Last weekend, Steffi Graf and her husband Andre Agassi were playing a charity event in Houston when he accidentally hit her in the face with his racquet, requiring three stitches. The news was relatively unextraordinary (but, if you are so inclined, you can watch the whack on YouTube), but it served to remind me how much I used to love to watch tennis. In particular, I used to love to watch Steffi. Her explosive whip of a forehand was a thing of beauty to behold. And then there were those seemingly-endless legs. Damn. I’m pretty sure that if we stood side-by-side her legs would stop somewhere near my armpits. I started rooting for Steffi back before her Golden Slam, when she was still playing Martina and Chrissy. I kept cheering as a string of would-be rivals came and went from Gabriela Sabatini (Ooh, remember her and those grunts? Man, I used to love tennis...) to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario to Monica Seles to Martina Hingis.
I know it’s cooler to root for the underdog, but the sheer dominance of Graf’s game was mesmerizing to watch. In fact, her loses were so unexpected that a friend and I once had to paint our toenails pretty colors to console ourselves after a nail biter of a French Open went the other way. Some called her cold and emotionless, but I always though of her as shy and reserved -- something I related to growing up as a very shy kid. When she and Andre first got together, I was a little quizzical. Fräulein Forehand with the Las Vegas Rebel? Really? But now – unfortunate face smacking aside – I think they make a good pair. They seem happy; she seems completely relaxed and he seems totally devoted. I still wish Steffi had won that last Wimbledon instead of Lindsay Davenport, but regardless she is a true champion for the ages. Happy weekend, all.