Little Magician

July 1984
"Little Magician"
The British admire Steffi Graf at Wimbledon
Wimbledon's Centre Court was completely full when Claudia Kohde stepped onto
the famous turf for her round of 16 match against three-time champion Chris

Many wanted to be witness to the surprise that not a few experts had quite
believed to be possible of the 20-year-old from Saarbrücken. But as so often
happens in such situations, the nerves can't keep pace with the ambitious
expectations that the current best German tennis player also had felt was a
quite realistic assessment of her chances. Claudia Kohde was quite obviously
not up to the pressure, which mounted and weighed heavily on
her --hesitating and afraid where determination and willingness to take
risks would have been in place-- stumbled into the traps which get her again
and again.

After 73 minutes, already it had collapsed, the bold dream of advancing to
the round of the last eight and equaling Bettina Bunge, who had even reached
the semifinals two years ago.

Steffi Graf also lost in the same round. But in contrast to Claudia Kohde,
the hopeful talent from Brühl near Mannheim went out with flags flying high.
After the sad loss against England's last hope, Jo Durie, she at first
couldn't hold back her tears. In her disappointment over the missed chance
to march into the quarterfinals as the youngest player ever in the
now-100-year history of the women's tournament, she even had almost
forgotten the obligatory curtsy toward the Royal Box, from which the Duke
and Duchess of Kent had watched her match with complete admiration. The
winner, eight years her elder and better acquainted with the customs in the
Mecca of the white-clothed sport, kindly drew her attention to the omission.

The duel on the grass was often enough the other way around [from the
outcome]. For the small, almost fragile-looking little doll repeatedly
showed the 10th seeded favorite how world class tennis is played. At the
end, Jo Durie could be overjoyed at having still pulled the win out of the
fire after being down 1-3 in the third set. "It was nerve wracking," she
admitted afterward. "Steffi was quite calm, while I became inwardly more
flustered and impatient. She may just be 15-years-old, but she has a much
older head on her young shoulders!" The relief of still "having survived"
this one time more was unmistakable.

Even in the next encounter, it could be she who tastes defeat, since the
experts at Wimbledon were in agreement that Steffi Graf still has a lot to
offer the tennis world. Of that, the bright/quick tennis flea herself is
obviously firmly convinced, as well. "I want to be champion here one day,"
said Steffi Graf, very pertly, and made no secret of it that she wants to
achieve this goal in two or three years. Her tears, of which she was no way
ashamed, were long since dried and her eyes looked straight ahead.

The headlines of the sports pages of London's daily press a day later
belonged to Jo Durie, of course, but absolute admiration was aimed at the
"little magician" from Germany -- as she was called in one of the headlines.
During her first appearance on the venerable Center Court, she didn't show a
trace of nervousness, and even set to work courageously. "Her game looks at
least five years older than she actually is," so it went in one of the
street papers. And an especially vivid description read thus: "This little
tiger on gazelle's feet brightly illuminated a grand theater!"


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