Tennis legend Steffi Graf opened up to HELLO! Online about Royal Ascot and her incredible career.
Tennis legend Steffi Graf enjoyed a quintessential day at the races on Tuesday, when she was headed to Royal Ascot to present winners of the King's Stand stake with their first place prizes.
Longines ambassador Stefanie, as she now prefers to be known, was the picture of elegance in a royal blue Winser London dress and delicate black hat by Dawn Guibert as she presented Sole Power jockey Richard Hughes - as well as the horse's owner, trainer and lad - with Conquest watches from the luxury brand's dedicated Ascot collection.
Speaking to HELLO! Online in the royal enclosure, Stefanie, 45, admitted it was the first time she had been able to attend the royal racing event, despite being a fan of equestrian sports as a child growing up in Germany.
Although Stefanie retired from professional tennis in 1999, she still retains the world record for her achievements - winning 22 Grand Slam singles titles throughout her career. That winning streak continued into her charitable commitments, and her foundation Children for Tomorrow is in its 16th year of helping traumatised and displaced children in conflict zones around the world.
Stefanie now lives in Las Vegas with her husband, fellow tennis icon Andre Agassi, and their son Jaden, 12, and daughter Jaz, 10.
Scroll below to see what Stefanie had to say about Royal Ascot
How are you enjoying your first time at Royal Ascot?
“It’s so exciting. From picking out the hat last night, picking out the dress... I’ve been in London during this period before getting ready for Wimbledon, so I’ve seen Royal Ascot on TV and seen pictures of it, and now here I am!”
Are you a fan of equestrian sports?
“You know, as a young girl in Germany, racing was really popular. We actually had a race track maybe seven or eight minutes from home, so we would go there often on weekends and watch the races as a family, do little bets. And now through Longines I’m getting to enjoy bigger races. We went to Kentucky Derby for the last two years and that’s been incredible, and now here we are at Ascot! “I rode a little bit myself, and now I have a ten-year-old girl and she rode for a few years and then started some tournaments. I’ve got to say, we’ve kind of pulled her a little bit away from riding. She fell and the horse went up and down next to her head and we had to watch that, so she still can ride now and then but no more tournaments for a while.
Is your son sporty as well? It must be hard not to be when both your parents are tennis pros…
“[Laughs] They’re very active, very active. They’re keeping us very busy. They’re really into sports. Our older one plays baseball and it’s a lot of fun. He plays more baseball tournaments than we played tennis tournaments when we were young. In America they have a lot of organised sports for baseball, football, the big sports. They’ve got a kind of community; they have a lot of leagues. He did try soccer first. He tried one season but didn’t like the contact of it.”
Is that one of the reasons you and Andre decided to settle in Las Vegas?
“My husband was born and raised in Las Vegas.”
So there’s a strong family connection?
“Exactly. And then very shortly after my mum moved to Las Vegas, and then my brother and his four kids, so we have all the family there. All the cousins are together and growing up together - it’s pretty neat.”
Tell me about your work as a Longines ambassador; they’re very involved in your foundation Children For Tomorrow…
“Oh, my husband [Andre Agassi] was involved with Longines earlier and it was incredible to watch how involved they got with his foundation. It always seemed like we shared a lot of similar values, from quality to giving back to the community, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of raising awareness of our foundations. It’s been very lucky partnership for us.”
You’re wearing a Longines watch today?
“Yes – this is from the collection dedicated to the races, a Conquest Classic. I have one just like this without the gold. It’s my favourite watch.”
Will you be attending Wimbledon this year?
“No, sadly not. We got to Europe three days ago and we’re leaving next week just before Wimbledon starts. Life is pulling us in a lot of different directions now.”
You retired from tennis in 1999 and are still cited as one of the best players ever. Does that bring any added pressure to your life?
“Not at all, I feel very grateful for the possibilities I have now after my career, which tennis gave me. That’s apart from the incredible experiences and memories I’ve made through sport, all the highs and lows. It’s been incredible; meeting my husband, being able to be there for my foundation, having the time to see my kids grow up, working with a few select partners who share similar values. Tennis has basically given me this life, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”