There were only a few rivalries on the court, during the 80s and 90s era, that have been long cherished by the entire tennis community. One such fierce rivalry was between the WTA legends, Andre Agassi’s wife, Steffi Graf, and Martina Navratilova, who locked horns on 18 occasions in the women’s circuit. The head-to-head record between the Hall of Famers is all tied at 9-9 after they competed against each other in nearly every WTA tournament.
However, clay is the only surface where the Czech-American tennis legend couldn’t defeat her arch-rival. On the same surface, things also got quite heated between the two tennis icons, all the way back during the 1988 French Open. Despite losing her last three finals in Paris, the 18 singles Grand Slam champion made a bold assertion of being the best player on the WTA Tour. Taking note of the same, the number-one-seeded player in the clay major at the time, Graf reacted to her remarks with a blunt response.
Things once got quite heated between the two legends in 1988
The American tennis legend entered the 1988 French Open as a second-seeded player behind Steffi Graf, who was the defending champion at the time. Martina Navratilova further came to the clay court major in Paris, having lost the previous three championship matches of the event. However, the 18 singles Grand Slam champion was still certain that she was the “best player” on the WTA Tour.
She also asserted that she has got to the point where she can’t see herself losing in the tournaments. It received a blunt response from the German tennis legend, who admonished her to be “careful” if she performs at her optimum level. Graf said, “She can say what she wants. If I play my best, she’d better be careful”
Later, the former Czech-American tennis player ended up getting outclassed by Natasha Zvereva in the fourth-round matchup of the Grand Slam event in Paris. Her rival, Graf, on the other hand, managed to clinch the major title on clay after defeating Navratilova’s opponent, Zvereva in straight sets. But that’s not all, the 54-year-old tennis legend later pulled off a rare feat in the same year.
Steffi Graf’s 1988 record distinguishes her from other legends
After her French Open triumph, the German tennis star also ended up prevailing in other major tournaments including the Wimbledon and US Open in 1988. In addition to these Grand Slam accolades, the former tennis ace also got the Olympic gold medal in Seoul, managing to pull off the Golden Slam feat at the mere age of 19. Graf stands out from the other tennis greats, including her former adversaries Navratilova and Evert, because of this exceptional achievement in 1988.