After her match against Gabriela, pictured, Steffi was honoured by having Berlin's centre court named after her
Photo: AFP
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Steffi's young son with fellow tennis champ Andre Agassi, Jaden Gil, was along to witness the historic weekend events
Photo: AFP


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Mother of two and former tennis champion Steffi Graf made a historic return to Berlin at the weekend, taking her young son to a charity tournament in which she played an exhibition match after five years in retirement.

The German capital is where Steffi first created a major stir as a 16-year-old by beating Martina Navratilova to win the German Open in 1986.

On this occasion, the wife of fellow champ Andre Agassi was tempted to pick up her racquet again to play against Argentina's Gabriela Sabatini in a televised match whose proceeds went to children who are victims of war and persecution.

"That's really close to my heart," said the winner of 22 Grand Slams, who had not been seen on court since she retired five years ago. "That made up my mind."

After the match, in which she defeated Gabriela 6-1, 7-5, Steffi was honoured by having the centre court for the German Open named after her. "It is fantastic to have a stadium named after me as I am only 35," she said.

She confessed to nerves before the match despite having trained hard for it, saying afterwards, "To be honest, I was surprised how well I played." Her opponent, who won only 11 of their previous 40 encounters, was less surprised: "She's hitting the ball very well," admitted Gabriela. "It was like old times. Nothing's changed."