There have been many great achievements in tennis in the 50 years of Open Era. Rod Laver’s twice calendar slam, Rafael Nadal’s La Decima at the French Open and Margaret Court’s domination of the Australian Open are the ones that stand out. However, no tennis player ever dominated a single season like German sensation Steffi Graf did in 1988. It is the year when Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold.
The legendary tennis player affectionately known as the Fraulein Forehand won all 4 slams that year. She added greater glory to her resume by also winning the Olympic Gold in the same year while representing her country. This achievement famously known as the career Golden Slam had never been reached by any player before. It has also never been repeated since then. Let’s relive that incredible journey of this hall of famer, who then dominated the game for many years.
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Seoul: Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold
The 1988 Olympics were held in the city of Seoul in South Korea. Steffi Graf was then the WTA Number 1 player in the world. She was thus the top seed in the draw. After receiving a first round bye, the German sensation met Leila Meskhi of Georgia in the 2nd round. Steffi met a bit resistance from Meskhi in the match but eventually came out victorious. Was this going to be the year when Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold?
In the 3rd round Graf handed a comprehensive defeat to Catherine Suire of France, even handing her a 2nd set bagel. In the quarter-final match Graf met Larisa Neiland of the Soviet Union. The match proved very competitive, going for 3 sets. Steffi won the 1st and 3rd set to close out the contest and progress further. She was now just 2 matches away from the glory. Did this match hint it to be the edition when Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold?
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The semis match again proved relatively easy for the German superstar. She faced her opponent Zina Garrison of the United States and dominated the contest. Graf was all over Garrison from start to finish. She handed the American a bagel in the 2nd set and won the match in straight sets, losing just 2 games. Graf defeated the 3rd seed Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina in the tournament decider with 6-3,6-3 score. She had now touched the Golden Glory at Seoul by winning the highest prize. Yes, it was Seoul Olympics, when Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold.
The Calendar Slam
It was not just at the Olympics that Steffi Graf rocked the tennis world in 1988. The then 19 year old sensation also won all the 4 Grand Slams in the same year. The great achievement is referred as the Calendar Grand Slam. Graf had till then lifted only one major trophy. She now lifted 4 more in the course of 9 months. When Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold, she also won Calendar Slam.
Graf won the Australian Open 1988 without dropping a single set. In her march to the title, the Number 1 seed handed 2 of her opponents a bagel. The German defeated her American rival and 3rd seeded Chris Evert in the final match. In the 1988 French Open Steffi was also the defending champion. She was looking frightening to face all through the tournament, giving 6 bagels to her opponents. In the final she did the unthinkable by beating her opponent Natasha Zvereva with 6-0, 6-0 score. The great German did not lose a single game in the whole match. When Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold, she also won Australian Open.
After that came the Grass court slam of Wimbledon 1988. Steffi kept on marching ahead and handing bagels to her opponents. She faced the 6 time defending champion Martina Navratilova in the finals. Graf’s course appeared to be on the halt when the 2nd seeded Navratilova won the 1st set 7-5. The German came back strongly by winning the next 2 sets with dominance. The score-line was 6-2 and 6-1. Graf was now the Queen of Grass also. The season was proving historic for her. When Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold, she also won Wimbledon.
The German starlet came to the United States in pursuit of greater history. She would complete that by lifting the trophy in New York also. Graf got a walkover in the semis when 3rd seeded Chris Evert withdrew. The Number 1 seed then beat the 4th seed Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina in the final. She had now lifted all 4 Grand Slam trophies and also won the Gold medal in the Olympic Games. It was a season that was unparalleled in the history of the game. A new star was born who then dominated the game of tennis for the next decade. Thus, it was not the year when Steffi Graf won Olympic Gold only.
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Steffi Graf was one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. Some tennis pundits even regard her as the greatest ever. She won 22 singles Grand Slams in her career. She is the only player, male or female, to have won all 4 slams at least 4 times. The German also remained WTA World Number 1 for a record 377 weeks. It was a remarkable career that made her one of the legends of the game.