Sabatini, 26, to Retire After Wonderful Career
Gabriela Sabatini, who parlayed her glamorous profile and classic strokes into one of the most lucrative careers in tennis history, will announce her retirement Thursday in the city of her two greatest triumphs.
Winless for nearly two years and coming off a straight-sets, first-round loss to Jennifer Capriati in Switzerland, the 26-year-old Argentine will call it quits at a news conference at Madison Square Garden.
The WTA Tour would not confirm the retirement, saying only the news conference was “major” and concerned Sabatini’s “future” in tennis.
A source close to Sabatini said the retirement will take effect immediately, and there are no plans for her to play in selected tournaments or make a farewell tour.
Sabatini won her lone Grand Slam title, the U.S. Open in 1990, in New York when she put together her most aggressive and acrobatic performance to beat Steffi Graf in straight sets in the final.
Four years later in the Garden, Sabatini ended Martina Navratilova’s career with an emotional victory in the first round of the Virginia Slims Championships. Then Sabatini went on to capture her first title after a 42-tournament drought, beating Lindsay Davenport in the final.
For all Sabatini’s success on the court, which earned her $8,785,850 in prize money, she made millions more from a perfume bearing her name, modeling clothes in fashion magazines, and endorsements that far exceeded those of more accomplished players like Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles.
Sabatini even had the honor of having a fiery orange-red rose named after her in 1992, putting her in the company of such celebrities as Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Queen Elizabeth.
The mystery of Sabatini’s career is why she didn’t win more major titles.
“She definitely could have won more Grand Slams, for sure,” Seles said Tuesday after hearing of Sabatini’s decision to retire. “I don’t know why she didn’t; she had so much talent. Some of the volleys she could hit were unbelievable. It was just pure talent and great touch.”
Sabatini could attack at the net, as she did against Graf in the 1990 U.S. Open, but relied instead almost exclusively on her topspin strokes from the baseline to wear down opponents.
Sabatini sat out three months this year because of a pulled stomach muscle and was unable to play in the French Open and Wimbledon. She lost in the third round of the U.S. Open.
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Sabatini’s Career at a Glance
CAREER SINGLES TITLES (27)
1994--Virginia Slims Championships
1992--Sydney, Pan Pacific, Hilton Head, Amelia Island, Italian Open
1991--Pan Pacific, Boca Raton, Hilton Head, Amelia Island, Italian Open
1990--U.S. Open, Boca Raton
1989--Lipton, Amelia Island, Italian Open, Filderstadt (Germany)
1988--Virginia Slims Championships, Boca Raton, Italian Open, Canadian Open
1987--Brighton, Pan Pacific, Argentinian Open
GRAND SLAM FINALS
1988 U.S. Open--Lost to Steffi Graf, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
1990 U.S. Open--Def. Steffi Graf, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).
1991 Wimbledon--Lost to Steffi Graf, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6.
GRAND SLAM DOUBLES TITLE
1988--Wimbledon (with Graf)
GRAND SLAM HISTORY
Year 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 Australian DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP SF 3R QF SF SF SF 1R 3R French DNP SF 4R SF SF 4R 4R SF SF QF 1R QF DNP Wimbledon DNP 3R SF QF 4R 2R SF RU SF QF 4R QF DNP U.S. 3R 1R 4R QF RU SF WON QF QF QF SF SF 3R