He shone with his game and wowed with his aura. Gabriela Sabatini, in more than a decade on the professional tennis circuit, lived unique, unforgettable moments. The Argentine retired young, at the age of 26, putting an end to a career in which she won 27 titles, among which a Grand Slam and two WTA Masters stand out.
What’s more, Gaby suffered some tough defeats. Therefore, it is worth the review of the 10 moments that marked the trajectory of the porteña on the world tour 25 years after her retirement as a professional:
1- The first title in singles
In Tokyo in 1985, Sabatini lifted her first singles cup on the WTA circuit. It was the following year to be crowned junior champion of Roland Garros and lead among the Under 18s with only 14. She was just 15 years old and prevailed at Ariake Forest Park. She was able to string together three very simple victories and only in the semifinal did she give up a set, against the Swiss Lilian Drescher, and then beat the American Linda Gates. That October 20 was forever etched in his heart.
2 – His conquests in Buenos Aires
His second official title was given in his city, Buenos Aires. It had been more than a year since the coronation in Tokyo, since on December 7, 1986 he celebrated before his public, in the Argentine capital. And it was his first drink on brick dust. To make matters worse, her loser in the decisive duel was the Spanish Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, who later became one of her main adversaries. That day, it was a Gaby dance. And the other WTA tournament that he obtained in Latin America was also in Buenos Aires, in 1987.
3- The Olympic medal
In 1988, Sabatini was having a great season and went to Seoul as the third seed. He reached the grand final without problems and had to settle for the silver medal, as he faced his greatest rival, Steffi Graf. Precisely, the German lived her best year there and achieved something that could never be repeated in tennis, winning the four Grand Slam, that is, the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open, plus the Olympic gold, considered the “Golden Slam”. That is why the Seoul Olympics were unforgettable for Gaby, the flag bearer of Argentina at the opening ceremony.
4- Twice Master
On November 20 he has a special memory for Gaby. Actually, in duplicate. It is that she won the WTA End-of-Year Masters twice, fast surface at Madison Square Garden in New York, and both were that day. In 1988 she did it without giving up a single set in the contest and beat the local Pam Shriver in three sets, but when the final to the best of five sets was still being played. And in 1994 she beat another host, Lindsay Davenport, in the same regulatory situation as the first one, but with the added bonus that in her debut she defeated the Czech-American Martina Navratilova, who thus played her last official singles match. .
5 – He made history in New York
The only female Grand Slam title in singles in the history of Argentine tennis is owned by Sabatini. The 20-year-old won her only individual Major in the majors on September 8, 1990, at the US Open. He had barely left a set on the way to the final duel. And he was touched by none other than his archrival, Graf, who was No. 1 in the ranking. The Argentine shone with her varied game and won 6-2 and 7-6 (7-4). Undoubtedly, it was and will continue to be a milestone in the sport of his country and Latin America. At that time, the main stadium, in which he touched the sky with his hands, was the Louis Armstrong. Without a doubt, a luxury for the chosen ones.
6- The romance with Rome and Tokyo
The romance of the Romans with Gaby was very special. For several years, the Italian Open was “Gabylandia”. Sabatini celebrated the title four times at the Foro Italico, and reached another two finals. Her two biggest crowns came in 1991 and 1992, both beating Monica Seles in the defining clash. Meanwhile, the other city where she was beloved and tied her record-breaking title for titles was Tokyo, with four hits. As in the case of Rome, in 1991 and 1992 he repeated his “victim” in the final, just Navratilova, one of the greatest of all time.
7- Two points away from being No. 1
Although Gaby was on the podium in the world rankings, being No. 3, she was just two points away from taking the big leap to the top of the WTA. That happened on June 24, 1991, in the mythical central court of the All England Club, when he fell in a dramatic final against Graf 8-6 in the third set. The Argentine went 5-4 and 30-30 with her serve and missed a volley, which became historic in her life. Had he taken that point, he would have been with a match point in favor in the second set. He then served with a 6-5 lead, but couldn’t touch Wimbledon glory.
8- The incredible fall to Mary Joe in Paris
It was 1993 and Gaby arrived at Roland Garros with finals in a row on the European clay tour. With ease, he made his way to the quarterfinals and there Fernández was his rival on duty. The Buenos Aires won 6-1 and 5-1 and had five match points, but made mistakes, the American kept fighting and finally suffered her worst defeat, with just enough in the third set. From then on she lost confidence and it was not the same. Although he returned to win other tournaments, that impact on Parisian soil marked a hinge in his sports career.
9- The last great celebration
On January 15, 1995, in Sydney. The talented Argentinian claimed the last of her 27 professional singles titles. It was a straight-sets triumph over Davenport in the definition and a celebration that ended up being the last. The penultimate success had also been achieved on that American, in the aforementioned 1994 Masters. As the months passed, he began to believe that retirement was the way to go. And that moment took shape in the following season, at just 26 years old.
10- The last game and goodbye
In 1996, Sabatini said goodbye to the US Open with an unexpected third-wheel crash, against the Swedish Asa Carlsson, being her last Grand Slam. He gave up going to Tokyo, one of his favorite tournaments, and in Zurich he yielded to the American Jennifer Capriati. That October 15 he played, then, his last official match. A month later she announced her retirement in New York and immediately afterwards, at the WTA Masters, she was recognized by her colleagues at Madison Square Garden, in a special treat, along with her family, and received an unforgettable ovation.