Steffi Graf interview. Graf has disclosed that winning an Olympic gold medal is “more special” than being a grand slam champion. The German, who achieved the Golden Slam in 1988 by winning four majors and a gold medal, said: “I have to say I rate the Olympics higher, I really do. The feeling of playing for your country, the camaraderie, all the different sports – it just feels more special.” Graf, a Longines ambassador, also said that the Golden Slam did not relieve the pressure for the rest of her career as she was always her “worst critic”.
Graf on why winning an Olympic gold medal is more special than being a grand slam champion: “Winning the Olympics is a different experience to winning a grand slam. But I have to say that I rate the Olympics higher, I really do. The feeling of playing for your country, the camaraderie, all the different sports – it just feels more special.”
Graf on her favourite memory from the Golden Slam – being in the Olympic Village: “I have different memories from that year, and could go through all the matches at the grand slams, but arriving in Seoul, and being part of that Olympic feeling, and being in the Village, and being with the other athletes, that was very special. Those are probably my strongest memories.”
Graf on partying in the Athletes’ Village. “In 1988 I stayed in the Village until everyone started partying in the Village and that’s when I left. It became loud, so that’s when I moved to the hotel.”
Graf on how her Golden Slam did not relieve the pressure for the rest of her career, as she was always her worst critic: “Winning the golden slam didn’t add pressure or take pressure away. At the time, I wasn’t so aware of what was happening. I played so well, but I have to say that when I got to the Olympics I was emotionally a little tired as maybe there was some pressure at the time. It definitely didn’t put more pressure or relieve any, because I’m my worst critic, in a way. When I did well, I always wanted to push myself to do better, and that didn’t change after that.”
Graf on how she would have loved to play an Olympic tennis tournament on the Wimbledon grass: “I would have loved that. But I’m not complaining. I’m very happy with how everything turned out. I wouldn’t change a thing. But what a great facility to be playing at in the Olympics. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Graf on whether she has any regrets from her playing career: “When I look back, I feel as though I gave everything to the sport. I dedicated my life to it during that period. I was fortunate to have had the achievements I had. Not everyone who gives everything, and pushes themselves, has those results. I feel very fortunate so I’m not going to ask for anything else.”
Graf on how she rarely plays now: “I can go a few months when I don’t touch a racket. I play some exhibitions to raise some funds for my foundation. Once in a while I do some lessons to raise money, but that’s rare nowadays. When I do play, I enjoy it. It’s such a familar feeling going out there and playing. And the exercise, too. But I don’t miss the competitive side of it all.”
Graf on her foundation, Children For Tomorrow: “One of the things that is dear to me is highlighting my foundation, and the kids who don’t have a voice. They’ve endured incredible struggles. Longines have been incredible in highlighting that work and raising funds through it. I feel fortunate I can do that. I started my foundation about 14 years ago with doctors in Hamburg who specialised in helping children suffering from trauma. The wounds on the inside for children who have traumatised from war, violence and persecution. We’ve started many projects around the world.
“We hope to reach lots of children, but have reached lots already. I don’t think the kids we reach know at all what I did, or about tennis. I’ve travelled to many countries and most of the time people don’t know what I’ve done, but they’re familiar with what the foundation does and what the doctors stand for. That’s the way it should be. After all the struggles they’ve been through, it’s important that they get help.”
Steffi Graf, a Longines Ambassador of Elegance, was speaking at Roland Garros at the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament.