The Striking Prediction of Pohmann the Expert

"Die Welt" on August 16, 1999.

"Die Welt's" Discovery of Steffi Graf 15 Years Ago
The Striking Prediction of Pohmann the Expert
By Frank Quednau

BERLIN -- On May 19, 1984, fifteen years and three months ago, there
was something written in "Die Welt" that outraged Pförtner, a guardian
of journalistic style at our Bonn editing house and gave rise to
reminders of the fundamentals by the editor-in-chief. One went: "How
could they hype up a child so much?" The chief editor warned of: "hasty
superlatives, with which we make ourselves look like fools to our

The piece of reporting that caused claims of "exaggerated hype"
(Pförtner) and "risky evaluations" (the editor-in-chief) was found in a
tennis story. A fourteen-year-old girl had beaten the top seed,
American Bonnie Gadusek, 6-0, 6-4 at the German international
Championships. "Welt" correspondent Hans-Jürgen Pohmann, then a tennis
association coach in Berlin, now the head of editing for televised
sports of Senders Freies Berlin (SFB), was reporting there. Pohmann
said that he absolutely wanted to write something about her from his
own experience since "by chance we were in the same hotel on
Fuerteventura [I guess this is a place] at the end of last year."

The 186 line long article, once more pulled out of the archives, proves
Pförtner and the chief editor to be smug idiots, the farsightedness of
the expert -- and his good luck to be at the right place at the right
time. The first paragraph ended with: "I played with her. I thought I
would run her all over the court for an hour."

Then followed the paragraph that so offended the editors: "Sometime
later, I was trotting along the beach. Then, Steffi ran past me, deep
in concentration. As a club coach in Berlin who works a lot with
youths, I am cautious in making predictions. But here I will venture
one, although I am aware that there is a heap of reservations: In that
moment on the beach, a future world class player ran past me."

"Die Welt" discovered Steffi Graf, 15 years and three months before
today, thanks to one of its correspondents who, as a Davis Cup player,
was familiar with all the big tournaments.

Pohmann's description of the ambitions of the 14-year-old remained
valid right up to Steffi Graf's retirement on Friday last week: "I
observed her on the beach at Fuertaventura. She ran alone and of her
own free will, faster and faster on the deep sand. And suddenly she
(with her 47 kg, 1.67 m, shoe size 41 self) ended her training program
with some shadow-tennis: she went through her sevice motion without
ball or racket, sprinted to an imaginary net, lunged sideways, ran
backwards in order to simulate dealing with her imaginary opponent's
lob. All that by her own initiative and with such concentration that
one could not detect any sign of playfulness." And the future was also
shown by his account of a dialogue between Peter Graf and his daughter:

Father: "In two years, you will have a boyfriend and then tennis won't
matter to you."

Daughter: "No, certainly not."

Father: "And at 20 you will be married ..."

Daughter: "No way."

Father: "And then you will want to have children."

Daughter: "I don't want a boyfriend, I don't want to get married, and I
don't want to have kids. I want to become number one in the world."

The outcome of that will is well-known: Steffi Graf was number one for
377 weeks. A record for eternity? Be cautious with superlatives? Most


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