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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK

Sport: Tennis

Graf: One of the greats

Steffi was crowned Queen of Wimbledon seven times

When Steffi Graf finally announced her retirement she did so safe in the knowledge that she is by far the greatest tennis player of her generation.

The BBC's Katie Booth looks back, in pictures, over Steffi Graf's career
Her achievements are all the more incredible considering the turmoil and distress she experienced in her personal life.

Graf's enormous talent for tennis was spotted early by her father Peter when he saw her bashing a ball against a wall at their home in Germany.

The power and athleticism that she subsequently developed has won her dozens of championships around the world and indisputable place in the tennis Hall of Fame.

She won her first title -at a junior tournament in Munich - in 1977 - and soared to her first Grand Slam - the 1987 French Open - just ten years later.

Record breaker

But perhaps Graf's greatest achievement came a year later when she won all four Grand Slams on the 1988 WTA Tour.

[ image: Peter Graf: Brought scandal to the family]
Peter Graf: Brought scandal to the family
Her massive haul of 22 Grand Slam wins puts her second in the all-time rankings - just two behind Margaret Court's longstanding record.

She was also world number one for an unbroken 377 weeks, destroying Martina Navratilova's previous 331-week record.

But her excellence on court has been matched by controversy and upheaval off court.

Many of the problems centred on her father, Peter, a former second hand car salesman who took over her business affairs as her career sky-rocketed.

Disruptive scandal

For most of the 90s he ricocheted between trouble with the tabloids and the taxman, in a period that Graf admitted badly affected her game.

Scandal first hit her family in 1990 when German papers published stories about Peter and a nude model 30 years younger than him.

[ image:  ]
Graf admitted she was feeling the strain and threatened to leave her home country and live in the United States.

Then came Peter's battle with the German tax authorities - a one-sided match if ever there was one.

The taxman suspected that not all of tennis star's earnings were being declared and in May 1995 inspectors searched her home.

The investigation ended with Graf's father and an adviser, Joachim Eckhardt, both being jailed.

Somehow, through the considerable stress and media intrusion during the trial and its fallout, she still managed to win championships.

Seles stabbed

But that was not the limit of what Graf would have to go through.

Another bizarre incident overshadowed her career when, in 1993, her great rival Monica Seles was attacked and stabbed by a deranged Graf fan at the Hamburg Open tournament.

[ image: Monica Seles: Stabbed by a Graf 'fan']
Monica Seles: Stabbed by a Graf 'fan'
It put Seles out of the game for years and deeply affected Graf herself.

By the late 90s, niggling injuries had started Graf's slide from her near-total domination of women's tennis.

In March 1997, she was overtaken as world number one by the Swiss teenager Martina Hingis.

By 1998, she had completely dropped out of the rankings for the first time since 1983.

'Remarkable situation'

But she was not a spent force and 1999 produced a glorious swansong.

[ image:  ]
She beat Hingis in Paris to win her sixth French Open crown - giving her opponent a lesson in style and sportsmanship at the same time.

And it is perhaps fitting that Wimbledon, the tournament she won seven times, was the venue for her last Grand Slam appearance.

Speaking about her retirement, Graf said: "You always want to go out of a sport when you are on top."

"It's a remarkable situation"

A remarkable record too for the bounding, booming and graceful Graf, who overwhelmed her opponents and earned the respect and affection of fans all over the world.

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