Today is June 14th. It marks the birthday of one of the greatest female tennis players ever.
This is a player that has won 22 grand slams in singles, a golden slam in 1988, 107 career singles titles, and a 902-115 win/loss record in her career. The accolades could go on and on but I think that would just be showing off.
She proved to us that great footwork and a slice backhand could be a weapon.
For me, Idolizing Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker as a young player growing up was normal.
But as a boy who admired Stefan and Boris, I was frowned upon for expressing my admiration of Steffi Graf.
No one ever told me this at the time, but I guess its not common for males to idolize female athletes, at least outwardly, or mimic their slice backhands for that matter, especially when during adolescence the desire to portray yourself as anything that resembled a females game would be asking for harsh comments and teasing from your tennis peers. But I didn’t care. I recognized greatness when I saw it. Steffi Graf was greatness.
Although my footwork was never as precise as hers, nor was my serve toss as high, nor was I ever willing to run around and dictate my forehand that often, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t step the tennis courts and give credit to Steffi Graf for inspiring me to play. I give her the same credit that I do for Edberg and Becker.
Watching me play, the last person you would compare my game to would be someone like Steffi’s. Although I like my game and am pleased with where it has gotten me in my career. My serve, my biggest weapon, is an artists’ rendering of Richard Krajicek’s on crack.
My footwork, mainly because of my large feet is not smooth or ballet-esque. It is closer to the chaos and noise that is equivalent to a 9 year old with a sugar high beating on a drum set.
My forehand, depending on the day, is a mad scientist-esque genetic cross mutation of Tomas Berdych and Stefan Edberg.
None of my strokes or game style even slightly penetrates the visual technique and tactics that is Fraulein Forehand. Her game did not leave its mark on my strokes like others have. Steffi never had that effect on me. Instead, her game penetrated deeper than the others, much like her forehand compared to her contemporaries. She left her mark in my mind and in my heart. Because of her, I’m always able to appreciate greatness when I see it.
Thanks for reading.