Classic Rivalries – Graf vs Navratilova

AP/Robert Dear, file

Classic Rivalries – Graf vs Navratilova

Today in Classic Rivalries we have Steffi Graf vs. Martina Navratilova. These two all-time greats met a total of 18 times during their storied careers, splitting the rivalry 9-9. This is pretty impressive from Martina’s standpoint given that she’s 12.5 years older than Graf! However, if one digs a bit deeper into this rivalry, one can clearly see that Graf got the better of Navratilova in the biggest matches – Grand Slam finals. They played a total of six finals between 1987 and 1989, with Graf edging Navratilova 4-2. Let’s take a closer look at these finals!

1987 French Open Final

Although just 17 years old, Graf had finished the year in the top 10 in 1985 and 1986. She was no stranger to solid results. However, she was a stranger to reaching a Grand Slam Final. Navratilova was the number one seed and favorite. Graf would capture her first Grand Slam in three long sets, edging out Martina 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.

1987 Wimbledon Final

Navratilova was able to quickly regroup after her loss in the French Open final to Graf. Wimbledon was Navratilova’s home turf. She was a 7-time champion going into this final, in addition to defending champion. Steffi would have to wait one more year for her first Wimbledon title, as she went down to Navratilova 7-5, 6-3.

1987 US Open Final

This would be the third Grand Slam final they would contest in 1987. Navratilova would continue her success against Graf in Grand Slam finals. Although Graf was now the number one seed in the tournament, it would be Navratilova who would prevail in straight sets, 7-6, 6-1. Little did Martina know that this would be the last Grand Slam final she would win against Steffi.

1988 Wimbledon Final

This final will be remembered for Navratilova being up a set and 2-0 in the second set before Steffi Graf ran away with 12 out of the last 13 games to win her first Wimbledon title, and leave Martina shell shocked along the way. After all, Martina had won six straight Wimbledon titles heading into this match and appeared to be cruising into her seventh straight. Final score: 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.

1989 Wimbledon Final

One year had passed since these two future Hall of Famers had met in a Grand Slam final. Steffi would again come in as the number one seed, while Martina was once again the number two seed. This would be another three-set ordeal, with Martina coming back from behind to take the second set in a tie breaker. Once again, Martina would run out of gas and get routed in the third set by Steffi Graf. Final score: 6-2, 6-7, 6-1.

1989 US Open Final

This would be the final meeting in a Grand Slam final between these two greats. Navratilova would jump to an early lead, taking the first set, and making a strong effort in the second set, only for Steffi to win it, and then proceed to cruise easily in the final set. The final score: 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

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