to suffer slam final defeats to Seles at 93 'RG and AO '94, etc.

So, yes, she was slumping, but it was Seles who got her into that slump, and Seles who got her out of it, on those occasions Graf got herself together in slams and Seles bought out the best in her, or the best of Graf's second best, and then, inadvertently and so sadly, it was Seles who helped Graf out of that slump for a much longer period.
I agree partly with your premise but if you watch the conclusion of RG 1989 final, Graf wasted chances there too to clinch the title and ended up losing to ASV. The truth is, claims about her mental toughness have always been a little exaggerated. They tend to emanate from Navratilova and Evert who lost matches to her during her super-clutchness phase in 88-89 and extrapolate that into a career-wide analysis. But the wheels were already starting to come off and from 1990, she was clearly more vulnerable than before. And that didn't completely change, except for large parts of 95-96 when she played some of her career best tennis, not in terms of flair but in terms of getting through difficult matches. If you watch AO 99 v/s Seles too, Graf choked badly after running away to a massive lead in the first set. She lost 8 games in a row at one point in that match, I think.

But yeah, such mental fragility under pressure would have created more problems for her had Seles not been stabbed and continued to improve. For Seles generally seemed to be on a more even keel and less dependent on rhythm or confidence. She just went all out for her shots no matter the situation.
 
If Seles were truly a "terrible match up" for Graf that would bring into serious question how great Seles even really is at all when in her peak of 91-early 93 she still went 2-3, took two lopsided straight set losses, a loss on every surface, and had a barely 10-8 in the 3rd win, and a more solid 3 set win as her best win. Just saying.
 
If Seles were truly a "terrible match up" for Graf that would bring into serious question how great Seles even really is at all when in her peak of 91-early 93 she still went 2-3, took two lopsided straight set losses, a loss on every surface, and had a barely 10-8 in the 3rd win, and a more solid 3 set win as her best win. Just saying.
The difference is Seles was just 17 in '91. She was still only 19 when she beat Graf at AO and she was clearly a better player in 93 than in 91. The proof being that she was even showing the confidence to use serve and volley on a medium paced hard court to attack Graf's backhand return. And it worked too. And in that match, Seles was the defending champion so it was really up to Graf to get up to her and 'solve' her game. She couldn't. So the portents for the next few matches between them were not great from Graf's perspective. Yes, it was not as terrible a match up as Sampras was for Ivanisevic but in terms of stopping Graf at the slams, it was not going to be great.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
Yeah I don't buy it being a terrible matchup for Graf. She had things that could hurt Seles too, explot her 2 hands and inferior mobility. Her slice DTL which may have been affected by a skiing accident but came back in 95 was certainly useful. Graf could move you from side to side better than most, vary the degree of spin even if subtly, excellent but underused dropshot/short CC slice. All of which could harm Monica's metronomic groundstroking ability.

I've said before, but I think Steffi should have improved her net game, or even just have more confidence to go forward. Monica had an uncanny ability to hit great defensive topspins when stretched with 1 hand. Going to the net would put pressure on those
 
I agree those matches tell us little about how the Seles/Graf H2H would have gone. But that's why I default to Seles winning 3 straight Australian Opens, 3 straight French Opens, 3 straight WTA Championships, and 2 straight U.S. Open when she was stabbed at 19. It would have been tough to maintain that level of success, although she was clearly improving, but it's tough to see Graf all of a sudden dethroning her.
Seles was already winning everything but Wimbledon, what clear improvements do you speak of??
 
Really, if not for injuries, choking and other unfortunate events, as well as different priorities before mid-80s, all of Evert, Navratilova, Graf and Seles should've had 20+ majors so T-rena's semi-vultured numbers with many fewer sub-slam titles would've been irrelevant to true connoisseurs, shame how it all turned out.
 
Yeah I don't buy it being a terrible matchup for Graf. She had things that could hurt Seles too, explot her 2 hands and inferior mobility. Her slice DTL which may have been affected by a skiing accident but came back in 95 was certainly useful. Graf could move you from side to side better than most, vary the degree of spin even if subtly, excellent but underused dropshot/short CC slice. All of which could harm Monica's metronomic groundstroking ability.
Better than most, is the key. Monica was not most players and she could move Graf around in ways Graf didn't have to deal with against other opponents. Graf always had a physical advantage over other opponents so it came down to whether she could play her A game on the day. But against Monica, that didn't ENSURE that she would win, though it gave her a good chance. That is why those matches would have been tricky, had they materialised.
I've said before, but I think Steffi should have improved her net game, or even just have more confidence to go forward. Monica had an uncanny ability to hit great defensive topspins when stretched with 1 hand. Going to the net would put pressure on those
This is something commentators used to say right from her early days and I don't think anyone can understand why somebody with the kind of slice Graf had would prefer baseline grinding. Forget countering opponents, maybe it would have saved her from the spate of injuries that derailed her in 97-98. Especially on grass, she should have been coming in regularly and not just occasionally.
 

Devtennis01

Semi-Pro
That's a good point about the '89 loss to Sanchez at the French @Dolgopolov85. Graf was a little overrated re her mental toughness. I know she said she was suffering cramps that match, but again I think it was more Sanchez being excellent on Clay and incredibly tenacious which did for Graf that day.
 

Devtennis01

Semi-Pro
If Seles were truly a "terrible match up" for Graf that would bring into serious question how great Seles even really is at all when in her peak of 91-early 93 she still went 2-3, took two lopsided straight set losses, a loss on every surface, and had a barely 10-8 in the 3rd win, and a more solid 3 set win as her best win. Just saying.
It was 2-3, but those 2 matches Seles won were slam finals on surfaces both women were great on. For the likes of Seles and Graf, it is all about the slams. That 10-8 win was close, but Seles was the better in a match decided on mental toughness. Again, that AO match, Seles prevailed and really dominated the latter part of the third set there. Those were her best wins, but they were the wins that mattered for those players, more than San Antonio or Hamburg. Wimbledon was the exception. Graf was brilliant that day and clearly better than Seles on that surface, and that match was an important one.
I may have overplayed the terrible match up part. Perhaps I can say Seles was Graf's worst match up at that time.
 
It was 2-3, but those 2 matches Seles won were slam finals on surfaces both women were great on. For the likes of Seles and Graf, it is all about the slams. That 10-8 win was close, but Seles was the better in a match decided on mental toughness. Again, that AO match, Seles prevailed and really dominated the latter part of the third set there. Those were her best wins, but they were the wins that mattered for those players, more than San Antonio or Hamburg. Wimbledon was the exception. Graf was brilliant that day and clearly better than Seles on that surface, and that match was an important one.
I may have overplayed the terrible match up part. Perhaps I can say Seles was Graf's worst match up at that time.
Yup. If we look at Fed-Novak H2H in 2014, it was 3-2 in favour of Fed. But their only slam match was won by Djokovic.

In 2015, it was 5-3 in favour of Djokovic but more tellingly, again, both slam matches won by him.
 
That's a good point about the '89 loss to Sanchez at the French @Dolgopolov85. Graf was a little overrated re her mental toughness. I know she said she was suffering cramps that match, but again I think it was more Sanchez being excellent on Clay and incredibly tenacious which did for Graf that day.
Yeah I am sure the cramps contributed, but with all, Graf got into a winning position and squandered it. Got broken to love or 15 when she was serving for the match.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
If Seles were truly a "terrible match up" for Graf that would bring into serious question how great Seles even really is at all when in her peak of 91-early 93 she still went 2-3, took two lopsided straight set losses, a loss on every surface, and had a barely 10-8 in the 3rd win, and a more solid 3 set win as her best win. Just saying.
And Navratilova was 5-1 against Graf from 1985-1986 and 7-3 against Graf from 1985-1987. The point is that it's clear that the younger Seles would be a problem for Graf going forward, and their Major matches on clay and hard in 1992 and 1993 back that up.
 

Devtennis01

Semi-Pro
And Navratilova was 5-1 against Graf from 1985-1986 and 7-3 against Graf from 1985-1987. The point is that it's clear that the younger Seles would be a problem for Graf going forward, and their Major matches on clay and hard in 1992 and 1993 back that up.
That's why I don't think Graf would have necessarily been able to turn around what was happening between them in big finals anytime soon. Seles was just better than her at that time, and as you point out in other post:

Serve and net game. Her serve was visibly and numerically getting better in late 1992 and early 1993, and she was coming into the net more to finish points.
Seles was getting better, while Graf had arguably peaked. It's not a longshot, in my view, to think that if Seles had carried on the way she was going, 1992 Wimbledon may have been considered the last of Graf's peak. Though I have said elsewhere, Graf would have likely kept winning at Wimbledon, I would still maintain that, but maybe reduce that statement and allow for Seles to win a couple until 1997. Again, that big finals mentality would play out in Seles' favor much like it has in many other rivalries.

IMO, the only reason Graf got things going again in 1993-AO '94 was because she was the second best player at that time and once Seles was gone, she was the first, and she did not face anyone like Seles in those finals. 93 'RG, Fernandez had her on the ropes, Novotna helped her out in the Wimbledon final, Sukova at USO '93 was something of a present from the draw Gods. AO' 94 was an outlier, though. But Graf was always able to deal with Sanchez on any surface routinely on her best days, and as I have stated elsewhere, Graf was still having some great days post 1990.

Look what happened in '94. A young Pierce blew her off the court at RG. That knocked her confidence and she went out to McNiel in round 1 of Wimbledon. Much like how I have said Seles started knocking her confidence in 1990 and that impacted her in matches versus other players. McNiel was a bad draw, too, granted. Sanchez then beat her in the USO final. Graf was having back troubles, but still, she was leading that match and it all went really wrong for her, and it did not help that Sanchez had sneaked some really close wins over her around that time, as any Graf fan who witnessed that Toronto final '94 can testify.

All credit to Graf for getting it together for 95 and 96. Though I am still not convinced she would have had that resurgence had Seles remained on tour and continued to chip away at her confidence. Pierce did not really come though on her promise either, not consistently, and there was no one really around who was stronger than Graf or had the abilities of Seles. Graf was dealing with Sanchez and a returning and compromised Seles in those slam finals she won that year, and she had to fight her way to those titles. Credit to her for doing so.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
That's why I don't think Graf would have necessarily been able to turn around what was happening between them in big finals anytime soon. Seles was just better than her at that time, and as you point out in other post:



Seles was getting better, while Graf had arguably peaked. It's not a longshot, in my view, to think that if Seles had carried on the way she was going, 1992 Wimbledon may have been considered the last of Graf's peak. Though I have said elsewhere, Graf would have likely kept winning at Wimbledon, I would still maintain that, but maybe reduce that statement and allow for Seles to win a couple until 1997. Again, that big finals mentality would play out in Seles' favor much like it has in many other rivalries.

IMO, the only reason Graf got things going again in 1993-AO '94 was because she was the second best player at that time and once Seles was gone, she was the first, and she did not face anyone like Seles in those finals. 93 'RG, Fernandez had her on the ropes, Novotna helped her out in the Wimbledon final, Sukova at USO '93 was something of a present from the draw Gods. AO' 94 was an outlier, though. But Graf was always able to deal with Sanchez on any surface routinely on her best days, and as I have stated elsewhere, Graf was still having some great days post 1990.

Look what happened in '94. A young Pierce blew her off the court at RG. That knocked her confidence and she went out to McNiel in round 1 of Wimbledon. Much like how I have said Seles started knocking her confidence in 1990 and that impacted her in matches versus other players. McNiel was a bad draw, too, granted. Sanchez then beat her in the USO final. Graf was having back troubles, but still, she was leading that match and it all went really wrong for her, and it did not help that Sanchez had sneaked some really close wins over her around that time, as any Graf fan who witnessed that Toronto final '94 can testify.

All credit to Graf for getting it together for 95 and 96. Though I am still not convinced she would have had that resurgence had Seles remained on tour and continued to chip away at her confidence. Pierce did not really come though on her promise either, not consistently, and there was no one really around who was stronger than Graf or had the abilities of Seles. Graf was dealing with Sanchez and a returning and compromised Seles in those slam finals she won that year, and she had to fight her way to those titles. Credit to her for doing so.
Yeah, it's certainly plausible that (1) Seles beats Graf in the finals of the 1993 French Open, the 1993 U.S. Open, and the 1994 Australian Open; (2) Graf has her back issues/slump in 1994; and (3) Graf never has her 1995/1996 surge and ends up with something like 12-14 Majors. Of course, there are plenty other plausible scenarios as well. But I'm pretty convinced that, if Seles weren't stabbed, those next 4 Majors in 1993-1994 would have been huge in determining the careers of both Graf and Seles.
 

pat200

Semi-Pro
omg at those who want to state their opinion for graf's slumps as the reason she actually slumped instead of what graf actually said. she literally said "my mind is not on the court, and tennis is mostly a mental sport".

graf losing the 89 final was because of cramps and food poisoning earlier in the week where she was not eating properly after the poisoning. it wasn't because of mental weakness...nice try though.
 
And Navratilova was 5-1 against Graf from 1985-1986 and 7-3 against Graf from 1985-1987. The point is that it's clear that the younger Seles would be a problem for Graf going forward, and their Major matches on clay and hard in 1992 and 1993 back that up.
All those stats show is Navratilova is a MUCH better example of a bad match up for Graf than Seles is. Which is something I would have always argued anyway. Since if Seles were really such a bad match up for Graf, and manages only those stats against her in her true best years ever, then she really is legit overrated by people who think or argue she belongs up with the GOATs of all time in all but the record books.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
All those stats show is Navratilova is a MUCH better example of a bad match up for Graf than Seles is. Which is something I would have always argued anyway. Since if Seles were really such a bad match up for Graf, and manages only those stats against her in her true best years ever, then she really is legit overrated by people who think or argue she belongs up with the GOATs of all time in all but the record books.
I mean, starting in November 1990, Seles goes:

-12-0 at the WTA Championships;​
-21-0 at the Australian Open, including beating Graf in the 1993 final;​
-14-0 at the French Open, including beating Graf in the 1992 final;​
-6-1 at Wimbledon, losing to Graf in the 1992 final; and​
-14-0 at the U.S. Open​

That's 65-0 against everyone else at the 5 biggest events, and 2-1 at Graf at Majors on clay and hard. I would say Seles going 2-1 against Graf in Majors at 18-19 is the best evidence that Seles was a bad matchup for Graf, and you could also look at her 4-3 (3-1 in Majors) record from 16-19 as further evidence. But yes, it is true that Graf beat 17 year-old Seles twice in 1991 to give her a 3-2 record in their past 5 matches, and, yes, it is true that Graf beat 15 year-old Seles 3 times to give her a 6-4 record before the stabbing.

But I think most people would look at the 1992 French final and especially the 1993 Australian Open final to conclude that Graf was going to have serious trouble toppling Seles at non-grass big events going forward.
 
I mean, starting in November 1990, Seles goes:

-12-0 at the WTA Championships;​
-21-0 at the Australian Open, including beating Graf in the 1993 final;​
-14-0 at the French Open, including beating Graf in the 1992 final;​
-6-1 at Wimbledon, losing to Graf in the 1992 final; and​
-14-0 at the U.S. Open​

That's 65-0 against everyone else at the 5 biggest events, and 2-1 at Graf at Majors on clay and hard. I would say Seles going 2-1 against Graf in Majors at 18-19 is the best evidence that Seles was a bad matchup for Graf, and you could also look at her 4-3 (3-1 in Majors) record from 16-19 as further evidence. But yes, it is true that Graf beat 17 year-old Seles twice in 1991 to give her a 3-2 record in their past 5 matches, and, yes, it is true that Graf beat 15 year-old Seles 3 times to give her a 6-4 record before the stabbing.

But I think most people would look at the 1992 French final and especially the 1993 Australian Open final to conclude that Graf was going to have serious trouble toppling Seles at non-grass big events going forward.
I know these Graf-Seles arguments go forever and are never ending. They also serve no purpose, nobody EVER changes their mind, the things people say here won't change how both players are perceived by anyone in the real world. So I won't bother going further into this.

All I will say is there some misrepresentation to how Seles was supposably dominating the match up with Graf. There are also some gross misrepresentations that every problem Graf had at the start of the decade was tied to Graf and nothing else (eg devtennis01's posts, anyone who followed tennis at the time knows how inaccurate that is). And that making such sweeping assumptions of everything you just know will happen the next 6-7 years almost down to every detail, unless you win an amazing amount of money betting on tennis over the years, in which case if you show me your receipts and your winnings I will happily go along with whatever judgement you have; with the huge variety of unknowns in tennis that are too many to list, is just funny. It is not like Seles proved that everyone should give her every benefit of doubt with her amazingly strong comeback or anything either, LOL!
 
omg at those who want to state their opinion for graf's slumps as the reason she actually slumped instead of what graf actually said. she literally said "my mind is not on the court, and tennis is mostly a mental sport".

graf losing the 89 final was because of cramps and food poisoning earlier in the week where she was not eating properly after the poisoning. it wasn't because of mental weakness...nice try though.
Oh sure, Graf said so, so that's all there's to it, isn't it? Let me ask you, did you hear Fed admit right after USO 2011 that he choked it away? Of course not. No champion is going to say that and concede weakness. That doesn't mean our job is to accept their narratives and obey like lemmings.
 
It is not like Seles proved that everyone should give her every benefit of doubt with her amazingly strong comeback or anything either, LOL!
Actually, she did. Her first tournament on return to tennis was the Canadian Open, which she won. Reached the finals of USO and pushed Graf all the way, including handing her a bagel. And then won the Australian Open as well. But I suppose if you are so inclined, you can always choose to focus on everything that happened after that to hold it against her while making every possible excuse to account for Graf's troubles from 1990.
 
Oh sure, Graf said so, so that's all there's to it, isn't it? Let me ask you, did you hear Fed admit right after USO 2011 that he choked it away? Of course not. No champion is going to say that and concede weakness. That doesn't mean our job is to accept their narratives and obey like lemmings.
Novotna even states she didn't choke in the 93 Wimbledon final. And forever stood by that. I remember massively rolling my eyes everytime I heard her comments in a press conference relating to that. She also was in denial about all her chokes, U.S Open semis vs Hingis, I don't think she even admitted that French Open debacle loss from 5-0, 40-0 to Rubin was a choke. I used to mock her for that, but now that I played some low level competitive tennis (not pro of course) I understand it more now.

You can only take what the greats say with a grain of salt. Like Federer saying he was playing his best tennis ever in both 2015 and 2017. Roddick saying he played better in the Wimbledon final in 2005 than 2004, when anyone who saw the matches knows that is not the case.
 
Actually, she did. Her first tournament on return to tennis was the Canadian Open, which she won. Reached the finals of USO and pushed Graf all the way, including handing her a bagel. And then won the Australian Open as well. But I suppose if you are so inclined, you can always choose to focus on everything that happened after that to hold it against her while making every possible excuse to account for Graf's troubles from 1990.
She would have had to have a significantly better showing to convince the consensus to believe she was certain to do the thing some people argue she was pretty much certain to do in the 93-98 period without the stabbing. That is my point. Obviously to those who doubt her winning most of the slams from 93-99 already, they aren't going to now be convinced by her post stabbing career to automatically agree to that. And yes of course one would look at everything, not just the first 3 tournaments of her comeback. That would make the most sense. The first tournaments back should be the hardest anyway for obvious reasons, so if they weren't, there isn't a logical reason tied to the stabbing for that at all.
 
She would have had to have a significantly better showing to convince the consensus to believe she was certain to do the thing some people argue she was pretty much certain to do in the 93-98 period without the stabbing. That is my point. Obviously to those who doubt her winning most of the slams from 93-99 already, they aren't going to now be convinced by her post stabbing career to automatically agree to that. And yes of course one would look at everything, not just the first 3 tournaments of her comeback. That would make the most sense. The first tournaments back should be the hardest anyway for obvious reasons, so if they weren't, there isn't a logical reason tied to the stabbing for that at all.
I don't agree with that. Yes, I can see why Graf fans would hold that position to keep saying 22 slams period. But in that case, I would also counter it with, "I don't want to hear about her cramps, the blackmail scandal, tax evasion, etc". Can't have it both ways. It is always difficult to come back after two years out of the sport and as I said in another thread, by that point, Seles knew she would never have the titles Graf did so the only thing left for her to prove was that she could still compete with the best as she had done before the stabbing. She proved that without question at USO 95 and AO 96. This does not mean I am going to mark an asterisk on Graf's results in 96 because Seles was in the tour at that point and was accountable for her results. But it does make a strong case that had she not been stabbed, she would have been a major threat to Graf. This isn't even particularly arguable because Seles WAS the top dog in 93 pre stabbing, not Graf. And as another poster said, Graf fans have never made the case that she would definitely have raised her game to match and beat Seles in 93 either. If people would like Selestials to somehow prove the impossible for them to feel it is a conclusive case, likewise applies to Graf fans.
 
If people would like Selestials to somehow prove the impossible for them to feel it is a conclusive case, likewise applies to Graf fans.
Neither side will ever convince the other. That is my whole point all along. That either side think they conceivably can as they seemingly do, and is seen again in this thread, is pretty laughable in itself. Neither side have anything nearly strong enough to even hope to do that. Seles's post stabbing results are certainly not strong enough that anyone who either sides with Graf, or doesn't neccessarily side with anything but aren't ready to concede Seles would have been the dominant force all of the 90s is ever going to change their mind or one can just say "look how great she did even with the stabbing, without that she would surely have dominated. I have to concede you are probably right there." And likewise those who insist on Seles dominating for years or Graf barely winning anymore slams or going to be convinced with anything much that actually happened either. It just a constant merry go round of pointless-ness.
 
Neither side will ever convince the other. That is my whole point all along. That either side think they conceivably can as they seemingly do, and is seen again in this thread, is pretty laughable in itself. Neither side have anything nearly strong enough to even hope to do that. Seles's post stabbing results are certainly not strong enough that anyone who either sides with Graf, or doesn't neccessarily side with anything but aren't ready to concede Seles would have been the dominant force all of the 90s is ever going to change their mind or one can just say "look how great she did even with the stabbing, without that she would surely have dominated. I have to concede you are probably right there." And likewise those who insist on Seles dominating for years or Graf barely winning anymore slams or going to be convinced with anything much that actually happened either. It just a constant merry go round of pointless-ness.
I think at this point, everybody knows this. But this topic comes along periodically and the old debates return. That's all.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
With all this Graf-Seles talk, I was moved to rewatch the French 92 final. Really great stuff. Think Steffi might have won if her DTL FH from the BH corner had been working. Know that was the less comfortable shot for her though.
 
With all this Graf-Seles talk, I was moved to rewatch the French 92 final. Really great stuff. Think Steffi might have won if her DTL FH from the BH corner had been working. Know that was the less comfortable shot for her though.
It's odd, at the AO in 93, her inside in was working better and even DTL from the forehand corner in the early part of the match but the inside out, less so. At RG, she was scorching some of the IOs.
 

beltsman

Legend
oohh, "anyone who knows anything about tennis"?

This isn't about knowing tennis (or trolling for that matter)… It's about a 16 year old girl defeating the undisputed long standing WTA #1, delivering the entire world a fresh, unique and brilliant form of sporting entertainment.

Seles handed Graf a dethroning.

Graf was not slumping. She was not distracted. She was just overtaken by youthful exuberance, unswerving belief and the most impressive skills since Steffi herself burst onto the scene.

It's frustrating we never saw "that" Seles peak.

Just as frustrating as posts trying to defend the #2 player in the world at the time.

Steffi tried, and tried, and tried to claw back enough points to become #1 again… she just could'nt do it until well after the '93 AO.
Seles got thumped by Graf at that Wimby lol and it was peak Seles

Truth hurts
 
Like I mentioned I am more interested what some of you think of players other than Graf or Seles in this hypothetical, since Graf and Seles has been beaten to death. Sanchez pretty obviously would have been hurt bigtime so she isn't interesting to discuss.

The two I find most interesting to wonder about are Hingis and Pierce. Perhaps Pierce does not have as fast a rise as she did in 94-95 which might have benefitted her as she seemed to majorly crack under the overwhelming pressure on her in France after winning the 95 Australian, and many were expecting with the weak field and Graf going downhill with injuries and loss of motivation, and having lost or missed the last 4 majors, that she would rise to #1. Seles might have ironically helped her in a way, atleast mentally. And of course Hingis, does she still have the same rise to total dominance in 97, and if she doesn't does that possibly even benefit her in some ways long term as well.
 
D

Deleted member 735320

Guest
Seles was a terrible match up for Graf and could really attack her backhand. Seles was also mentally tough and was not afraid of Graf and got under her skin in big matches. In fact, she relished competing with her, thrived on it. Graf had not really had anyone challenging her like that once she started dominating. Seles started beating her in big matches in 1990 and it wore on Graf quickly. She lost for the first time before a final at slams since USO '86 at Wimbledon '90 to Garrison. She lost the US Open final to Sabatini. At the 91 AO she lost to Novotna in the QF. Sanchez beat her in the RG SF 0 and 2. She certainly slumped and it did not help that Seles knocked her confidence. The tennis world was no longer Graf's, and it really shook her. All those losses in slams were to great players on those surfaces, but the old Graf would have edged them somehow or other, through belief more than anything. Seles took that belief from her and I imagine Graf was ill prepared for it to happen quite so soon. But Seles changed the game and when players like her come along, nothing is the same afterwards.

At Wimbledon '91, Graf got things back on track, but only just, vs Sabatini, who she was also struggling against after handling early in her career. Navratilova beat her at the USO'91 for the first time in 4 years. Seles would have been in the final. It's hard not to think that that might have preoccupied Graf a little.

In 92, Graf started to get to grips with the new order of things. She played a brilliant RG and an excellent Wimbledon. She still struggled, though, at the USO losing to Sanchez. There was also a loss to Capriati in the Olympics final.

This 90-93 Graf was a very different Graf to the dominant one. A much patchier one, still capable of huge highs, but not the mentally toughest player on tour anymore and prone to more lows than before. There was a lot going on off court in her personal life, but I am not accepting that as a reason for her dip in form. Graf was an absolute professional. She may have wanted to think she was distracted by off-court drama, but, imo, she was really rattled by what was going on in the tennis world and with Seles taking over at the top and beating her in big matches. It must have been very hard for Graf to imagine getting back on top the way Seles was so confident and simply, in big matches, mentally tougher.

Graf, played a great AO '93 final versus Seles, but that third set was ominous considering how things were going in slams for Graf overall, and she was certainly still able to compete with her, and had a fair few wins even in Seles' dominant period, but that was two slams in a year that Seles had proven to be the grittier and better player. The head to head was not lopsided, but Seles had a 3-1 lead in slam finals, and it's those matches that build or break the confidence of the likes of Graf and Seles. They were breaking Graf and building Seles.

I am not sure Graf would have gotten back to her good old days had Seles not been stabbed. I think she would have kept winning Wimbledon (94, 95, 96) and giving Seles big battles, maybe sneaking in another slam or two here or there (USO most likely). I think she'd have retired in '97 once the injuries kicked in, having had a great career and winning 13/14 slams and going down as an ATG but not a GOAT contender, leaving Seles to deal with Hingis and I think Hingis would have usurped Seles before the Williams' came along. Graf might have ended up sixth best after S. Williams, Navratilova, Evert, Seles and Court.

Seles getting stabbed gave Graf a new lease of life, but I am not convinced she would have gotten into her 95/96 shape with such confidence had she continued to suffer slam final defeats to Seles at 93 'RG and AO '94, etc.

So, yes, she was slumping, but it was Seles who got her into that slump, and Seles who got her out of it, on those occasions Graf got herself together in slams and Seles bought out the best in her, or the best of Graf's second best, and then, inadvertently and so sadly, it was Seles who helped Graf out of that slump for a much longer period.
Very well stated
 
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