October 1, 1988: Steffi Graf completes the Golden Slam in Seoul

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October 1, 1988: Steffi Graf completes the Golden Slam in Seoul

29 years ago, on this day, Steffi Graf took down her great rival Gabriela Sabatini by 6-3 6-3 to win the Olympic gold medal in Seoul, earning an Olympic glory at the age of 19 and achieving something that will probably stay untouchable in the decades to come. Namely, super talented German won all 4 Grand Slam titles that season, and together with this Olympic gold medal she is the proud owner of the only Golden Slam in the history of tennis! Prior to 1988, Graf was already one of the best players in the world, still at the age of 18, and she won her first Grand Slam title in Paris in 1987 (she lost the Wimbledon and US Open finals to Navratilova). She took her game to another level in 1988, though, winning 86 out of 88 matches and conquering 11 WTA titles. 

Steffi opened the season with her second Grand Slam crown in Australia, toppling Chris Evert in the final, and she successfully defended the Roland Garros title, demolishing poor Natasha Zveeva 6-0 6-0 in 32 minutes, losing 13 points in the entire match!At Wimbledon, Graf took down the untouchable Martina Navratilova, losing 5-7 0-2 before she sailed through the rest of the match, taking 12 out of the next 13 games to lift her first title at the biggest event in the sport. The pressure was on her at the US Open but nothing could stop amazing German that season, she defeated Gabriela Sabatini 6-3 3-6 6-1 in the final to achieve the first Calendar Grand Slam since Margaret Court in 1970, and becoming the first woman who did that on 3 different surfaces. 

In 1984, Steffi won the Olympics tournament in Los Angeles (was the U21 event), which was a demonstration sport back then, and 4 years later she was the first favorite to grab the gold in Seoul and achieve something that media forged as the Calendar Golden Slam, 4 Majors titles and Olympic gold in the same season! Chris Evert lost in the third round and it was the battle between Graf and Sabatini all the way, setting up the final clash on October 1. As was expected after a grueling season, Graf came to South Korea tired after everything she has achieved so far, but she managed to pass the opening rounds and reach the last 4, where he played an amazing match against Zina Garrison to earn the chance to fight for the gold. Against Sabatini, Graf played with less pressure than in the New York final a few weeks ago and she scored a 6-3 6-3 triumph to complete an astonishing season, no matter what would happen in the closing tournaments of the year. 

18-year-old Sabatini already beat Graf in March and Steffi new how dangerous her rival was, the result itself could have been much tighter if the Argentine used her chances better. Steffi saved 3 break points in the opening game of the match but she had to give her serve away in game 5, netting an easy forehand to fall 3-2 behind. Still, she recovered instantly, breaking back after a good return in game 6, and again in game 8 when Sabatini failed to control dangerous slice backhand from Graf. German was now in full control from the baseline and she wrapped up an opening set in game 9 with an ace, taking 4 games in a row and moving 6 away from another big title of the season. 

Gabriela stayed in touch in the opening 4 games of the second set but Graf was the first who seized the lead, striking a forehand winner for a 3-2 advantage. The Argentine had a chance to pull the break back, missing 2 break points in the 8th game and she paid the price in the following game, dropping serve again to end the match on the losing side. Graf sealed the deal with uncatchable forehand return to start a huge celebration, and she really was at the top of the WTA world in that moment, holding all 4 Majors, winning 40 matches in a row and listening to the German anthem on the podium with an Olympic gold medal in her hands. 


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