“I was a shy person. Tennis helped me express myself” – Gabriela Sabatini

The Argentine player was one of the best players in the early 1990s and won the biggest title of her career at the 1990 US Open at the age of 20 beating her German rival Steffi Graf 6-2 7-6 after dropping one set in the whole tournament against Mary Joe Fernandez.

In 1985 Sabatini became one of the youngest ever players to reach the semifinals of the French Open, where she lost to US legend Chris Evert at the age of 15. Sabatini won her maiden top-level singles title later that year in Tokyo.

Sabatini also won the women’s doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988, two WTA Finals crowns in 1988 and 1994, and lost the Olympic singles final against Graf in Seoul 1988. With her Olympic gold medal in the South Korean capital, the German legend won the Golden Grand Slam. In the same year, Graf and Sabatini won the doubles title at Wimbledon.

In 1991 Sabatini came two points away from winning the Wimbledon title before Graf won the third set 8-6.

Gabriela reached her first US Open final in 1988 as a teenager losing to Graf in three sets. The German became the third player in history to win all Grand Slam titles in the same year after Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Margaret Smith Court in 1970.

Sabatini and Graf met 40 times from 1985 to 1995. Graf beat her South American player 29 times.

Sabatini won four trophies at the Internazionali d’Italia in Rome in 1988, 1989, 1991, and 1992. The Argentine player had a special relationship with the Rome tournament and Italian crowd, also thanks to her Italian origin. Her grandfather David Sabbatini was born in Potenza Picena in the Marche region and immigrated to Argentina at the end of the 19th century.

In 1987 she lost to Graf in the final of the Rome tournament in three sets before winning four of the next five editions and 23 of her 24 matches at the Foro Italico. In 1990 Sabatini lost to Martina Navratilova in the semifinal. In 1991 and 1992 Sabatini beat then world number 1 Monica Seles in straight sets.

Sabatini played her last singles match on 14th October 1996, when she lost in straight sets to Jennifer Capriati in the first round of the European Indoors.

She has dedicated her years after the end of her tennis career to her perfume line since retiring at the age of 26. She has become a successful businesswoman. She has had a place in the Hall of Fame in Newport since 2006.

“I am happy to be where I am today, to have experienced what I have experienced. Tennis gave me a lot more than it took away. It gave me the opportunity to travel, get to know the world, meet the world. I was an introverted and scared person. I was paralyzed by the fear of having to speak publicly as a tournament winner and speak to the press. I could not play freely anymore. My head was completely closed. Tennis helped me express myself”, said Sabatini to Argentine Newspaper La Nacion.

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