Steffi Graf: I didn't understand this expectation
Interview by Philippe Maria for l’Equipe, June 6, translation by Tennis Buzz.
Former world number one Steffi Graf, while on a visit to Paris, talks about her difficult year in 1988, when she completed the Grand Slam. An unmatched performance that Serena Williams could achieve this year.
Q: You are in Paris this weekend, did you spend some time at Roland Garros, do you still follow tennis news?
I follow results through various media, but with much hindsight. These last four days, for example, I was in Hamburg for my foundation and I haven’t followed what was going on in Paris.
Q: So we won’t see you playing the Legends tournament anytime soon.
No, I’m very busy elsewhere, and it would not be possible physically. I would have to prepare myself, and I don’t have the time nor the desire to do it.
Q: Back to 1988, how much do you remember about that year?
I especially remember the extreme fatigue I experienced in New York. I felt an expectation around me that was not mine, that became oppressive and simply kept me from focusing on my tournament. It was terrible.
Q: This Grand Slam or rather Golden Grand Slam, since you also won gold at the Seoul Olympics, was not a personal goal?
No! It was absolutely not a goal of mine to complete the Grand Slam. As with other things in life, I am someone who advances step by step. In fact, this notion of Grand Slam fell on me during the Wimbledon tournament. The media no longer stopped talking about that. And it reached its highest point in Flushing Meadows. It was absolutely terrible. Everyone was telling me about that, but I didn’t understand this expectation. You have to remember that I was only nineteen. I was literally exhausted!
Q: Even if you had not had a very difficult tournament to the final…
Yes, but in the final, Gabriela Sabatini gave me trouble and the end of the match was complicated. Mentally and physically, I was at breaking point. I remember that at the end of the match cramps began to arrive.
Q: The Grand Slam was not your personal quest. Nevertheless, what did you feel immediately after your success?
Relief. Immediately, I was not aware of the scope of this feat. After my victory? I could not enjoy. Of course, we did celebrate, but I was especially exhausted, and that lasted several days. I can’t say I was proud of what I had accomplished. I was relieved it was over.
Q: And you had to play the Olympics in Korea.
Yes, but I took a break after the US Open. I continued to work out but I hung up my racket. And finally, I loved these Olympic Games, I had a lot of fun. The atmosphere, the fact of finding myself in a team with all German athletes, it did me a world of good, even if the end of the tournament was tougher. It was refreshing.
Q: You end your year with a defeat in the semifinals at the Masters. This final false note was not too hard to digest?
Absolutely not. The season was over, and it was the most important. Today, players can take breaks in their season. We, we played all year. We stopped late November and we set off again for a new season at the end of December. It was really hard to bear.
Q: Twenty-seven years later, what is your opinion on this year like no other?
I find it incredible that I could cope with all that, with the pressure to complete the Golden Slam! It is the fulfillment of my career. Although I have never played for records or for the number one ranking, I think I can be satisfied with me.
Will Serena Williams complete the calendar Grand Slam this year?
- Yes (80%, 33 Votes)
- No (20%, 8 Votes)
Total Voters: 41