Classic Rivalries: Graf vs Sanchez Vicario

AP Photo/Dave Caulkin

Classic Rivalries: Graf vs Sanchez Vicario

In 1989 a spunky Spanish teenager burst onto the scene and won the French Open in stunning fashion. Some may argue that it was Sanchez Vicario who brought the beginning of Spanish dominance on the world stage.

Sanchez Vicario would win a total of four Grand Slams during her career. Champions are usually measured by how they perform against the best of the best. In the late 80s and 90s the player to beat was Steffi Graf. Which makes sense that these two played some incredibly memorable matches during their career. This has to be one of the most exciting rivalries of the nineties, comparable to Graf vs. Seles and Graf vs. Sabatini.

Sanchez Vicario and Graf played a total of 36 times. Graf holds a 28-6 edge, and on paper it would seem as though Graf dominated this rivalry. However, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find amazing and ultra-competitive matches disputed between the two, especially in Grand Slam finals.

They played a total of seven times in Grand Slam finals, with Graf holding a 5-2 edge. Sanchez beat Graf in their first ever Grand Slam meeting at the 1989 French Open, thus becoming the Youngest French Open champion at 17 years old.  The next time they would meet would be at the 1994 Australian Open final where Graf would easily win in straight sets. They would meet again that same year at the 1994 US Open, where they would deliver a classic for the ages. Sanchez would claim her one and only US Open beating Graf in three tough sets, after Graf had taken the first 6-1. The final score would be 1-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Aranxta Sanchez Vicario would not win another Grand Slam final against Graff, they disputed the 1995 and 1996 French Open finals, as well as the 1995 and 1996 Wimbledon Finals. Nevertheless, their matches are etched in Grand Slam lore because of the difference in styles. Sanchez was scrappy, gutsy and played every point like her last. She had incredible stamina as well and would never give up. She was almost like a female version of Nadal. Graf on the other hand was clinical and aggressive.

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