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August 28, 1999

Steffi Graf

USTA: Questions for Steffi.

Q. Could you talk about the specific reasons, what you were reasoning to yourself about why you decided to retire at this particular time before the US Open and just in general what went through your mind?

STEFFI GRAF: You know, for myself, I made kind of the decision that I wanted to play till the end of the year. So as things started happening, you know, after Wimbledon, I was at home and I was a little sick, then I was supposed to go to New York and had a commercial. I was supposed to play in Melbourne at an exhibition. I explained maybe two weeks ago that once you travel to the States, you have visa application, you have to write down how many weeks you are going to stay. I was bound to write down two weeks. Then I was like, "How long will it be till The Open? Nine weeks, no." Just didn't sound somehow right. I wrote down five weeks, and it ended up being four weeks. I kind of knew already then that my desire to play wasn't as strong anymore. Also the way I set up the following weeks, for a little while I had a practice partner, then I decided not to have one because I felt I wanted to go home and not continue playing. But also during that period, like I said, I had bronchitis, it was a tough few weeks. I wasn't sure where that came from, if I was just tired in general or am I really tired of playing? Then I made the decision to go to San Diego to really be sure about it. I kind of knew already on the way there because I didn't feel like going to another tournament.

Q. If you had not won the French Open or done as well as you did at Wimbledon, would you still be as hungry? Would it possibly have changed your view?

STEFFI GRAF: Possibly. I think that had a lot to do with it. You know, I think in a way, the motivation was gone for whatever reason. I think, yeah, the desire just wasn't there as strongly anymore. I think the few weeks definitely had a lot to do with that.

Q. Is that another way of saying that at least personally for you, you had to come back and make a statement that, "Yes, I'm back, I am in a sense No. 1"?

STEFFI GRAF: No, because that's the other thing. You know, I never felt really that I had to do that. I feel lucky that it happened to me and that I've been able, at such a point, to retire. I mean, I feel, you know, strongly that I'm lucky about that. I mean, in a sense lucky, but I'm extremely happy about it, to have been able to do it at such a point. But, no, I never expected or felt like I had to do it and then retire or something like that, no. I never felt I had to do that.

Q. You've used that term "motivation" quite a bit.


Q. Motivation can change, particularly being in this atmosphere here, the start of the US Open. What's the likelihood?

STEFFI GRAF: Honestly, I've touched twice my racquet, once with my mother for a little bit, which was fun. You know, again, a few days ago, just for another five minutes. But I'm really happy the way it is right now, extremely happy. It may sound a little strange, knowing me, but in a way also a lot of pressure has gone and it feels good.

Q. What kind of plans do you have for your future now?

STEFFI GRAF: Oh, it's been busy (laughter). I made it pretty busy. You know, I've had a few trips. I've had more trips, flying trips, than I usually have when I play. In a few days, I'll have a vacation. I'll be occupied with a lot of different things. I'm going to work a little closer now with my foundation, which I've had not very much time with. I'm going for the first time to South Africa, in the beginning of October. I've worked for the last two years with Juniors. That's something that I need to or want to pursue a little more in the next few weeks. The other thing is that I have a little farewell tour starting the end of the year, which starts in South Africa, a nice safari to come with it. I'm traveling to a few places I haven't been before. It's going to keep me pretty occupied for the next year or so . I have different interests that I want to get into. I'll definitely find the time now.

Q. What's the most important lesson that you learned on the Tour? Also, I'm wondering, there's a lot of young girls that are following in your footsteps. What advice do you have for them?

STEFFI GRAF: You know what, you get taught so many lessons. There's not one or two that you can point out. I mean, you learn to know what's important to you. I think that's -- and you need to, because otherwise it's very difficult. I mean, you learn about winning; you learn about losing; you learn about life. I mean, there's so many lessons to be learned out there. I felt it gave me a lot and will give me a lot for the future, what's ahead of me.

Q. What is your best memory in your career?

STEFFI GRAF: My best memory? There have been many, fortunately, fortunately (laughter). You know, obviously for me and most of the people right now is the French Open this year. But just looking back, you know, there have been different times and different wins that have been important to me at certain stages of my career and my life, that it's difficult to really put one ahead of them. I mean, there's winning the Grand Slam in New York, that was a special day, as much as winning my first tournament in general in Hilton Head. I mean, there have been fortunately many of them to look back on.

Q. In a way, do you regret you have won the French Open?

STEFFI GRAF: No (laughter). Never will. You know, how can you? I still have never watched the tape of it.

Q. What do you feel you best have contributed to the game?

STEFFI GRAF: I think what I've been always very open about is my desire for the sport, very strong, that I gave everything that I had for it. I think that's what I'm known for and that's what I wanted to be known for.

Q. How deeply does Boca figure into your future?

STEFFI GRAF: It does because my mother lives there. It does because my brother and his family lives there. That's why in the past three weeks I spent quite a bit of time there. But it is not a place where I can see myself. I've always said, you know, I needed a bigger city, in a way. I need seasons (laughter). I need seasons. I need the winter and autumn. I know I'm going to have my base in Germany. I feel that probably I will have maybe a second home here, but it's not going to be Florida.

Q. Do you have some words to other players?

STEFFI GRAF: No other players?

Q. Yes.

STEFFI GRAF: I've been fortunate to have gone through a lot of different players and generations. They made it also exciting and interesting to be playing out there. You know, it's always, in a way, you look forward to certain players to play against. There have been so many that it's difficult to point a few out.

Q. What's the farewell Tour going to consist of? Do you know yet how many stops, where you're going?

STEFFI GRAF: We were thinking about around 20 different places. Like I said, we're starting off probably with South Africa, continuing to New Zealand, Asia, Japan. It's all in the process of being done right now.

Q. Is that an engagement ring?

STEFFI GRAF: No. It's the same ring that I've been wearing. I'm owning it already for nine years or seven years, something like that. Just bought it for myself. It's only worth a couple dollars, but I like it anyway (laughter).

Q. Heinz has been with you forever maybe.

STEFFI GRAF: Long, long time, yes, seven years.

Q. Maybe the most eligible tennis coach out there. Do you have any idea what he's going to do?

STEFFI GRAF: Well, we talked a little bit about it. You know, he's got a wife and three kids.

Q. But he's a tennis coach.

STEFFI GRAF: He's a tennis coach, and he's an exceptional tennis coach. You know, he's helped me through so much. We've grown very close. Somebody I miss being around so much, for sure. But, you know, he's always had TV commentary, which he's had next to coaching. He's been writing for papers. I think that's something that he wants to pursue. I think he sounded like he enjoyed having a little more time, too. But I think he's somewhere around, I'm sure.

Q. Is that something you would possibly be interested in in the future, coaching?

STEFFI GRAF: I can see that with Juniors. I've done it already a little bit the last two years with the Juniors that I've had. It's something that I said, you know, I'm interested in, but not touring, no way.

Q. Any possible work with the German national team?

STEFFI GRAF: There's talks about it right now, but I'm only really interested in young Juniors. You call it collaboration? Teamwork or whatever, yeah. But on my own terms.

Q. What kind of impact do you think you will have on German tennis that you and Boris have ended your careers?

STEFFI GRAF: Well, it's for sure a big miss. You look at Boris, what he's done. We've had three, actually four -- three players leave the sport now with him, with Stich and with me now. I mean, the sport was struggling a little bit the last few years, and it's going to have, for sure, more difficulties to come ahead.

Q. If it was 1992 again, instead of just basically you and Monica out there, it was Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams, a lot of young, talented players, do you think your career might have taken a little bit different turn, you might not have been as dominant as you were?

STEFFI GRAF: Possibly. I mean, there's a good chance, but I don't know. I don't want to know (laughter). You can play those games, but it's difficult. You would never know. I mean, it's fascinating maybe to recap, but I prefer to be in the here and what's coming.

Q. Some of the things that athletes who retire, especially in their prime, wind up missing are the competitiveness that they are used to feeding on, the friendliness of their rivals or people they associate with. Are there some things you think you will be missing or are concerned about? Or is it easy for you to walk away?

STEFFI GRAF: Right now it seems extremely easy. I don't know if that's going to be the case, you know, in a few months ahead. I don't know. I think maybe because I have no regrets and I've been around the sport for so long, gone through a lot, experienced a lot. I feel pretty happy about leaving it right now. I know I'm going to miss the competitiveness, without a doubt. The working out, I mean, it's different being on a bike or a StairMaster instead of being able to run around and be upset if you miss a shot or be happy if you win it. But right now, I'm not missing it.

Q. What about the relationships with the other players, the other people on the Tour, the people you have seen through the years?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah, but retiring doesn't mean -- obviously it does mean that you're not spending as much time with certain people anymore. But if they're true friendships, they stay. You actually will have more time in a way. But I do have to say that I have quite a few friends that are away from the sport, and that's what I have also been doing with the plane for when I was at home, to get to spend some time with friends.

Q. Anybody try to talk you out of this?

STEFFI GRAF: No, huh-uh. Actually, I mean, they were trying to help to make it easy. But in a way, nobody wanted to take the decision away from me. Obviously I talked with close people, you know, with Heinz, anybody who was close to me about it, but nobody was trying to push me in any direction because I really have to and did make the decision myself.

Q. Have you gotten calls or talked to the other players about how they felt? Is there anybody you developed a close relationship with the Tour over the years?

STEFFI GRAF: I've been close with a few players. Probably the closest with Ines Gorrochategui. We've been talking quite a bit about it. With other players, I did receive some calls and some faxes. Like now, seeing different players come up to me, I'll definitely miss that.

Q. Who do you think looks good this year?

STEFFI GRAF: You know, the good thing is that you have a few contenders right now. I think Martina Hingis has been looking very strong. The same with the Williams sisters. I think they have a pretty good shot at it here, as well as Lindsay.

Q. Do you think it's better to leave tennis when you have so many different people that can continue to make it interesting?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah. You feel good. I mean, I feel good in general for the sport to have a healthy different kind of group of players, the sport really looks to be going in the right directions right now. I mean, yeah, I felt that I got a lot from the sport, and I wanted for it to be there to enjoy. So I feel good about that, it's going good and looking good for the future.

Q. Do you have a strong motherhood instinct?

STEFFI GRAF: You know what, my brother's two little kids, the little one, he's three and a half, he told me he loves me and he wants to marry me. I think that's a good way to start there. No, I really do love kids. We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens. I'm trying this time not to have the microphone so close (laughter).

Q. What's your most memorable US Open moment?

STEFFI GRAF: It is probably the match, crazy enough, that I lost to Martina 7-6 in the third. That was probably the one, for whatever reason, comes to my mind first now. I'm just saying what comes to my mind first.

Q. Is there any particular reason that that one stands out?

STEFFI GRAF: Against Martina Navratilova. I don't know which year that was. That's too far back. I don't know, for some reason that stays very strong with the rain delay in the evening. So many things about the match. Breaking glasses, I thought, "Great, I'm breaking the glasses by accident." She picks out another pair of glasses. I'm like, okay. We continued the next day. We played some great tennis, had some match points and I still lost. I was still disappointed about it. For some reason, that stays in my mind.

Q. Is she the one you would pick out in your career or would it be Monica that was maybe your best rival? You had several.

STEFFI GRAF: I have had several. Probably against Navratilova are the ones, because of two complete opposite styles clashing. Yeah, I think that were the ones that I look forward to most.

Q. You went to Latin America in 1993. Are you planning to go maybe on the farewell tour?

STEFFI GRAF: Yeah, we're in the process of getting everything settled. But right now there's not any dates or anything set. I know I want to come to the country to visit, with or without tennis, but I'm not quite sure about it right now.

Q. What about Paris?

STEFFI GRAF: What about Paris? I come to watch (laughter). I come to watch.

Q. How would you like to be remembered by tennis?

STEFFI GRAF: How do I want to be remembered? Somebody that loved and cared about the sport, yeah, did it as hard as I could.

Q. What feelings are going through your mind right now being back here? Is it mixed feelings? Also, do you have any plans to maybe do something again with Sports Illustrated, like that shoot that you did?

STEFFI GRAF: No. That's once in forever. That experience was enough for me. No, I still shake my head about it. Hey, you live and learn. You know, it was a little strange coming here because you knew you'd see familiar faces. You were kind of trying to see the people that worked for the tournaments. I've seen a few. But I hate good-byes, so it's difficult for me. But in terms of anything else, yeah, I just feel that I don't belong so much anymore here.

Q. Richard Krajicek said a few weeks ago that he thinks you're the greatest player to play this game. How does that make you feel?

STEFFI GRAF: If I hear those things, it makes me feel extremely proud. Yeah, I mean, I've heard quite a few quotes from other players that have been asked about it, all the things they say, it's overwhelming at times.

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