Steffi Graf was born Stephanie Maria Graf on June 14, 1969 in Mannheim, West Germany, to Peter and Heidi Graf. Steffi grew up in Brühl, a small West German town, and with parents who were tennis players, it was inevitable that before long Steffi would have a racquet in her hands. Her father was a nationally-ranked player in Germany when Graf was little, operating a tennis facility and gaving lessons when he was not playing. Thus, when his three-year old daughter expressed an interest in the game, Peter did not pay much attention to her. But eventually she wore him down and he sawed off an old racquet and let her play with it, and, according to the 1987 edition of Contemporary Newsmakers, Graf had soon "broken all the lamps in the house."
Graf learned to play tennis in the family's basement on a makeshift court concocted from two chairs and some string to serve as a net. When she was five, her father realized his little girl was not going to give up and he began coaching her. "For a long time, I believed that Steffi only wanted to play because she loved me and
wanted to be with me," he told Tennis magazine. "But the evidence of her talent became very strong… She was always watching the ball until it was not in play anymore."
Peter Graf helped turn his daughter into one of the toughest junior tennis players in Germany. He soon quit his other jobs and devoted his life to coaching her. He had good reason to think he was making a wise choice, because in little more than a year after he had started working with her, Graf had won her first tournament (she was six). By the time she was 13, she had won the German junior championship.
Growing up, Graf was not one to be consumed by leisure activities. Graf's parents withdrew her from the eighth grade in 1982, when she was 13, after she became the second-youngest player in the history of tennis to achieve an international ranking (no. 214 in WITA rankings). She began competing in more tournaments and then, in 1984, traveled to Los Angeles to compete in the Summer Olympics. She walked away from that competition with the gold.