(last update 16. Jan 2000, look there)

Recently I have read a wish for a biography of Gaby in Rula Azars fine Gabriela Sabatini Forum. Now this is my personal and rather incomplete --- for keeping it short enough --- account of her personal life, intended to present the major milestones of course primarily centered around the tennis, but alongside with other events. I hope you will enjoy it. After reading, you are invited to mail me any additions you would like to see here, look at usually at the bottom of the page.

  • Gabriela was born as daughter from Osvaldo and Beatriz Sabatini, a well situated pair (Osvaldo was a manager) on the 16. May 1970 in Buenos Aires (means "good air", a giant city at the Atlantic coast) in Argentina. She has already an five years older brother with name Osvaldo junior.

  • at the age of six years her father, brother and uncle took her one day to the "River Plate Club" in Buenos Aires (1976). As she wrote once, "that day changed my life forever".

  • from six to eight years she was already fallen in love with the "white sport", practising at any time she could mostly with an own racquet and balls against walls at home and at the club, when not playing really. A club coach with name Daniel Fidalgo began to practise with her subsequently.

  • with eight the rise began: winning local kid tournaments against older girls, she finally got first attention by the local press and schoolmates.

  • with eight also she watched for the first time on TV Argentinas greatest male tennis star: Guillermo Vilas. She recognized the audience shouting his name, but of course being unaware, what will happen with herself in the years to come.

  • up to twelve years old the "game" repeated itself: always the youngest in her age category, she won always against older girls. Then she met Patricio Apey, who took her with friend Mercedes Paz for more professional training to Florida.

  • the crown for youth players she gained as youngest of all times (13 years old) winner at the famous Orange Bowl, also in Florida, playing against girls up to 16 years old.

  • in 1983 with 13 years she did her first European tennis tour, first flying to Paris and then travelling with trains across Europe, together with the two years older Mercedes Paz. Some difficult and important experiences the shy and homesick girl made. When coming home to the airport of Buenos Aires, she got the first time the attention, which has grown since that event: captured by TV and photographers, many people chanting her name and so on. Gaby was at the same time proud and emberrassed. She had simply won many youth tournaments in Europe...

  • her first big screen appearance occured 1984 at the US Open: already won (only 14 years old) the two first rounds and then playing the first time visible on international TV against Helena Sukova.

  • ranked already as number 72 in the (at that time WPTA) world ranking she closed 1984, in the next year she won the Japan Open, her first professional tournament win (of a total of 27, the last in early 1995, exactly 10 years later).

  • in 1986 she was the first time allowed to play in Wimbledon, already being a brilliant player, only lacking the grass court experience and being the youngest player since Charlotte Dod at the begin of the 20th century to reach the semifinals. At that tournament I saw her the first time at TV, deeply impressed by the way the young, pretty girl handled the racquet and the ball.

  • Another personal impression I made in the double finals of Filderstadt, Germany, also in 1986: there Gaby lost with Zina Garrison against the best ladies double of all time, Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. But watching her live impressed me even more, her topspin balls seemed extremely fast to me and caused visible trouble to her famous opponents (by the way, Navratilova won the singles final against Hana Mandlikova). Gaby was ranked around place 10 in the world at that time.

  • in 1987 she made  further improvements: the first French Open semifinals (of a total of five), very near to beat for the first time her rival Stefanie Graf, but losing at the end, the first win against Martina Navratilova, the best player of that time (happened also on European red clay) and winning a total of three tournaments.

  • in 1988 she celebrated her birthday in an unusual way: invited some poor children and cooked and served for them, despite being already a great star...

  • the breakthrough came in 1988, when she reached her first US Open final, again losing against Stefanie Graf. Due to her already high popularity in Argentina and also being the best female sports star participating at the Olymic Games in Seoul for her country, she was elected to an unusual dignity for an 18 year old: carrying the Argentine flag at the opening ceremony (sadly I missed this moment). Also she began to beat every other player in this year, for example several times Stefanie Graf in Florida, and then finally the most important thing happened: the first of two victories in the Madison Square Garden in the Virginia Slims Championships, mostly (popularily) referred to as the "Ladies Masters". At that time she also became my clear favorite in the ladies tennis circus for several reasons and remained it, even after her retirement... (The only male tennis player, who has gained comparable respect from me, is Pete Sampras --- this should tell you something.) She won a total of four tournaments in 1988.

  • another major win was in spring 1989: the so-called "Fifth Major" in Key Biscayne, Florida, the Lipton Championships for men and women with a Grand Slam like 128 draw on a tough hardcourt like the ones at the US Open. Her only win in Filderstadt, also in 1989, I must comment on: she won a Porsche, the famous German sports car, and when her brother crashed it not long after, her only reaction were relief, that her irresponsible driving brother (like far too much other young men) was okay. No word about the total damage of the beloved Porsche...

  • in 1989 she made it also in the real business, besides usual sponsor contracts (Ray Ban sunglasses, Fila, Head, Yamaha at that time and later) she also made a deal with Muelhens (later taken over by Douglas) for a first perfume with her own name. She was directing the composition herself and while the first was "only" done with photos, the consecutive four perfumes were done with TV advertisement, which fascinates predominantly men. These next were 1992 Magnetic, 1994 Cascaya, 1996/1997 Bolero (after her retirement) and 1999 Wild Wind, at least with Magnetic there was also a body lotion created with her name.

  • at the Australian Open a low of career occurred: the only heavy tennis injury Gaby suffered from the --- too --- dangerous surface, sticking with one shoe and over straining strongly a sinew in one of her feet. It was such bad, that Gabys lovely face became hard and she had to be carried away in a wheel chair, unable even to hobble. Since then this sinew is damaged, it can't completely recover, but so far I know (and hope) it's the only sticking damage Gaby took away from tennis. I found it hard to watch; the pain, which Gaby would never show too clear to others was despite her strong behaviour obvious for every person, who knew her well enough (you will probably never see a tear or cry from her because of physical pain, she wants not to seem weak...)

  • 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 love life.

  • 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!

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proposals and questions to:  stefan.urbat@apastron.lb.shuttle.de

(URL:  http://www.lb.shuttle.de/apastron/gabyBio.htm)