One of the sport’s superstars in the 1980s and 90s, Argentine tennis player Gabriela Sabatini turned 50 on Saturday.
Sabatini emerged as a prodigy in the early 80s and then went on enjoy success in the senior circuit too, winning Olympics silver in 1988 and US Open in 1990. She won a total of 27 WTA titles, including the season-ending WTA Finals in 1988 and 1994.
The Argentine icon is widely regarded as one of the most marketable stars of that era and a pioneer in branding.
In 1990, Sabatini won her first (and only) Major singles title when she defeated Steffi Graf. The 20-year-old Sabatini avenged back-to-back losses to Graf in New York, beating her, 6-2, 7-6, for the US Open 1990 title.
Graf and Sabatini were not just frequent opponents in singles matches, the duo teamed up regularly at Majors. The two friends actually formed a fine doubles pairing, winning Wimbledon title in 1988. Sabatini also won the Olympic silver medal in 1988 in Seoul; incidentally, that was Graf’s golden year.
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The WTA, in their tribute to ‘Miss Congeniality’ Sabatini, said: “Sabatini, who was 20 when she won the 1990 US Open, has said that she would be talking to her old friend and rival, Stefanie Graf, whose 50th birthday was last year, about what it feels like to hit a half-century. It now seems almost a lifetime ago that Sabatini zipped up her racket bag for the final time after accomplishing so much in her teens and early twenties.”
Sabatini, who retired when she was just 26, is still the only South American woman to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era. (Note: Two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza was born in Venezuela but represents Spain.)
“I’d like to be remembered as someone who left something,” said Sabatini once. “I’d like people to think of me as someone who contributed, someone who did something for tennis. Aside from tennis, I’d like to have people think that I was a good person, a good friend, a good human being.”
About her 1990 US Open, she said: “If there’s a moment that I remember and still think about, it’s my victory at the US Open. That moment, that last point when it was finished, it was such a rewarding and good, proud feeling.”
You can relive that US Open 1990 final here: