From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:
Almost no one had picked Sabatini to be a factor in this Open. Nothing she had done prior to the tournament indicated that she could turn her year around her year around in New York.
Elise Burgin, who had played her at Wimbledon, was one person who still thought Sabatini could be a champion.
“It’s really all up to her now,” Burgin said. “There’s no doubt about the talent. The only question is, with all the money she’s made, does she really want it that badly?”
Sabatini always insisted she did. Her match against Mary Joe Fernandez was the best of the tournament. Sabatini was now committed totally to Carlos Kirmayr‘s and Dick Dell’s plan that she attack all the time. Once she got to the net she had a huge wingspan and was tough to pass. Fernandez, a baseliner all the way, stood back and blasted. Sabatini kept coming in – until she won a dramatic and gutsy three-set victory.
But it hardly seemed to matter. Graf was playing like the Graf of old and Sabatini’s 3-20 lifetime record against her was hardly encouraging. Especially since all three victories had been on clay. So it was no surprise when the first set of the women’s final was a 6-2 romp. Except for one thing: it was 6-2 Sabatini.
Graf was spraying passing shots all over, mishitting forehands that would have endangered the planes if they’d still been flying overhead. Sabatini, feeling more and more confident at the net, was in at every opportunity.
“I knew she was going to play that was, that was no surprise,” Graf said. “The way I played was a shock, though. I felt good, ready to go. Then I went out and was terrible.”
Terrible for Graf is still not bad. Also, she had lost the opening set to Sabatini in the past. In fact, Sabatini had won the first set when they played in the Open semifinals in 1989.
However, it was a different Sabatini, one who wouldn’t allow Graf to get a rhythm from the baseline. She kept pounding away and served for the match at 5-4 in the second. Here, for the first time, she got nervous. Graf, sensing vulnerability, broke and quickly held to lead 6-5. She had two points in the next game. The first one she botched with another errant forehand.
On the second one, she hit a good crosscourt backhand, only to watch helplessly as Sabatini cut it off with a superb touch volley, the kind of shot she would not have even thought to play a few months earlier.
They went to the tiebreak. Sabatini could sense now that this wasn’t Graf’s day. She kept coming, Graf kept missing. On match point, Graf clipped the top of the net with her return. Sabatini closed in on it and hit a forehand right down the line. Graf stared, as if hoping a mark might appear that would indicate the ball had gone wild.
None did. It was a clean winner. Sabatini was jumping up and down and Graf, who had won eight of nine Grand Slams coming out of Australia, had lost three in a row.
Dick Dell‘s whimsical prediction of three weeks earlier had come true: something crazy had happened at the Open. Sabatini had combined a little bit of luck, a lot of heart, and her new style, one in which she used her size and strength to best effect, to win a championship that almost no one thought she could win.
“She’s playing the right way now,” Navratilova said after watching the match. “She’s so big, you can’t pass her. I didn’t think she could win, because her second serve is so weak. But no one seemed to take advantage of it.”
Why Graf had played so poorly was a mystery. As she came off court, her father made a point of giving her a warm hug. Prior to the match, he had gotten into a scuffle with a photographer. Had his daughter known? Had that upset her?
From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:
Zina Garrison was now facing a woman on a mission. Navratilova had played almost perfect tennis for two weeks. She had lost just twenty-four games in six matches and hadn’t come close to losing a set. Off the court, she had been hyper almost the entire two weeks, but whenever she stepped on court, she was ready. Now, with one match to go, the nearness of it all hit her.
“You make the game plan,” she said. “Get out your journal and tell me what you need to do.”
Navratilova pulled out her journal and began going through it frantically. She finally boiled it down to four pages of notes.
“Not good enough,” King said. “I want one page. I want your mind clear.” Navratilova was becoming hysterical. She looked at King and Kardon. “This is the most important match I’ve ever played in my life,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be this close again. Do you think I’ll be able to play? Will I be able to hit the ball at all?”
King nodded. “You’ll play well,” she said. “You’ve never been prepared in your life.”
Navratilova calmed down. She got her notes down to one page: “Stay in the present,” she wrote.
“I had to keep my mind off winning,” she said. “Winning was the future. I had to be in the present. Think about that point and that point only.”
She also knew she had to attack, especially off Garrison’s weak second serve. Get on top of her, don’t give her the chance to come in. All tournament she had intentionally not thought about playing Graf in the final, in case that very thing happened. Now, she was thinking only about Garrison. Navratilova was 27-1 against Garrison, lifetime. She knew she was ready to play. That night, for the first time in two weeks. She slept soundly.
At 2pm precisely, Garrison and Navratilova walked on court for the final. Navratilova had walked on to Centre Court for the final. Navratilova had walked on to Centre Court for the Wimbledon final eleven times; now she was trying to walk off it with a major piecey of history. Garrison had no thoughts of history or, for that matter, of the match as she walked out. She thought, instead, of her mother.
“My mother never would have believed it,” she said later. “She just wouldn’t have believed it,” she said later. “She just wouldn’t have believed it was me going out there to play the Wimbledon final. She would have been impossible to talk to.”
Thinking about her mother, Garrison could feel tears welling up but forced herself to focus on tennis. She started well, holding serve, then having beak points in the second game. But Navratilova held and, following her game plan perfectly, moved into a zone that was untouchable. She was on top of the net all day, never missing a volley. Her serve was almost flawless, her returns low and at Garrison’s feet. In many ways it was a repeat of all their matches of the past. The styles were similar. One player just played it better.
It ended on one last Navratilova backhand. Overwhelmed, drained and exhausted, Navratilova fell to her knees. She raced up through the stands to her entourage, kissing Kardon, hugging King and hugging Nelson. Once she would have been afraid to hug Nelson in public; now she did it without hesitation.
Nine times she had been handed the plate by the Duchess of kent, but this time the duchess gave her a kiss before handing it over. Navratilova cried as she held it above her head.
The biggest cheer was reserved for Garrison. Navratilova had won; Garrison had inspired. She had overcome so much to get there that losing the final couldn’t diminish what she had achieved.
That night, both women celebrated. Garrison, her entourage, and about twenty friends went to a London restaurant and toasted what they had accomplished. Navratilova threw a party at her house and got drunk.
“Two whiskey sours did it,” she said. “I hadn’t had a drink other than a glass of wine with dinner or a sip of beer for years. I just sat in the corner and laughed.”
The joy at the two parties was genuine. Both women deserved to eat, to drink, to be merry. To laugh. And to cry.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:
Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia
Fashion and gear:
A trip down memory lane:
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Around the grounds at Wimbledon in 1971
Wimbledon 1975: Ashe vs Connors
Bjorn Borg – Ilie Nastase Wimbledon 1976
Portrait of 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon 1976: Chris Evert defeats Evonne Goolagong
Portrait of Virginia Wade, winner in 1977
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
1985: Boris Becker, the man on the moon
Portrait of 3-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1990: Becker vs Edberg
1990: Martina Navatilova’s historic 9th Wimbledon champion
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi: thanks to Wimbledon I realized my dreams
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
1994: Pete Sampras defeats Goran Ivanisevic
1995: Tim Henman disqualified!
1996: Richard Krajicek upsets Pete Sampras
1997: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history
Wimbledon 2014 coverage
Preview and Recaps:
Who will win Wimbledon 2015?
- Serena Williams (53%, 23 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (14%, 6 Votes)
- Simona Halep (12%, 5 Votes)
- Other (7%, 3 Votes)
- Petra Kvitova (5%, 2 Votes)
- Caroline Wozniacki (2%, 1 Votes)
- Lucie Safarova (2%, 1 Votes)
- Ekaterina Makarova (2%, 1 Votes)
- Ana Ivanovic (2%, 1 Votes)
- Carla Suarez Navarro (0%, 0 Votes)
- Angelique Kerber (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 43
Who will win Wimbledon 2015?
- Roger Federer (36%, 59 Votes)
- Novak Djokovic (31%, 51 Votes)
- Andy Murray (18%, 29 Votes)
- Stan Wawrinka (6%, 10 Votes)
- Rafael Nadal (6%, 9 Votes)
- Kei Nishikori (1%, 2 Votes)
- Milos Raonic (1%, 1 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (1%, 1 Votes)
- Other (1%, 1 Votes)
- David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
- Marin Cilic (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 163
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
Follow our Roland Garros 2015 coverage and relive some of the most memorable Roland Garros moments. Many pictures and videos to come! If you attend the tournament and want to share your pictures/videos/recaps please contact us.
Roland Garros visitor’s guide:
How to buy Roland Garros tickets
Get behind the scenes at Roland Garros – part 1
Get behind the scenes at Roland Garros – part 2
Take a seat: court Suzanne Lenglen
Take a seat: court Philippe Chatrier
Today at Roland Garros: Court Philippe Chatrier
Longines Smash Corner
Roland Garros store
Fashion and gear:
A trip down memory lane:
1956: First time at Roland Garros for Rod Laver
Portrait of Manuel Santana, first Spaniard to capture a Grand Slam title in 1961
1967: Françoise Durr defeats Lesley Turner
1969: Rod Laver defeats Ken Rosewall
Portrait of 6-time Roland Garros champion Bjorn Borg
Portrait of Adriano Panatta, the only player to beat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros
1978: Virginia Ruzici defeats Mima Jausovec
1982: At the request of Monsieur Wilander
1982: first Grand Slam for Mats Wilander
1983: Yannick Noah defeats Mats Wilander
1984 French Open: Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe
1985 French Open: Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova
Roland Garros 1985: Mats Wilander defeats Ivan Lendl
Roland Garros 1988: bold Leconte swept aside by a Mats for all surfaces
Portrait of Natasha Zvereva, 1988 runner-up
Portrait of Arantxa Sanchez, 1989 French Open champion
Portrait of Michael Chang, 1989 French Open champion
1990 French Open: Opposites attract, Gomez defeats Agassi
Roland Garros 1990: Defending champion Sanchez loses in the first round
Roland Garros 1990: Edberg and Becker lose in the first round
1991 French Open 3RD: Michael Chang defeats Jimmy Connors
1991 French Open final: Jim Courier defeats Andre Agassi
Roland Garros 1996: Pete Sampras run through the semi-finals
1997: Going ga-ga over Guga
Steffi Graf – Martina Hingis Roland Garros 1999
2000: Mary Pierce finds peace and glory
2004: Coria vs Gaudio: the egotist vs the underdog
2005: Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta
A look back at Roland Garros 2011
A look back at Roland Garros 2014
Pictures and Recaps:
Who will win Roland Garros 2015?
- Novak Djokovic (35%, 132 Votes)
- Rafael Nadal (26%, 99 Votes)
- Roger Federer (24%, 92 Votes)
- Kei Nishikori (7%, 28 Votes)
- Andy Murray (6%, 22 Votes)
- Other (1%, 3 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (1%, 2 Votes)
- David Ferrer (0%, 1 Votes)
- Stan Wawrinka (0%, 1 Votes)
- Marin Cilic (0%, 1 Votes)
- Milos Raonic (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 381
Who will win Roland Garros 2015?
- Serena Williams (43%, 105 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (30%, 73 Votes)
- Simona Halep (11%, 28 Votes)
- Ana Ivanovic (4%, 10 Votes)
- Eugenie Bouchard (3%, 8 Votes)
- Other (3%, 8 Votes)
- Caroline Wozniacki (2%, 6 Votes)
- Petra Kvitova (2%, 5 Votes)
- Carla Suarez Navarro (1%, 2 Votes)
- Ekaterina Makarova (0%, 1 Votes)
- Andrea Petkovic (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 247
By Alan Tengrove, Australian Tennis magazine, July 2000:
A new Mary Pierce, more complete as a person and a tennis player, achieved an “impossible dream” at a dramatic French Open.
There were good reasons for Mary Pierce‘s self-pity. A father she loved, but who mistreated her in his obsession to make her a champion. A nervous temperament that often brought her undone. A part-French background that caused her more anguish than joy because she failed to live up to the expectations of a public thirsting for glory.
All changed at Roland Garros when Pierce, the No. 6 seed, became the first French woman to win he national championship since Françoise Durr in 1967. At last she did justice to her considerable talent. She out-hit three-time champion Monica Seles in a quarter-final, tipped out top seed Martina Hingis in a semi, and out-classed fifth seed Conchita Martinez 6-2 7-5 in the final.
With a partially disabled Lindsay Davenport upset in the first round, and an under-prepared Venus Williams eliminated by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (who later lost to Martinez), there was no doubt Pierce deserved the title. Just as she did the doubles title shared with Hingis. At 25, and in her 11th year as a professional, she played the finest tennis of her career.
It seemed so much more than six years ago that she reached her first French Open final after surprising Steffi Graf. Then, a bundle of nerves, she was no match for Sanchez Vicario.
Seven months later, when she beat Sanchez Vicario in the Australian Open final, anything seemed possible. France hoped she would inherit Graf’s throne, but year after year Pierce was disappointing. For five years she failed to pass the fourth round at Roland Garros. She flopped at other French tournaments.
Her former fans felt let down, were irritated by her mannerisms, and turned against her, teating her with derision. She was overshadowed by younger players, such as Hingis, the Williams sisters and Davenport. And three years ago, disenchanted, she stopped representing her adopted country in the Fed Cup.
To win the French Open was her dream – an impossible dream, it had seemed.
“Everything that’s happened here in the past, everything that I’ve been through, there’s just so many emotions that attach to this tournament,” she said after heer unexpected triumph. “to win is amazing.”
She was 13 when her American father became dissatisfied with the attitude of the USTA and decided to move the family to France, where her mother was born. Pierce hated to leave her school and friends in Florida, but had no choice.
In Paris she was separated from her family and lived in a dormitory at Roland Garros.
“I couldn’t speak French. I didn’t know anybody? I didn’t have any friends and I was by myself,” she recalled. “It was really tough. I probably cried every night, trying to fall asleep. It was tough practicing.”