The next morning, while going to practice on a clay court down the street, Graf could have used Schmeling or any other heavy puncher when a deranged, lovesick local man who had bothered her before—last year he reportedly sent poisoned marmalade to the Graf residence—showed up virtually on her doorstep. This time, Graf explained that she had a boyfriend and that she was on her way to play tennis. As she turned to go, the man took out a knife and started slashing his wrists. Steffi recoiled in horror, and Peter rushed to her aid as the man collapsed. The police and an ambulance were called, and the man was taken to a hospital and, later, a mental clinic.
Peter can be criticized for many things in the way he has managed his daughter's career. He has been accused of playing the computer by manipulating her schedule to preserve her ranking, of abusing officials and of coaching her illegally from the stands. But no father can guard his daughter from the perils of the tennis universe too judiciously. If you think the fellow in Bruhl was an unwelcome stranger, you ought to meet a cross section of the promoters, sponsors and agents in the tennis biz. "I used to sell cars for a living," says Peter, "and I thought there were some serious liars in that world. But...."
Despite tennis's internationalism, the fact that the Grafs come from Germany, with all its historical baggage, helps explain their early wariness. They suffered from what the Germans call Verfolgungswahn, a persecution complex. It's no secret that when Steffi suddenly started showing up in tournament finals, whipping up on all of our—and the rest of the world's—fresh young things as if they were harmless gnats, the American-dominated women's tennis establishment wasn't exactly thrilled. "You think they didn't see a [potential problem] coming?" says a high-ranking tour official. "They didn't exactly relish the idea of a foreigner owning the game."
Evidence persists that the Women's International Tennis Association (the WITA didn't add the word International to its name until 1986, about the time Graf began her rise) took measures to use her and her father's naivet� to Steffi's disadvantage, even by outright gypping her in some matches. In one, Graf, who was nursing a sore knee, mistakenly used the word "cramp" to a trainer, who informed her she could not receive aid for a cramp. The rules permit a player to receive aid for an accidental injury, but not a chronic one, for as long as five minutes from the time the trainer arrives. At a tournament in Mahwah, N.J., in 1985, Kathy Rinaldi was losing to Graf when she fainted from heat stroke. Even though fainting doesn't qualify for the five-minute "accidental" allowance, she was allowed a timeout, which the Graf contingent clocked at more than nine minutes. Rinaldi came back to win.
"I hear about that one, and I go immediately to [tour official] Lee Jackson," says Peter. "I tell her this is unbelievable. I tell her I fight her. I make the fight between Europe and America. I tell her she want fight? She got it this time."
Nobody can remember Steffi uttering a single cross phrase against another player—unless one counts her recent comment about Sabatini: "I can't believe that Gaby hasn't picked up more English after living in the States so long." Peter, however, is less forgiving.
When Steffi was 13, she played an exhibition in Filderstadt, West Germany, with Austin, who was a top player at the time. The uninhibited teenager rushed onto the court without waiting for the established American star. The score was 4-all in the first set before Austin ran off eight games to win. What do you think, Tracy? Can the kid play? How good is she? Does she have a chance to be No. 1 someday? The West German press wanted some answers. "There are a hundred like her back in the States," said Austin.
"I never forget this remark," says Peter. (Note to Tracy: Since Daddy still controls Steffi's game plan, if you're serious about this latest comeback...don't be.)
More kindling: In 1985, also in Filderstadt, Pam Shriver stuck out her tongue, waved at Steffi's out balls and generally cut up before a laughing crowd while defeating Graf 6-4, 6-3. Ah, those were the days. Candy from a baby, right, Pam?
Afterward, a furious Steffi said she would never again play in Filderstadt, and she hasn't. In seven matches against Shriver since, Graf has lost only once, at the Virginia Slims championships in New York last November, when she was ill. In six sets at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open, Graf has granted Shriver but 12 games. A nasty Peter-Pam feud continues. Shriver shouted at him to "shut up" during her match with Steffi at Wimbledon in 1985 and, he says, gave a "kiss-off" sign to Kohde-Kilsch's father at another tournament, a gesture that for some reason offended Herr Graf as well.