Love is everything to Graf now


Steffi Graf shakes hands with a grip so powerful it's easy to imagine the 40-year-old still ripping forehand winners past opponents.

The Hall of Famer, whom many regard as the greatest woman to step on a tennis court, looks fit enough to hold her own against today's stars.

"No, no," Graf said with a nervous laugh. "I like my life the way it is, thank you."

Graf has met her match in husband and fellow tennis great Andre Agassi and loves living in his hometown of Las Vegas with their two children.

These days, the major events in her life include attending 8-year-old son Jaden's Little League games or 6-year-old daughter Jaz's dance recitals or spending time with her mother and brothers, who also live here.

"When I grew up, I didn't think I'd get married," said Graf, the winner of 22 Grand Slam titles and 107 tournaments. "Not that I wasn't hoping I would one day meet someone I could spend the rest of my life with."

Graf and Agassi got married in 2001 and settled down together in Summerlin.

"It's been a great place to raise our kids," she said. "I am a private person. It's great to live a very normal life. The people here have been so supportive and respectful."

The family also vacations in Germany every summer. It's important to Graf that her children see other family members from her homeland.

"It's something we look forward to every year," she said. "We have a great time visiting and exposing them to the culture of my childhood."

Along with her family, Graf's foundation, Children For Tomorrow, keeps her busy. It works with kids traumatized by war, violence or other crises and is set to open a trauma center in November in Germany. Projects also have been created in Kosovo, Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa and Eritrea.

"When I left tennis, I thought I'd be more active,'' she said. ''Tennis has taken a step back. I still enjoy going out to play, but it's rare."

Though they no longer compete in tennis, Graf and Agassi maintain busy schedules. Finding quality time alone can be a challenge, but they manage to make time for each other.

"I love those quiet moments," she said. "I'm more in love with him than ever."

Agassi feels the same way.

"It's hard to put into words what it means to be with someone so special, someone who understands you and cares so much for you," he said. "I am truly blessed to have someone I can benefit from every day.

"She's tireless. She's generous. She's an incredible wife and mother. I had full belief of her values. Our life is committed to people."

As Graf's children grow older, they inevitably will learn more and more about her tennis legacy, which dwarfs even Agassi's sizable accomplishments as an eight-time Grand Slam champion.

"They never saw me play, but they know about my career somewhat," Graf said. "We don't talk about it much. We focus more about them being part of the community and caring about other people. That's more important than trophies."

But Graf acknowledges, looking back, that her 18-year career on the court was quite impressive.

"I think the thing I'm most proud of is the longevity of having played such a span of time," said Graf, who competed against Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova early in her career, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Gabriela Sabatini midway through her career and Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters toward the end. "That and to have the ability to raise my level of play against so many great players, that's what I'm proudest of."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.