Peter Graf, the father and former coach of Steffi Graf, died Saturday from pancreatic cancer in his native Germany at the age of 75. Peter taught his daughter to play with a wood racquet in the family living room. He was at his daughter's side for most of the years that she racked up 22 Grand Slam singles titles, the most any player has won solely during the Open Era. Margaret Court hold the all-time record with 24 Grand Slam singles titles, but the Australian won some of those prior to the start of the Open Era in 1968.
Peter Graf was sometimes described as a Svengali-type of character, trying to control everything in his daughter's life, during the early years of her career. A former car insurance salesman, Mr. Graf was said to have a steely will, just like his daughter. "The way Steffi is on the court, that is Peter everywhere else,” a family friend told Sports Illustrated the year after she won the Golden Slam in 1988.
After he was sentenced to more than three years in prison in 1997 for tax evasion, which was said to have cost his daughter around $70 million, he all but stopped traveling with his her. He served more than a year in prison and eventually divorced from his wife, Heidi. In recent years, Mr. Graf had been coaching other players.
The German media report that Peter and Steffi, who had a falling out over the tax issue, did repair their relationship. Steffi Graf is married to former American star Andre Agassi and lives in Las Vegas.