1990 the success first dropped considerably down, she changed the coach
(from Angel Giminez, who paved the way up to the top rankings, especially
improving her physically side, to Carlos Kirmayr) and used the tennis psychologist
Jim Loehr for developing more and more stable mental strengths. Together
with the sensible two men, Loehr and Kirmayr, she managed to get renewed
and improved strengths. After a hard half year she emerged like the legendary
Phoenix at a certain tournament, already the most emotional of all to her:
the US Open. I can vividly remember the diverse, totally different matches
she played, and it were all the seven possible, with all the same outcome.
It was a pleasure to see her adapting perfectly the play to every different
opponent, culminating in a final, which I will never forget. Even the after-midnight
airings, which I watched despite getting very tired at day from them, due
to her enourmous popularity in New York and US TV they were mostly scheduled
in the EST evening, which meant above time in central Europe. One point
was typically, the moment she won the match mentally: an impossible seeming
half volley was done perfectly by Gaby, and even in Grafs "killer face"
it was clearly visible, that the German was near desparation. After a
typically longline passing winner, with which she blasted away for the first time
at a Grand Slam her rival Stefanie Graf, she was finally an US Open champion,
clearly a most emotional moment in her career. Besides she beated Graf
again in the Virginia Slims Championships at the Madison Square Garden,
only losing to a suspicionally physical strong Monica Seles in the final
(with the bilateral method, in my opinion it had to be impossible for the
unscrupulous Seles to keep up for five sets, due to the additional needed
running for the lacking range).
Gabys best years were without any doubt 1991 and 1992. She had reestablished
herself as number 3 in the rankings. In both years she won five tournaments
each, all in the first half of the year, possibly lacking a bit of physical
or mental strength for the second half? However, mid-year she lead in both
years the price money ranking before Graf and Seles, and the chance to
gain finally the number one spot was incredible short away, when two disasters
happened in 1991: the loss of the Wimbledon final to Graf, extremely bad
luck, because Graf managed one crucial point by sheer luck, when she played
a half volley better than she was generally able to, no way playing so
well that day, and even worse later in the year on the hardcourts before
the US Open, when Gaby needed only one further win, but had to retire against
Jennifer Capriati due to a physical problem. That last case was correctly
sensed by Gaby as a total disaster, because she stuck within few points
(so far I can remember, at the closest point Gaby was behind the number
one only three points at a point average of about 240 and still only number
three, extremely close behind the nearly equal Graf and Seles) behind her
ultimate goal: to become the WTA number one. It was only the second time
I witnessed tears on her face; the first was after the nearly totally unimportant
Olympic tournament in 1988, but in both cases I was sad too, because even
at TV I could sense quite clear her enormous disappointment.
1992 she won for a fourth time the Italian Open in Rome, the second most
important clay court tournament after the French Open, and at that time
she was in a poll chosen as the most famous sports woman in Italy! (Alberto
Tomba being the most famous sports man.) Also in Japan, where she also
won several times the Open, she had gained an enormous popularity not only
in tennis (see below). But this was the last great event in sports for
her for more than two years.
the French Open 1993 marked a crucial break in Gabys career: losing with
bad luck against a very lucky (I sometimes blame also the linesmen for
it, because Gaby made it always easy for them, to put decisions against
her by nearly never claiming faults) Mary Joe Fernandez, a match she had
virtually already won and then giving away six matchballs and finally losing
an extremely tight match, she seemed unable to recover from that disaster.
Indeed it took more than two years for regaining a strong play for her.
on a more personally scale (above I already mentioned the several perfumes,
in which she put her "smell love") in 1992 she had matured from a pretty
girl to an outstanding beauty of extraordinary attraction, staying a lovely
human being despite becoming such famous all over the world. For example
I never heard really negative statements about her behaviour and also she
will never say bad things about other people. Together with the brilliant
way she celebrated tennis the celebrations by others were straightforward:
a rose with her name was created, a very expensive doll (only two pieces
of it were made by the Great American Doll Company) and she was elected
as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world by Peoples Magazine.
Already in 1991 she was the first female athlete, who got an advertisement
contract with Pepsi.
these last facts may be at least partially responsible for keeping away
so far a long, firm relationship with any man? Other problems of course
were the tight time schedules during play and the wish after her retirement
1996 to use the freedom without any schedules, eventually created also
by a relation. But the point I make to want of is, that watch any famous,
beautiful, rich, sportive and young woman, and the result will be, that
at least 99 percent of all men are so much intimidated by this appearance,
that they will never make any advance --- put it, simply saying, that way:
"this goddess will never even recognize me, I'm so low compared with her".
Of course this is total nonsense, because for example Gaby is nothing else
than a usual human being, despite all details (see above). But I'm sure,
that this has to do something with it. Besides Gaby doesn't like the public
to discuss her relations; therefore probably a bit more happens than we
hear of. However, I'm not willing to take part in speculations about her
in 1993 nothing remarkable happened, the problems kept alive (see above).
But in 1994 one last time the fire in Argentinas tennis hero reignited
and so she finally won for a second time the Virginia Slims Championships
in New York and the last major performance than was in Sydney 1995, where
she gained her 27th and last tournament victory. Obviously it had become
increasingly difficult for her to motivate herself, doubting, if tennis
can be all and paying the toll for so many years of training, travelling,
lacking time to do, what she would spontaneously had want and so on.
this was the major reason for retiring in 1996 at the age of only 26 years,
but still in good health. The New Yorkers celebrated her one last time
in the Madison Square Garden, the place she won twice the "Masters" and
the beloved city, which loves her too, in which she gained her only Grand
Slam singles victory (with Graf she won once the Wimbledon doubles).
surely she would have deserved more success, but at some key moments she
was lacking the luck, which is also needed, a fact, which is usually denied
by the players which had this luck, but holds nonetheless true. Without
any doubt the pure numbers don't reflect Gabys importance and impact on
modern womens tennis.
especially in Argentina she will be remembered as one of the greatest persons
in the history of the country and especially only comparable to Evita Peron
in popularity and fame, so far women of this country are concerned.
a human being of Gabriela Sabatinis size will never totally disappear from
the public after finishing the main career. But Gaby is a human, who wants
not to be permanently at the center of attention, and so there was not
very much publicity around her after 1996. Besides some advertisement appearances
(perfumes, line bedwear etc.) and some minor guest roles and talk show
appearances in TV there is not much to report.
she is now predominantly living in Florida, Miami, where the climate strongly
resembles to the also at the Atlantic coast placed Buenos Aires. This may
be a slight escape besides her love for Florida, because she is such famous
in her own country, that the traffic collapses if she appears on a street
in Buenos Aires... And she keeps working out every day, because she feels,
that she needs it, to feel well. As a "byproduct" her body keeps in good shape, despite Gaby lost several kilograms of now superfluous muscles since retiring.
but it seems possible, that she wants to start a singing career. Once she
already did so together with a famous singer in TV some years ago, and
she plans to publish a CD of her own. We have to wait, if she will gain
much success, but one is for sure: if you have managed to read until this
point, you are likely as I, never to forget the great moments at the greatest
tennis courts of the world, where a young woman from Argentina showed outstanding
intelligence, emotions, tactical knowledge and last but not least a touch
with racquet and ball, which can never be learned even by an average number
one player in the world!