Tennis: Graf death threat: No 1 plays on in Hamburg

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The Independent Online
Steffi Graf yesterday brushed aside news of a death threat against her, saying it would have no bearing on her decision to take part in this year's Hamburg Open.

Speaking as the first day's play got under way, Graf, who is due on court today, said she wanted to make it clear to would-be attackers that she would not be scared off.

The threat came in a handwritten letter sent to a Hamburg newspaper. It was signed by 'friends of Seles and opponents of Graf'. 'If Steffi plays in Hamburg there will be another attack. But this time it is the slimy Graf who will be the target,' it read. 'And we are not playing with kitchen knives.'

It comes exactly a year after Monica Seles was stabbed in the back with a kitchen knife by an obsessive fan of Graf while playing in Hamburg. Seles has not played since.

'I want to show that I have no fear,' Graf said. 'Given what happened here last year, the eyes of the world will be upon this tournament. And it will stand or fall with me.'

Hamburg police yesterday said they were not taking the threat seriously. Tournament organisers similarly tried to play down its significance, but said that security would be very tight. 'We do not expect another attack, but unfortunately you never know,' Jens- Peter Hecht, of the German Tennis Association, said.

The death threat against Graf is the latest in a series against German sports stars. Last week police revealed that Boris Becker was being targeted by somebody threatening a 'massacre' of the player's family unless he agreed to make substantial payments.