Steffi Graf

Great Champions

The inauguration of the Australian Open's new home Flinders Park in 1988 marked an upswing in Steffi Graf's Australian Open fortunes. Having been knocked out of the 1983 tournament in the first round by Liz Smylie, the Bruhl-born 18-year-old hardly broke a sweat on her way to the 1988 final - a showdown against Chris Evert.

With rain in the air and Steffi leading 2-1 in the first set the heavens opened. After a 90-minute delay organisers closed the new centre court's state-of-the-art sliding roof, Steffi adapting rapidly to win the next nine-straight games.

Evert, in what turned out to be her 34th and last appearance in a Slam final, fought back to 6-5 but was ultimately unable to fend off the German. Graf took the title 6-1 7-6(3), claiming the first leg of the 'Golden Grand Slam' that included all four majors and a gold medal at the Seoul Olympics.

Peppering the lines with her lethal forehand, Steffi made even quicker work of her second Australian Open title in 1989, reaching the final for the loss of 16 games. Played in 38-degree temperatures against Helena Sukova the decider was a close contest, but Steffi rose to the Czech's challenge winning 6-4 6-4.

Bidding for her third-consecutive AO title in 1990, Graf faced her good friend and doubles partner Mary Joe Fernandez in the final. Steady Fernandez earned a 4-1 lead in the second set, after which Graf didn't concede another game. Claiming her eighth Grand Slam title, 6-2 6-4, Steffi insisted she still had "many things to learn" in her post-match press conference.

Graf didn't make another final appearance in Melbourne until 1994 when she inflicted the Australian Open's fastest final beating in history on Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-0 6-2. The match secured Steffi's 80th singles title and rounded off a non-calendar year Grand Slam. She played in Melbourne for the last time in 1999, retiring later that year with a 47-6 record to her name.

Graf didn't make another final appearance in Melbourne until 1994 when she inflicted the Australian Open's fastest final beating in history on Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-0 6-2.