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Graf Likely To Retire

Steffi Graf probably will retire from the women's tennis tour at the end of the year, ending a magnificent career highlighted by seven Wimbeldon championships and 22 Grand Slam titles.

Graf, 30, will play in a couple of events next year and go to places where she has never competed, but her days of playing the Grand Slam circuit are probably over, she said.

Graf didn't say specifically why she was leaving the tour, but she noted that over the past three years injuries have had her on the verge of retiring several times. Traveling, the demands on her time and not having as much fun playing in tournaments also were factors, she said.

"I have to say I haven't been very busy thinking about it," Graf said when specially asked about retirement in a conference call prior to the A&P Tennis Classic at Mahwah, N.J. "I let things happen more or less, but most naturally, I will (retire)."

Graf has five more events on her schedule this year, including the U.S. Open. She refused to pin down which would be her last tournament.

"I am not going to stop playing tennis for myself," she added. "Tennis will always be a big part of my life. I enjoy it and hopefully I'll get a chance to play here and there."

Once she retires, Graf said it's unlikely she change her mind.

The retirement isn't a big surprise. After winning the French Open, she said she would not be returning to Paris. Earlier this month, she said she was finished with Wimbledon after losing the championship match to Lindsay Davenport.

Graf said she played the final week at Wimbledon suffering from bronchitis and a fever, which was the major reason she withdrew from a mixed doubles semifinal with John McEnroe.

McEnroe, who was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame last week, has criticized Graf for failing to inform him until just before they were to play. He was sent a note by Graf while he was working in the broadcast booth.

Graf, who seemed to be unaware McEnroe was annoyed with her, adding that dropping out late was a difficult decision.

"I didn't want to talk about how I was feeling," Graf said. "It's not my style."

Retirement actually seemed an easier choice for her.

"... You want to leave a sport when you are at the top," Graf said. "That's an ideal situation which is never really easy because obviously if you are doing well it's very hard to part from what you love so much. "

"I have been having to think the past few years with all the injuries I've been having," she said. "There are a lot of times I have come very close to making this decision and I feel fortunate I have been able to do it on my own terms and not being pushed by anything. It's my own decision."

Graf has run a sports management company for a couple of years and she intends to devote more time to that. She currently has three German junior players under ontract.

When asked what she was going to do with her free time, Graf quipped:

"What am I going to do with my life? I have a life, finally," she said.

Graf played her first Wimbledon in 1984, reaching the fourth round. She won the championship in 1988, '89, '91, '92, '93, '95 and '96. She was runner-up in '86.

Only Martina Navratilova has won Wimbledon more times, with nine titles. Graf's 22 Grand Slams are two short of Margaret Court Smith's record.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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