"Can we just play tennis, OK?" Steffi Graf remains cool during controversial French Open final against Martina Hingis

Thursday, 23 May 2024 at 01:30
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Retired tennis great Steffi Graf was a force of nature during her time on the WTA Tour, and the German was involved in several iconic battles against other tennis superstars. However, one of her most memorable matches came when she faced Swiss sensation Martina Hingis in the 1999 French Open final.
Hingis had won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles at that point in her career. However, the Roland Garros title still eluded her. Conversely, five-time French Open champion Graf was over ten years Hingis' senior and hadn’t won a major title in three years, mostly due to injuries.
After a stunning run to the final, Graf squared off against the then-No.1 Hingis in a highly-anticipated match. The Swiss star won the first set 6-4 and had established a 2-0 lead in the second set. However, the wheels fell off after Hingis disputed an umpire call, walking over to Graf's side of the net to point out the mark. This led to Hingis being booed by the Parisian crowd, with her being given a point penalty and eventually losing the game. Hingis would serve for the match but was unable to close it out, allowing Graf to claim it 7-5 and force a decider.
Hingis further annoyed fans when she took a lengthy bathroom break after the opening game of the third set. She returned wearing a different outfit and bandanna but was still on the receiving end of catcalling and booing from the crowd. Furthermore, she received a warning for breaking a racquet and had a verbal exchange with the umpire.
"Are we playing tennis or just talking a little bit?” an exasperated Graf said.
When Hingis complained about the crowd noise to the umpire, Graf said “Can we just play tennis, OK”.
The unforgiving Paris crowd took their toll on Hingis while simultaneously strengthening Graf. The German took the third set 6-2 to claim her 22nd Grand Slam singles title while a distraught Hingis ran off the court in tears.
Hingis would reach four more Grand Slam finals but never won another major singles title. Meanwhile, Graf retired a year later.

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