Gabriela Sabatini is an Argentine former professional tennis player who was one of the leading women players of her generation. Winner of the women's singles title at the US Open in 1990, she was also a very skilled doubles player who won the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988, partnering Germany's Steffi Graf. Born in Buenos Aires, she grew up watching her father and brother play tennis and became enamored with the game. She was only six when she began practicing the sport by herself, hitting the ball against the wall. Her father sensed that she possessed a natural talent for the game and arranged for her to receive coaching. She displayed extraordinary potential even as a young girl and was ranked No.1 in the 12-and-under division in her country by the time she was ten. She continued to hold the top position over the next few years and decided to pursue tennis professionally while she was in her mid-teens. She came into the international spotlight in 1984 after winning seven of the eight junior tournaments she entered. Her career continued to thrive and she had won a total of 27 singles titles and including one US Open by the time she retired. Following her retirement she focused on her perfume business and humanitarian activities.
Childhood & Early Life
Gabriela Beatriz Sabatini was born on 16 May 1970, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Osvaldo and Beatriz Garofalo Sabatini. She has an elder brother.
She grew up watching her father and brother play tennis and was attracted towards the sport. As a six year old she began practicing by herself by hitting the ball against the wall. Her father noticed her passion and had her enrolled for professional coaching.
She proved to be a naturally skilled player and by the age of ten was ranked No. 1 in her country in the 12-and-under division. With age she continued to improve and consistently held on to her No. 1 ranking as she moved up the age groups. At 13, she became the youngest player to win the Orange Bowl in Florida.
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She gained international prominence in 1984 when she won seven of the eight junior tournaments she entered, including the French Open girls' singles, and was ranked the World No. 1 junior player that year.
In 1985, she reached the semifinals at the French Open, where she lost to Chris Evert. Aged 15 years and three weeks, Sabatini became one of the youngest-ever players to reach the semifinals of the tournament.
She reached her first Grand Slam singles final at the US Open in 1988 where she faced Steffi Graf who was in great form that year having already won the three previous Grand Slam singles events. Sabatini lost to Graf.
Sabatini carried Argentina’s flag in the opening ceremony at the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul and went on to win the silver medal in the women's singles competition. The same year she teamed up with Steffi Graf to win the women's doubles title at Wimbledon. She also won 1988's year-end WTA Tour Championships.
Her career underwent a temporary slump in 1989 when she failed to win any major titles. After losing the 1990 French Open, she hired Carlos Kimayr, a top-ranked Brazilian player, as her coach. Under his guidance she bounced back with better physical endurance and mental strength.
In 1990, she again faced Graf—by now one of her constant professional rivals—in the final of the US Open where Graf was the favorite. Sabatini beat Graf in two sets and won her first Grand Slam title. Sabatini proceeded to beat her in a semifinal of the WTA Tour Championships as well. However, she lost the final of the WTA Tour Championships to Monica Seles.
She began the year 1991 on a strong note and won five tournaments in the first half of the year. With her consistent form and achievements, she came close to attaining the World No. 1 ranking but narrowly lost out to Graf and then to Monica Seles. Her ranking remained close to those of Graf and Seles for much of the year.
She won five tournaments in 1992 but did not win any Grand Slam title. In fact, she did not even reach a Grand Slam Final. The year saw intense on-court rivalry between Sabatini and Graf, with Graf beating Sabatini easily at the Wimbledon semifinal.
She failed to win any tournament in 1993. At the US Open she faced Graf in the quarterfinals and despite giving her best, lost the match to her. Sabatini’s winless streak continued for 29 long months and she finally broke the streak with a win in the final of the 1994 WTA Tour Championships defeating Lindsay Davenport.
She continued to lose matches throughout 1995 leading the tennis fraternity to speculate that she was suffering a burnout. She played her last professional singles match in October 1996 and lost to Jennifer Capriati. She retired from the professional tour in 1996, having won 27 singles titles and 14 doubles titles.
Following her retirement, she focused on her perfume business which she had launched in the 1980s. Her business interests include a line of fragrances introduced in collaboration with the German perfume company Muelhens.
Awards & Achievements
In 2001, she won the Diamond Konex Award as the most relevant Sportsman of the decade in Argentina.
Sabatini was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006. The same year, she also won the IOC Women and Sport Trophy.
Personal Life & Legacy
Gabriela Sabatini is a shy and introverted person who keeps her personal life guarded. She is very close to her family, especially her nieces. She is not married.
She has been actively involved in campaigns for UNICEF, UNESCO and the Special Olympics, and has worked with organizations to help children and the poor.
Gabriela Sabatini has an estimated net worth of $8 million.