Chris Evert once empathized with Steffi Graf as she navigated through several difficult situations, including an injury and a paternity scandal involving her father, Peter Graf.
In 1990, Graf encountered numerous challenges that significantly impacted her season. Despite making a strong start to the year by winning her ninth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, the German faced a setback after injuring her thumb in a skiing incident in Switzerland.
Soon after her return to the tour post-injury, Steffi Graf was forced to deal with the German publication Bild running a series of stories targeting her father Peter Graf, based on accusations made by Nicole Meissner, a model who claimed that Peter was the father of her child.
The incessant questions from reporters regarding this situation took an emotional toll on the German, even causing her to break down in tears during a press conference at the Wimbledon Championships.
The scandal seemingly also had a detrimental impact on her on-court performance, as she suffered losses in crucial matches. The German lost the French Open final to Monica Seles, failed to defend her Wimbledon title, and was defeated in the US Open final by Gabriela Sabatini. Consequently, she also slipped down the rankings.
Chris Evert, who had transitioned into a commentary role after retiring from the sport in 1989, observed that Steffi Graf appeared to be carrying the world on her shoulders while dealing with her father’s paternity scandal and her personal health. She commended the German for navigating these challenges with remarkable grace and dignity.
“Steffi seems to have the world on her shoulders. Her father is at the center of a sex scandal. She is concerned with her own health. I admire Steffi, for emerging with great dignity while dealing with factors outside her control,” she said.
Evert further suggested that Graf’s tribulations had humanized her in the public eye, which resulted in the American and others feeling a sense of “compassion” for her.
“People are looking at Steffi differently now. She’s not some cold-hearted German machine. There are considerable human feelings, and everyone is feeling compassion for her,” she said.
The American also expressed her hope for Steffi Graf to regain her peak efficiency in the future.
“I’m pulling for Steffi to get back to peak efficiency. Who knows what will happen now in her life, including her father’s situation? There’s a world of talent in this woman, but only time will reveal what the Graf future focus will be,” she added.
Looking back at Steffi Graf and Chris Evert’s rivalry