In 1938, Don Budge became the first player to win the tennis Grand Slam, also known as "The Big 4" (comprised the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon) in a calendar year. Some 50 years later, Steffi Graf made history by becoming the 5th tennis player to win the tennis Grand Slam in a single year. The years of the other Grand Slam winners were 1953 (Maureen Connolly), 1962, 1969 (Rod Laver) and 1970. It was pointed out, "When Margaret Court won the Grand Slam in 1970, Steffi was one year old."

Reporter Harvey Silver recounted in 1988, "Word started like a rumor whispered in a darked corridor. Steffi Graf to win the Grand Slam, said a knowledgeable few; she has the shots and the mental strength, she will dominate women's tennis so completely that all her opponents will be washed away." 

Nicknamed "Fraulein Forehand" for her trademark shot, Steffi ruled the world of women's tennis as their No. 1 ranked player for a record 377 weeks, of which 186 were consecutive weeks. For 8 of the 10 years between 1987 and 1996, Steffi finished the tennis season ranked the best female player in the world. Ivan Lendl made the comment in 1988, "Once you are No. 1, you never want to let go of it. It's a real challenge to keep it." Tennis was opened to professionals in 1968. Rankings started in 1973.

Harvey Silver continued, "What they were saying was that Steffi would accomplish what no woman had done for 18 years (1970-1988) . . . It was back in February (1988) that word of Steffi and a possible Grand Slam first passed around." After winning the 1988 Australian Open women's singles final, Steffi told the press, "It's a good way to start – the best I could have. To win here is very important for the whole year, but I have won just one tournament. It's a long way ahead to start talking about winning a Grand Slam." Steffi's coach at the time Pavel Slozil added, "To win a Grand Slam is a major achievement. There have been so many players with plenty of ability who failed to do it. Bjorn Borg came so close to winning a Grand Slam but never made it. He was probably the best player of all time and yet there were so many hurdles in his way." 

Harvey Silver continued, "Whispers turned to soft chatter after the French Open. (After) Wimbledon, they were almost screaming about Grand Slam after Steffi defeated her biggest threat to the clean sweep, Martina Navratilova. By the time the U.S. Open came, rather than using terms like possible or probable, it was as though the outcome was already decided." Observers reasoned at the time, "Steffi is so far above the rest of the women's field that there was a sense of inevitability about the whole thing; it seemed that only injury, or a catastrophic bout of nerves, could undo all her work of the previous 9 months (from January to September 1988)." 

The 1988 U.S. Open championships was Steffi's 7th straight Grand Slam final. After splitting the first 2 sets, Steffi remembered, "The first set (Steffi won 6-3) was good, but I really wasn't going for the shots in the 2nd set (Gabriela Sabatini won 6-3). That's unusual for me. It was very windy today ('Super Saturday' 1988; the men's semifinals sandwiched around the women's final) and I tried to keep the ball in play . . . and didn't really follow through and missed some easy ones." Gaby recalled, "I got really tired at the end of the 2nd set. I was very slow and getting late to the ball. She started hitting the ball much harder. She started moving me around because she knew I was getting tired." Steffi: "When I was up 3-0 and 40-0 (in the deciding set), I said 'now she's tired'. But then, she always look like that and then she hits aces and winners. That happened a couple of times against me." Steffi won the deciding set 6-1.

Steffi and Boris Becker were said to have been "responsible for making tennis one of the most popular and lucrative sports in Germany." Steffi earned $275,000 winning the U.S. Open women's singles final in 1988. The match lasted 1 hour and 42 minutes. The runner-up earned $137,500. In 1994, Steffi won another Grand Slam of tennis but in a non-calendar year when she won the Australian Open women's singles final. It was some 10 years after Martina Navratilova first won 4 majors in a row in 1984 at the French Open.

It took Steffi 12 of her 17 years on the women's tour (turned pro in 1982; retired in 1999) to win 22 Grand Slam singles titles (in numerical order 7 Wimbledon, 6 French, 5 U.S. and 4 Australian). From 1991 to the Australian Open in 1994, Steffi and Monica Seles together won all the 13 Grand Slam titles. In 1989, 1993, 1995 and 1996 Steffi won 3 of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments for each of those years. In 1988, Steffi won the Golden Grand Slam after winning the gold medal at the Seoul summer Olympics. Steffi said at the time, "It's very difficult to please everyone. When you're winning all the time, people try to find things to criticize. I remember one tournament in Germany, I was down 0-3 in the first set and a man said he wanted his money back."

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