Drama Off Court
For years Graf remained rather reclusive and hard to talk to on the pro tour. Tennis had always been her focus; everything else came second. This caused problems with some critics and fans, who wanted her to be more accessible. As she matured, she became more open to interviews and to her public, but as she grew into a notable figure on the court, the soap opera that surrounded her professional career—in the form of her father, Peter Graf—began to unfold.
Graf had been given the means by which to become a phenomenal tennis player—tennis-loving parents, a father who took her on as a coach and who supported her no matter what—but with these gifts came burdens, and Peter Graf had no doubt caused his daughter many headaches. During her career, Peter Graf was cited many times for illegal coaching, which according to Contemporary Newsmakers, ranged from "talking to Steffi in German during the matches" to "using hand signals." In order to avoid getting caught, the elder Graf moved around in the crowd so that the officials could not spot him. At certain times, his actions caused Graf to be assessed penalty points for being coached while on the court, as television replays showed him clearly disobeying the rules.
Peter Graf also brought intense pressure on his daughter when he became, as Tennis magazine reporter Cindy Shmerler writes, "a walking tabloid headline." Indeed, in the nineties he was called out because of an extramarital affair with a German model. Then he had trouble dealing with his alcoholism. And then, in what became a major media circus, Peter Graf's income tax evasion, and his failure to pay taxes on millions of his daughter's earnings, brought her private life under intense scrutiny.
By the end of 1995, however, Graf pushed the media hype aside, winning the U.S. Open, and then going on to win Wimbledon the next season for her twentieth Grand Slam title. Injuries to her back and left knee soon forced her to take more unwanted time off. In a span of only a few years, the injuries mounted. She was hampered by knee surgery (causing her to miss much of 1997), and then an ankle injury in 1998 dropped her to number 9 in the world rankings.
In her last year on tour, however, Graf came back with a great victory, perhaps her sweetest, when she defeated Martina Hingis in the French Open. Hingis had been claiming that Graf was no longer a viable threat in the Grand Slams.