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June 14, 2021

Rarely Seen Childhood Photos of Steffi Graf During the 1970s

Steffi Graf was born Stephanie Maria Graf on June 14, 1969 in Mannheim, West Germany, to Peter and Heidi Graf. She 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 Steffi Graf 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.

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