WTA Greatest Rivalries – Sabatini vs. Graf
One of the most interesting and exciting rivalries in the history of the WTA was between Gabriela Sabatini and Steffi Graf. Both were teenage phenoms and loaded with talent, and close in age with Steffi being born in 1969 while Sabatini in 1970. Although Steffi got the better of Sabatini in the 40 times they played (29-11), especially at Grand Slams (11-1), Sabatini had a good winning streak against Steffi for three years, between 1990-93. During that run, she beat Steffi at the 1990 US Open for her lone Grand Slam and played her, and won in three additional WTA level events. The streak would end though, and the Steffi would dominate Sabatini once again for the rest of their careers.
Nonetheless, the US Open win was transcendental for Gabriela Sabatini. Graf was considered unbeatable in the late 80’s and early 90s. When they met in the 1990 final, Graf had already won 9 Grand Slams, and had participated in the previous 13 of 14 Grand Slam finals. Also, Graf held a dominating 18-3 record against Sabatini going into the final. Sabatini was participating in her second Grand Slam final, having lost her first one at the US Open two years before to Steffi Graf. However, all that did not matter, Sabatini ended up winning in straight sets by chipping and charging and being the aggressive player and going for her shots against Steffi. She won in straight sets.
They would meet again in the 1991 Wimbledon Final. And Sabatini would not be as lucky this time around, losing to Stefi in 8-6 in the third of a hard-contested match. Sabatini would retire in 1996, at the age of 26 to focus on outside interests, while Steffi played for three more years. These two WTA stars, and one handed backhand greats would leave behind an amazing body of matches to their names though. Both of them true champions!