In 1985, Sabatini turned professional. Her first big splash was at the Family Circle Magazine Cup where she beat three ranked players. She later made the semifinals of the French Open, the youngest to do this at the time, but lost to Chris Evert. She finished the year ranked number 11 in the world.
Because of her young age, observers were afraid that Sabatini would burn out. She dropped out of school
when she was 14 to concentrate on tennis, though she planned on completing her education later. Sabatini had no close friends, and constantly dealt only with adults. She was also isolated on the professional tour, in part because she did not speak English for the first three years.
In 1986, Sabatini made the semifinals of Wimbledon. As her star rose in women's tennis, her looks, not unlike those of a movie star/model, led to a number of endorsement deals. She ended the year ranked in the top 10, where she would remain until 1996.
In 1988, while Sabatini won a silver medal in ladies singles tennis at the Summer Olympics, won the Virginia Slims Tournament, and made the finals of the U.S. Open, she had problems with endurance during matches. She changed coaches to Angel Gimenez, who challenged her to work on her conditioning and kept her intrested in the game. When she began as a professional, she was a baseline player, but later developed a potent serve-and-volley attack. The graceful Sabatini had a great backhand, but her serve was never strong.