Painful final farewell for Graf

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STEFFI GRAF, the much-loved winner of seven of the last 12 women's singles titles at Wimbledon, left the Centre Court last night after her defeat by Lindsay Davenport in this year's final and announced that she would not return. Her retirement follows that of her compatriot Boris Becker, the three-time men's winner, who bowed out last week after his defeat in the fourth round.

Graf, who played her first Grand Slam tournament at the age of 13 in 1983, had recently fought her way back to the top level after suffering a series of injuries and personal problems. But her victory in the French Open last month, shortly before her 30th birthday, still came as a surprise - not least to her opponent in the final, the 18-year-old Martina Hingis, her successor as the world's No 1, who reacted so badly to the defeat that she was eliminated in the first round at Wimbledon.

Although Graf stopped short of announcing her complete retirement from the game, it seems likely that she will now remain in the record books as the winner of 22 Grand Slam titles, leaving her two behind the all- time record holder, Margaret Court of Australia. In Wimbledon terms, her seven victories put her two behind Martina Navratilova and one behind Helen Wills Moody.

In her straight-sets defeat at the hands of Davenport - who, with Pete Sampras, made it a clean sweep of the singles titles for the United States on the Fourth of July - Graf could not recapture her best form. But she had already decided that this would be her last appearance on Centre Court. "It's very special to go out there," she said, "and stepping on court today was again a great moment. Right now I feel a little sad."

Match reports, Sport section