Part 2 of Tignor's Spotlight on Steffi, this time focusing on the year of her Golden Slam, which is arguably the greatest season by any tennis player, man or woman.
Some of my favorite Tignor observations:
—Graf’s game: Was it more influential on men’s tennis than women’s? Is there anyone who followed in her serve-forehand footsteps on the WTA side? Her forehand was certainly one of a kind: Late take-back, late contact point, quick whip into the follow through—as I’ve said before, it was one shot that had the force of nature.
—Watching Graf and Becker as teens, I’d say they what they had in common the most was a sort of hell-bent all-court fearlessness that briefly broke down old divisions in the sport. Becker hurled his body all over the place and right through the barrier between baseliner and net-rusher. He was both at once. Graf broke down the idea of “changing the direction of the ball.” She ran around her forehand as much as any woman I can remember, and in doing that she developed the ability to hit it from anywhere, to anywhere, at any time.
—I do miss the twirly, painterly quality of Sabatini’s ground strokes, and that slow John Wayne walk she did between points. You can see her trying to slow Graf’s tempo. That’s a lost cause. Steffi still kept an extra ball in her hand when she served; she didn’t stop for a drink, or for anything, during the change of ends in the tiebreaker; and even on crucial points she refused to take an extra second before serving.