Gabriela Sabatini

Gabriela Beatriz Sabatini (Spanish pronunciation: [gaˈβɾjela saβaˈtini]; born 16 May 1970) is an Argentine former professional tennis player. She was one of the leading players from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, amassing 41 titles and achieving a career-high ranking of 3 in both singles and doubles. In singles, Sabatini won the 1990 US Open, the WTA Finals in 1988 and 1994, and was runner-up at Wimbledon 1991, the 1988 US Open and the silver medalist at the 1988 Olympics. In doubles, she won Wimbledon in 1988 with Steffi Graf, and reached three French Open finals. Among Open era players who did not reach world No. 1 themselves, Sabatini retains the record for accumulating the most wins over reigning world No. 1 ranked players.[1] In 2006, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and in 2018 Tennis Magazine ranked her as the 20th-greatest player of the preceding 50 years.

Gabriela Sabatini
Gabriela Sabatini US Embassy in Argentina cropped.jpg
Sabatini at the US Embassy
in Buenos Aires, January 2012
Full nameGabriela Beatriz Sabatini
Country (sports) Argentina
ResidenceBuenos Aires, Argentina
Boca Raton, Florida, U.S.
Born (1970-05-16) 16 May 1970 (age 52)
Buenos Aires
Height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Turned proJanuary 1985
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money$8,785,850
Int. Tennis HoF2006 (member page)
Career record632–189 (77.0%)
Career titles27
Highest rankingNo. 3 (27 February 1989)
Grand Slam singles results
Australian OpenSF (1989, 1992, 1993, 1994)
French OpenSF (1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992)
WimbledonF (1991)
US OpenW (1990)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsW (1988, 1994)
Career record252–96
Career titles14
Highest rankingNo. 3 (6 November 1988)
Grand Slam doubles results
Australian OpenSF (1989)
French OpenF (1986, 1987, 1989)
WimbledonW (1988)
US OpenSF (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1994, 1996)
Medal record

Childhood and junior careerEdit

Sabatini was born 16 May 1970 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Osvaldo and Beatriz Garofalo Sabatini. Her father was an executive in General Motors.[2] Her elder brother, Osvaldo, is an actor and producer.[3]

Sabatini started playing tennis at the age of six, and won her first tournament at eight. In 1983, age 13, she became the youngest player ever to win the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. She won the girls' singles at the 1984 French Open and the US Open girls' doubles with fellow Argentinian Mercedes Paz. Sabatini reached world No. 1 in the junior rankings that year and was named 1984 Junior World Champion by the International Tennis Federation.

Sabatini stated that she deliberately lost matches in her youth to avoid having to do on-court interviews and therefore avoid media attention. She said that her shyness had been a major problem, and she thought she had to speak on-court after playing in the final of a tournament; so, she would lose in the semifinals.[4][5][6]


Early yearsEdit

In 1985, aged 15 years and three weeks, Sabatini became one of the youngest-ever players to reach the semifinals of the French Open, where she lost to Chris Evert. She won her first WTA Tour singles title later that year in Tokyo. She first entered the world's top ten (at #10) in September 1985,[7] and ended the year ranked number 12. She received the WTA Newcomer of the Year award.

Sabatini reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1986, losing to Martina Navratilova, before winning her second WTA title in Buenos Aires, She re-entered the world's top ten in September 1986 and would remain there for 508 consecutive weeks until May 1996.

Sabatini reached the semifinals of the 1987 French Open, and reached the final of the 1987 WTA Tour Championships, losing to Steffi Graf both times. She also won three WTA titles, including defeating world No. 4, Pam Shriver in Brighton.

1988: US Open and Olympics finals; WTA Finals championEdit

In February 1988, Sabatini entered the top five in rankings, and would remain there uninterrupted until August 1993.[8] Having reached her third French Open semifinal, she then reached her first Grand Slam singles final at the US Open, where she lost to Graf in three sets. Sabatini represented Argentina in the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul and was selected to carry her country's flag in the opening ceremony. She went on to win the silver medal in the women's singles competition, losing to Graf in the final. Sabatini teamed-up with Graf to win the women's doubles title at Wimbledon that year. At the end of 1988, Sabatini won her first WTA Tour Championships, without dropping a set.


In 1989, Sabatini reached seven tournament finals and won four titles, including the Miami Open (defeating Evert in the final). In defeating world No. 2, Martina Navratilova, and No. 1, Steffi Graf, to obtain the Amelia Island title, she became only the fifth player in Open Era history to defeat both the No. 1 and 2 ranked players at the same tournament.[9] She also reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and US Open Grand Slam tournaments.

1990: US Open championEdit

Sabatini raising the trophy won at the 1990 US Open after her victory over Steffi Graf

At the Australian Open, Sabatini sprained her ankle during a third-round match while one set up, and had to be taken off Centre Court in a wheelchair. 80 minutes later, in the following match, Mark Woodforde also sprained his ankle on the same court and was forced to retire by wheelchair too.[10] Multiple players had complained of the dangers of playing on the Rebound Ace hard court surface used at the tournament, which they claimed became very sticky – and therefore potentially dangerous – in very hot conditions.[11] Sabatini was sidelined for six weeks by the injury, returning to the tour in mid-March and winning her first tournament back – the Virginia Slims of Florida – without the loss of a set.

She reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon, losing to eventual champion Martina Navratilova, in straight sets.

At the US Open, Sabatini progressed to her second Grand Slam final where she defeated world No. 1 Graf in straight sets 6–2, 7–6 to win the title, having saved two set points against her while 5-6 down in the second set. She credited her win with being more aggressive and coming to the net whenever she could to attack Graf's shorter balls. Sabatini also beat Graf in the semifinals of the WTA Championships in Madison Square Garden later that year, losing in the final to Monica Seles, 6–4, 5–7, 3–6, 6–4, 6–2. It was the first five-set match to be played on the women's tour since 1901.[12]

1991: Wimbledon finalEdit

Sabatini won five tournaments in the first half of the year. She beat three top five players (Graf, Navratilova and Fernandez) on her way to winning the title in Tokyo, and beat Graf on three further occasions in Boca Raton, Key Biscayne and Amelia Island. In the Italian Open final, Sabatini defeated world no. 1 Seles for the loss of just five games. She reached the semifinals at Roland Garros (saving two match points in defeating Jana Novotna in the quarter finals) and then her third Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon, where she lost to Graf 4–6, 6–3, 6–8 (having served for the match twice). Sabatini came close to attaining the world No. 1 ranking in 1991, but was narrowly denied by Graf and then Monica Seles. All three players' rankings were within a few points of each other for much of the year. Her year was capped by receiving the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award.

Sabatini practicing in the early 1990s


Sabatini reached eight finals and won five titles, including her fourth Italian Open (where she beat world No. 1 Seles in the final again), Amelia Island (defeating Graf in the final) and Hilton Head. She also reached the semifinal stage at three of the four grand slams:- the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon; and a quarterfinal at the US Open.


At the Australian Open, Sabatini reached the semifinals, saving three match points in the quarterfinals against Mary Pierce to defeat her 4–6, 7–6, 6–0, before losing to eventual champion, Seles. She reached consecutive finals at the Italian Open and German Open during the clay-court season. At the French Open in June, Sabatini lost to Mary Jo Fernandez in the quarterfinals 8–10 in the final set, in what was – at the time – the third longest match in Open Era tennis, having led 5–1 in the second set.[13] Sabatini also reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and at the US Open where she lost to Graf in three sets.

That year in May, following the stabbing attack of Monica Seles in the WTA Hamburg tournament, a vote among the top players was held by the tour organisers to decide whether Seles should be allowed to have her world no. 1 ranking protected while recovering from the knife attack. Of the 17 players voting, all players voted against protecting Seles' ranking, apart from Sabatini (who abstained).[14][15] Despite the vote result, Seles was eventually granted a joint No. 1 ranking (with Graf) upon her return to the tour two years later.[16]

1994: WTA Finals championEdit

In 1994, Sabatini reached the finals of Amelia Island and Strasbourg, and the semifinals of both the Australian Open and US Open. Across 15 consecutive Grand Slam events from Wimbledon 1990 to Australian Open 1994, she did not lose before the quarterfinal stage; this was the third longest streak of consecutive quarterfinal Grand Slam appearances in women's tennis ever (behind Graf and Navratilova tied on 19). In November, Sabatini defeated Lindsay Davenport in the final of the WTA Championships in New York to win her second title at that tournament. In the first round, she beat world No. 6, Martina Navratilova, in what was Navratilova's last match before retirement.


Sabatini won the title at the Sydney International, defeating Davenport in the final in straight sets. As well as the reaching a record seventh final in the Amelia Island Championships and her third final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, she also reached the quarterfinals of both the French Open and Wimbledon, and the semifinals of the US Open (where she lost to eventual champion Graf 4–6, 6–7). Their semifinal was the 40th and final match between the pair, in which Graf led 29–11. Sabatini's 11 wins meant she had defeated Graf more times than any other player ever managed to defeat her.

1996: injury and retirementEdit

Sabatini missed several months of the season due to a pulled stomach muscle injury. In New York in October, she announced her retirement from professional tennis.[17][18] At the end of the year, she received the WTA Diamond Aces Award (given to the player considered to have done the most to promote tennis both on and off the court).

From 1986 until her five-month injury absence in 1996, Sabatini spent 508 consecutive weeks within the world's top 10. This remains the fourth longest top-10 streak among any player in WTA-tour history.[19] She spent 312 of those weeks in the world's top five, and finished six consecutive seasons with a top-5 ranking.[8] Sabatini reached the semifinal stage or better in Grand Slam championships on 18 occasions in singles and 14 times in doubles, and reached at least one Grand Slam singles semifinal for 11 consecutive years. She defeated the reigning world No. 1 on ten occasions (Graf seven times, Seles twice and Navratilova once) during her career.[20]

Sabatini won the Diamond Konex Award in 2000 as the most distinguished "Sportsperson of the Decade" in Argentina, and in July 2006 she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Personal lifeEdit

Sabatini with her perfume in 2006

In the late 1980s, Sabatini launched a line of fragrances after partnering with the German perfume company Mülhens. Her signature scent debuted in 1989. Since retiring, she has continued to promote her lines of perfumes.

In 1992, Sabatini became the first ever tennis player to have a rose named after her, an orange-red bloom.[21][22]

Great American Doll Company created a doll in Sabatini's likeness in 1994, dressed in tennis attire.[23] That same year, Sabatini published a motivational book entitled My Story.

In 2003, she obtained Italian citizenship "jus sanguinis" through her paternal great-grandfather – David Sabatini – who was born in Potenza Picena in Central Italy, and immigrated to Argentina at the end of the 19th century with his wife Rosa Vivani.[24]

A statue of Sabatini was unveiled in central Buenos Aires by Mauricio Macri in 2014. Within weeks of its unveiling, however, the bronze-coloured racket was stolen from the statue's grip.[25][26] The statue is placed alongside memorials to other Argentinian sports stars including Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Guillermo Vilas and Roberto de Vicenzo.

Sabatini was awarded the International Club's prestigious Jean Borotra Sportsmanship Award in 2017 in recognition of both the sportsmanship she demonstrated throughout her career, and for her charitable projects post-retirement. She received the award from Rod Laver at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships.[27]

In 2019, the ITF presented Sabatini with its highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, for her achievements both during her tennis career and post-retirement charity work, specifically her work involving UNICEF, UNESCO, the Special Olympics, and as an 'Athlete Role Model' at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.[28]

Through her brother Osvaldo, Sabatini's sister-in-law is Venezuelan actress Catherine Fulop and her niece is Argentinian singer and actress Oriana Sabatini. Sabatini resides in Buenos Aires, Boca Raton (Florida) and Pfäffikon in Switzerland.[29]

Grand Slam performance timelinesEdit

(W) winner; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (DNQ) did not qualify; (A) absent; (NH) not held; (SR) strike rate (events won / competed); (W–L) win–loss record.


Tournament 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 SR W–L
Australian Open A A NH A A SF 3R QF SF SF SF 1R 4R 0 / 8 29–8
French Open A SF 4R SF SF 4R 4R SF SF QF 1R QF A 0 / 11 42–11
Wimbledon A 3R SF QF 4R 2R SF F SF QF 4R QF A 0 / 11 42–11
US Open 3R 1R 4R QF F SF W QF QF QF SF SF 3R 1 / 13 51–12
Win–loss 2–1 7–3 11–3 13–3 14–3 14–4 17–3 19–4 19–4 17–4 13–4 13–4 5–2 1 / 43 164–42
Year-end ranking 74 12 9 6 4 3 5 3 3 5 7 7 56


Tournament 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 Career SR
Australian Open A A NH A A SF 2R 3R A A A 2R QF 0 / 5
French Open A 1R F F SF F A SF A A 3R 3R A 0 / 8
Wimbledon A 2R A 3R W QF QF A A A 1R SF A 1 / 7
US Open A 1R SF SF SF SF 3R A A A SF 2R SF 0 / 9
Grand Slam SR 0 / 0 0 / 3 0 / 2 0 / 3 1 / 3 0 / 4 0 / 3 0 / 2 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 3 0 / 4 0 / 2 1 / 29
Year-end ranking 128 54 9 5 3 19 29 55 NR NR 14 13 NR

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "2020 WTA All Time Records" (PDF). Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  2. ^ Gabriela Sabatini Retrieved 3 September 2016
  3. ^ "Osvaldo Sabatini". IMDb. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Gabriela Sabatini deliberately lost tennis matches to avoid reporters!". sports.ndtv. 19 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Sabatini lost matches on purpose to avoid reporters". sify. 19 October 2013. Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Sabatini lost matches to avoid reporters". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  7. ^ "WTA Gabriela Sabatini Bio: Ranking History". WTA Tour: Gabriela Sabatini. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Gabriela Sabatini Rankings History". Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  9. ^ "2020 WTA All Time Records" (PDF). Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  10. ^ Dewhurst, Brian (24 January 1990). "Sabatini, Woodforde leave in weelchairs". UPI. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  11. ^ Bick, Nina (24 January 1990). "Injuries Bring a Controversy Over Surface at the Open". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  12. ^ "10 Great Moments: Monica Seles". WTA Website. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  13. ^ Roberts, John (2 June 1993). "Tennis: Fighting Fernandez conjures up an epic: American makes astonishing comeback to reach French Open semi-finals". The Independent. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Gaby Sabatini."Ahora disfruto de todo lo que no hice cuando jugaba"". La Nación.
  15. ^ Hall of Famer Gabriela Sabatini motivated for upcoming Garden showdown vs. Monica Seles Retrieved 3 September 2016
  16. ^ "Comeback: Back stabbers". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC: 78. 31 July 1995. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Sabatini, 26, to Retire After Wonderful Career". Los Angeles Times. 23 October 1996.
  18. ^ Robin Finn (23 October 1996). "Sabatini to announce end to her career tomorrow". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Simona Halep Joins Exclusive Top 10 List in This WTA Stat". Tennis World USA. 22 February 2020. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  20. ^ "2020 WTA All Time Records" (PDF). Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  21. ^ O'Connor, Mary (23 October 1996). "Sabatini, 26, to Retire After Wonderful Career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  22. ^ "Wimbledon in Bloom: Roses". Wimbledon. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  23. ^ New York Media, LLC (9 November 1992). "Why Sabatini Is Every Inch a Doll". New York Magazine. Vol. 25, no. 44. p. 18. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  24. ^ Onofri, Paolo (3 December 2011). "Gabriela Sabatini, ex campionessa internazionale di tennis, cittadina onoraria di Potenza Picena ….. e non-solo" (in Italian). I Santesi. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  25. ^ "Gabriela Sabatini Honoured with her Own Statue in Buenos Aires". Tennis World USA. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Racquet stolen from Gabriela Sabatini statue". BBC Website. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  27. ^ O'Connor, Mary (13 August 2015). "IC Jean Borotra CQS Sportsmanship Award". IC Tennis. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  28. ^ "Sabatini to Receive Philippe Chatrier Award". WTA Website. 7 April 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  29. ^ Ex-Tennisstar Gabriela Sabatini wohnt jetzt am Zürichsee-Ufer. Limmattaler Zeitung, 2015-02-09

External linksEdit

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