Soon after the International Olympics Committee announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, world No 1 Novak Djokovic tweeted his photograph with a shoe that had Tokyo 2020 painted over it.
The Serb, who won the year’s first Grand Slam in Australia, is looking to become only the fifth player in the history of the sport to clinch all the four Slams along with the Olympics gold. While three others – Andre Agassi, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal – have a career slam to go with their Olympic gold medals, a certain Steffi Graf surprised the world by winning all the five titles in the same calendar year to complete a Golden Slam back in 1988.
Graf, just 19 then, had won her first Major a year earlier beating Martina Navratilova in the French Open final but no one would have predicted such a domineering performance from the German.
She began by winning the Australian Open crown without dropping a set, clinched the French Open five months later by blanking USSR’s Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in the summit clash and then ended Navratilova’s unbeaten run since 1981 at the Wimbledon with a come from behind 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory.
Graf then equalled Margaret Court’s record of winning all the four Grand Slams in the same year when she got the better of Argentina’s Gabriela Sabatini in three sets at the US Open.
But even then not many gave the German a chance of winning the Olympic gold simply because the 19-year-old looked spent after the effort of winning the four Grand Slams and the Games were being held just a week after the US Open final.
She managed to get through the initial rounds but dropped a set against Larissa Savchenko of the USSR in the quarter-finals.
Even in the final, Sabatini had three break points in the opening game as Graf looked sluggish. The Argentine wasted those opportunities but broke the German in the fifth game to draw first blood.
However, Graf broke back immediately in the next game, dominated Sabatini’s serve in the eighth and took the set with an ace in the ninth.
The German was much more in control in the second, breaking Sabatini’s serve in the fifth game and as a fitting testament to her style of play, bagged the championship point with an inside out forehand winner off the Argentine’s second serve in the ninth game of the set.
“I’m very excited that I achieved this now,” Graf had said back then, according to LA Times. “It is something that not many people after me will be able to achieve, I think. It is amazing.”
The victory extended Graf’s unbeaten run that season to 40 matches and she had a 66-2 win-loss record by the time she left Seoul to take some a break after a gruelling season. She even won a women’s doubles bronze with Claudia Kohde-Kilsch in Seoul.
The German went on to win a total of 22 Grand Slam singles titles but the one fact that rarely gets mentioned is that Graf also won her only women’s doubles Grand Slam title that year when she teamed up with Sabatini at Wimbledon.
You can watch the entire match here.
More videos here below if you want to relive that epic year for Graf:
More about Golden Slam in tennis here.