When they came to Wimbledon in 1988, famous female tennis player Martina Navratilova arrived on the grass courts riding a wave of six consecutive women’s titles.
Then, of course, she had also beaten the best tennis player Steffi Graff the year before. While Graff carried a number one ranking, it still seemed, to many fans, to be a foregone conclusion that Martina would win again.
Martina did win the first set, 7-5, and her fans were ecstatic while Steffi’s faithful following were beginning to wonder if the young German player were under some sort of Wimbledon curse.
After all, Steffi had just beaten the greatest ever tennis player Chris Evert at the Australian Open and then gone on to win the French Open, as well. Still, here was Martina Navratilova, winning the first two games of the second set and many of Graff’s fans began to expect a repeat of her previous year’s loss.
Then, the tides took an abrupt turn. Steffi seemed to wake up and began to put her legendary forehand and that backhand slice to work. She won six games in a row and took the set 6-2. Then, the two-faced off for a final set.
Graff shot out with a 5-1 lead over Martina who took a 40-love lead but with a pair of double-faults, the score came up deuce. Steffi then took the game, the set, and the match. She had dethroned Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon and, unknowingly, yet another of tennis’ infamous rivalries had begun.
Famous German female tennis player Graff would repeat her win over Martina in 1989 final and go on to win seven Wimbledon singles titles of her own. She never managed to equal Martina’s unmatched success at the prestigious British tournament, and the rivalry faded as the two drifted slowly towards retirement.
Still, while it lasted, it made for some great tennis, and matches between the two were always packed to capacity by fans that wanted to see what two of the greatest women players in history facing off was really like.