Happy 50th birthday, Steffi Graf. You were the first: the first Sportstar poster on my wall; the first tennis player I watched mouth agape; the first sportsperson for whom I argued with my best friend, a Gabriela Sabatini fan.
Eventully, I had 11 of your posters on the wall (Thank you, Sportstar for those 'Relive the sensation' years). I had five of Sabatini's too, but it's a no-brainer where my loyalties were.
We lived in a rented house and the landlord did not approve of what we were doing to his wall, but my father gave in to my pre-teen obsession. He allowed me to take the hammer and nails to the wall. Those were simpler times and the landlord relented, at a small price.
I devoured every piece of news about you. There was no internet and none of this instant garam - facepoop-tweetiyapa to jangle the nerves. There were no filters, except the ones you could imagine. No wonder, I retain much of what I saw, read and savoured.
Life was a German fairytale and you were the unrelenting, monster-diva. The forehands you blazed, the backhands you sliced, the way you took the fight to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, your magnetic athleticism, your wins, your juggernaut made for a very potent concoction.
Your Golden Slam in 1988, punctuated by the double bagel served to Natasha Zvereva at the French Open, stands the test of time.
When Monica Seles started doing to you what Rafael Nadal would do to Roger Federer years later, I hated it. I lived in denial. Nothing could break the spell. It was a clash of titans and Gunter Parche stabbing Seles in your name was a vile act that interrupted the epic rivalry. I haven't forgotten his name. His name always makes me wonder what could have been.
Back to your opponents. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was troublesome too, but I was not too worried about her.
Moments involving you have created their own shelf space in the brain's most treasured memory section.
When you and Andre Agassi chose each other, and his book gave me an insight into your competitive brains, I was dazzled yet again.
You have been a magnificent obsession, and the impact has been telling. I dabble in tennis with my son and dazzle him with blistering forehands and a backhand modelled on your game. He wins, but I play to the (non-existent) gallery and gloat when a shot blitzes past him.
Today, as I write this, I realise it isn't too much of a stretch to admit that falling in love with tennis through you has landed me where I am now. I work for Sportstar , India's most-loved sports magazine, that introduced me to you. Happy birthday again, my unrelenting, monster-diva.
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