Steffi Graf: Hall of Famer

Steffi Graf has always been known as an intensely privateperson. Not until her later years on the court did she show muchemotion as she beat opponents with her devastating forehand.

And since retiring five years ago, she has kept a decidedly lowprofile as she raises two children with husband Andre Agassi.

But looking back at her career Wednesday, Graf was warm, looseand funny as she talked about her impending induction into theInternational Tennis Hall of Fame. She even offered a glimpse intoher private life with Agassi and their two children, 2-year-oldJaden Gil and 6-month-old daughter Jaz.

Graf, along with Swedish great Stefan Edberg and Dorothy”Dodo” Cheney, the first American woman to win the AustralianNational Championships in 1938, will be inducted July 11 inNewport, R.I.

Graf, 34, will also take part in the Tennis Hall of Fame’s 50thanniversary celebration, which will include more than 50 livingmembers of the Hall.

“I’m getting rewarded the best possible way,” Graf said on aconference call. “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a dreamcome true.”

Starting in the late 1980s, Graf won 107 WTA singles titles and11 doubles titles. She has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles – fourAustralian Opens, six French Opens, seven Wimbledons and five U.S.Opens.

She won all four – the Grand Slam – in 1988. That year she alsowon the Olympic gold medal for West Germany in singles. Graf alsowon the Wimbledon women’s doubles title, with Gabriela Sabatini,that year.

“After I won Wimbledon (the third of the four Grand Slamevents), there was a lot of hype,” Graf said. “I did feel thepressure and was trying to downplay it. Probably my youth (sheturned 19 June 14) helped me get through it, but after I won theU.S. Open I completely broke down. I was so exhausted and I wishedlater that I could have enjoyed it more.”

Graf spent a total of 377 weeks at No. 1 in her career. She wasalso No. 1 for a record 168 consecutive weeks (Aug. 17, 1987 toMarch 10, 1991), more than any other man or woman.

Graf surprised many, including herself, when she won the FrenchOpen in 1999. She had been plagued by injuries and hadn’t beenplaying her best. Mentally, the game was no longer fun and laterthat year, Aug. 13, a little more than a week before she was todefend her title at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, she announced herretirement. She was ranked No. 3 at the time.

Graf said she has no regrets.

“And through my career, it got me my husband,” Graf said.”That’s a big thing.”