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Steffi's father Peter Graf dies after cancer battle

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Steffi's father Peter Graf dies after cancer battle
Steffi and Peter Graf in 1989 when she won the US Open. Photo: DPA
10:13 CET+01:00
Steffi Graf's father, who championed her and arguably turned around German tennis in the 1980s, has died, it was announced on Sunday. The 75-year-old had cancer and died at home in Mannheim.

Peter Graf was the Svengali of his daughter, closely managing her career and accompanying her to pretty much all of her matches. He made a fortune and was widely billed as the most successful man in German tennis - but fell from grace when he was convicted and jailed for tax evasion.

Graf was a salesman, involved in insurance and car sales. He married Heidi Schalk in 1968, and the couple had Steffi a year later - and a son Michael in 1971.

He spotted Steffi's talent for tennis by the time she was three, and encouraged her to play. When aged eight she won her first important tournament in 1977, he gave up his work to become her teacher - and rented a tennis hall where he worked as a tennis teacher.

He became Steffi's manager and as she climbed the tennis rankings, he dictated the terms and conditions - and the all-important fees - for her participation in tournaments.

"The successes were increasingly normal. Victories were simply ticked off as the next tournament was always waiting," he was quoted as saying.

He trusted no-one with Steffi's career, and so was unwilling to delegate any of the work running what had become a tennis juggernaut.

She became world number one in August 1987 and remained at the top for 186 weeks - until April 1991. This earned her a fortune, which he administered. And although an affair with a model, and his alleged payment of a blackmail claim over a child became public in the early 1990s, it was money that became his biggest problem.

In 1997 he was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison for tax evasion of more than 15 million Marks - nearly €7.7 million. He served just 25 months.

By 1999 he and his wife divorced and he married again, slipping from public view.

A statement from Steffi and Michael Graf on her website said that in their mourning they were looking back on "many beautiful moments we shared. We thank our father for a very happy childhood and a great sense of family."

READ MORE: Steffi Graf awarded top German sports honour

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