Wimbledon 99: Action Replay: Moment which ushered in the quickfire era of Graf

Steffi Graf's winning Wimbledon record began on July 2, 1988 when she beat Martina Navratilova to take the title exactly a year after losing in the final to the same player. John Roberts was there for The Independent. This is his report.

THE WIMBLEDON crown of Martina Navratilova slipped over her bespectacled eyes when her serve was broken in the third game of the second set in Saturday's final. What took place in the next game underlined that women's tennis had moved inexorably into a new era of Steffi Graf domination.

Navratilova finessed a drop volley into an expanse of empty court and there, a year ago, the point would have ended. Not this time. Graf checked her progress over the tramlines to her left, bounded across the turf with lengthy strides, and clipped the ball before its second bounce, sending one of her famous forehands past the eight-times champion.

The prospect of a ninth singles title gone, perhaps forever, Navratilova was still marvelling at Graf's acceleration long after the 19-year-old West German had won the match 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 and added a cheque for pounds 148,500 to official career winnings of pounds 1.3m.

"It's her biggest weapon," said Navratilova. "If she doesn't get there she can't hit that big forehand, but she just gets into position so well. She's got incredible spring in her step and is so quick off the mark. She kept running everything down, going for balls other people wouldn't get, and hitting winners off them. She's got long legs, but she gets down. She's the fastest player out there."

Navratilova took the disappointment well and said: "If you have to lose, you might as well lose to the better player on the final day and pass the torch, if you like to call it that." We could only imagine the scene unfolding in California.

It would have been breakfast time in Sacramento. Helen Wills Moody, an 82-year-old semi-recluse reminiscent of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, is visited by an Erich von Stroheim character carrying a silver tray. "Miss Navratilova lost, Madam." A wrinkled arm shoots into the air, bony fist curled in triumph.

Unless the state of the women's game alters dramatically, and sturdy new talent emerges, we can continue the fantasy and move on to 1996. The 27-year-old Graf is on the point of breaking the Wimbledon record held jointly by the 39-year-old Navratilova and the 90-year-old Wills Moody and there is nobody to stop her.

We shall see. Graf's immediate objective is the United States Open at the end of next month when victory would assure her of immortality as only the fifth player of either sex to complete the Grand Slam of the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US championships in a calendar year. Margaret Court of Australia was the last to achieve this, in 1970, although Navratilova, after winning the French in 1984, held all four titles at the same time but not in the same year.

The West German is trying not to overburden herself with too many thoughts on the subject. "I knew that question was going to come up, I was waiting for it and it took so long," she exclaimed during her interview. "Everybody is talking about it, but I am sure I still have to concentrate on every single tournament. I am not going to change anything. When I come to Flushing Meadow, that's when I am going to think about it."

Legend has it that her father built replicas of the four Grand Slam surfaces - rubberised cement, red clay, grass and asphalt - at the family home. This is not true. They have access to a clay court at a local club and one court of their own. Appropriately, the surface is asphalt, which will help prepare her nicely for New York. The disturbing news for Gabriela Sabatini and any other prospective rival who may come along is that this is only the start. " I am sure I can raise my level again," Graf said. " I am going to need another two or three years to be able to do a few things I really needed to do today."

Navratilova, who promised to return to try again, said: "I think Steffi can do pretty much anything with her game," acknowledging that last year Graf was greener on the other side of the net.

FOOTNOTE: Martina Navritilova won a record ninth Wimbledon singles title in 1990, overtaking Helen Wills Moody's record. Steffi Graf went on to win another six.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz