June 4, 2020 marks the 32nd anniversary of Steffi Graf’s ruthless lesson in the 1998 French Open final with Natasha Zvereva on the receiving end.
Zvereva endured a magical run at Roland Garros that year, but things unraveled in the final when she came up against a Steffi Graf that was in destructive mode.
At just 17 years of age, Zvereva had a dream tournament as she had beaten second seed Martina Navratilova in the fourth round and also accounted for Helena Sukova, the sixth seed, in the quarter-final.
The 18-year-old Graf, on the other hand, had won the Australian Open earlier that year without dropping a set and she reached the French Open final by winning four sets in her six matches 6-0.
So Zvereva was always going to be up against it, but nobody quite expected it to be so lopsided as the German won 6-0, 6-0 in 34 minutes, but it was just 32 minutes of playing time due to the rain.
In fact, the rain break lasted longer than the time played as players were off for one hour with the first period of play lasting nine minutes before they returned for 23 minutes after the delay.
The Soviet player buckled under the pressure as she won only 13 games over the two sets.
Here is the full match.
“I’m very sorry it was so fast,” Graf told the Roland Garros crowd during the post-match interviews.
An emotional Zvereva declined to do an on-court interview, but was crestfallen and shed some tears during the press conference.
“I wasn’t in the match. It was just a bad game, bad play,” she was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
The double bagel was the first in a women’s Grand Slam final in the Open Era and the first since the 1911 Wimbledon final when Dorothy Lambert Chambers beat Dora Boothby.
Zvereva managed to win four singles titles after that French Open, while the closest she came to another Grand Slam final was a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon 10 years later.
However, she forged a successful career in doubles as she won 18 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles and two mixed majors, all coming after the 1988 Roland Garros final.
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