Tennis - Germany's Angelique Kerber has wished fellow German and 22-time Grand Slam champion Steffi Graf ahead of her 50th birthday. The German legend turns 50 on Friday and Kerber wrote a heartfelt letter to Graf on Bild for the occasion.
"To be honest, I can not believe that you are already 50 years old. It seems to me like yesterday that I was sitting in front of the TV at home watching your matches to the last point. I was excited, of course, but rather out of anticipation, because I secretly always had that good, confident feeling when you entered the court.
The ease with which you swept the courts impressed me from the beginning. Your performance in the big Grand Slam matches is unmatched and from a sporting point of view not high enough. With my three Grand Slam achievements, I can only guess what it means to win 22 (!) Of these major titles.
And then the 377 weeks at the top of the world rankings. Awesome! With your great triumphs, you not only enchanted Germany, but also shaped my career. In the years when I was eagerly pursuing your greatest triumphs as a little girl in front of the television, my own dream was to do the same.
At your sporting peak in 1988, winning the Golden Slam, which includes all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic Gold, tennis was not important to me. But that changed quickly, because I grew up thanks to you and Boris at a time when all Germany was in the collective tennis fever.
The TV was always on when one of your games was played. The walls of my nursery were soon turned into a ball wall, and the smell of the tennis hall over which we lived made my heart beat faster. Other sports like swimming and hockey soon did not matter anymore.
For me it was clear: tennis is my sport!
Everything I heard about our colorful tennis world matches from our home couch had a tremendous magic on me. The center courts in Wimbledon, New York, Paris and Melbourne were my big destination.
Without you as an "initiator" this heart wish would probably not have felt so early and later been so present everywhere. It has been a constant impulse for me, especially in difficult sporting times like 2011 or 2017.
Your genius has inspired me, and your calmness has fascinated me. Your fighter heart and your strength to turn even hopeless matches, have influenced me early and showed me what is possible, if you never lose faith in itself.
One match I can remember especially well is the 1999 French Open final against Martina Hingis. For a long time, it looked like you would lose the game. But with the "Steffi, Steffi" chanting of the audience behind you and your incredible willpower, you could still turn the match.
I was 11 years old and still get goosebumps today when I think about it. Thanks for that, Steffi!
For the unforgettable moments you gave me and millions of fans in your career. But not only for that. But also thanks for the source of inspiration that you are for me.
You have proven that you can stay down to earth as a global star and never lose sight of the essentials. You always wanted to develop your tennis. Even as superior number 1 in the world. I have internalized this approach and have always heeded it in my career.
Your greatest critic was always yourself, which is not foreign to me. When I suffered a lot of defeats after my first Grand Slam victory in Melbourne in 2016, I can remember our meeting well. Our training sessions during my visit to Las Vegas have been a motivational boost, and your words have stayed with me for a long time: "Angie, you're on the right path.
Believe in yourself. "To hear that from you meant a lot to me. Your husband André and you, you are great, heartfelt people who always have an open ear for others. It is nice to see how you both have mastered the leap from professional tennis to private life seemingly effortlessly and radiates a deep contentment.
Side by side. Steffi, you have given tennis so much in Germany and around the world. And I admire how you have found your fulfillment in your new role as wife, mother and ambassador. Consciously away from the limelight, always on your own path.
Dear Steffi, I wish you all the best for your great birthday. Enjoy the special day in the circle of your loved ones. But no matter how old you are, not only in the tennis world will your successes remain forever fascinating forever. And: Thank you for your support in the past years ...! "