Gabriela Sabatini, Argentina
Gabriela Sabatini won a Grand Slam, a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics and one doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988; her highest spot at the WTA rankings was No.3 Via @TennisHalloFame on X/Twitter

The narrative of women in sports often finds itself relegated to the sidelines. It is our mission to change that, to amplify their accomplishments and to weave a tapestry of stories that inspire and empower. Our weekly column Latin Women in Sports seeks to applaud their triumphs, break down barriers, and champion the idea that in sports, as in life, every voice deserves to be heard.

SEATTLE - When talking about the history of women's tennis in Latin America, the name of Gabriela Sabatini is the one that comes up first more often than not. The Buenos Aires native was one of the sports brightest talents, making her debut at the WTA tour in 1985 just at age 15.

The name of Sabatini was already a staple in the women's game long before she made the switch to the tour. At age 14, she was considered as the best junior player in the world and, a year later, she was already playing at the semifinals of the French Open. Her record speaks for itself, having amassed 632 wins in 821 career matches and collecting 27 singles titles along the way.

The pinnacle of her career came in 1990, when she became the first and still only Latin American woman to win a singles Grand Slam title. A few months after suffering the seventh loss of her career at a Grand Slam semifinal, Sabatini took over the hard courts of New York, dropping a total of 13 games over four matches on her way to the final.

Her opponent was none other than Hall of Famer Steffi Graf, one of Sabatini's biggest rivals during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The German had won 18 of their 21 previous matches before the 1990 US Open final, but something was different about Sabatini this time around. She dominated her opponent and came out on top in two sets, lifting the first -and only- Grand Slam title of her career.

Also an Olympic medalist and winner of 14 titles in doubles, Sabatini was enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame last year. One of the best Latin women in the history of sports, she was awarded with tennis' biggest recognition in 2019 as the recipient of the Philippe Chartrier Award, which is awarded to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the sport of tennis both on and off the court.

Despite being one of the top players in the world, the Argentine put an end to her remarkable career at the age of 26,

after 12 seasons in the WTA tour. When explaining what led to her early retirement, Sabatini said that, after talking to a psychologist, she realized that "enough was enough." In an interview with Swiss Life, she added: "I have always listened to my inner conviction in life – and this is self-determination too."

That determination might have put an end to her career as a professional tennis player but it also started the story of another Sabatini, the entrepreneur and social ambassador. The Argentine owns a perfume line and is an avid advocate for breast cancer awareness. As one of the biggest names of Latin American women, Sabatini has really used her position to give back to the community.

A former Special Olympics ambassador, Sabatini sponsors local schools around the Mar del Plata area and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she joined other Argentine athletes such as Manu Ginóbili and Diego Schwartzman in a project called "Seamos Uno," a movement with the aim to provide low income families around the Buenos Aires province with 1 million boxes of basic hygiene products and food.

More recently, she played in a charity event at last year's US Open that raised $320,000 for the Ukraine Aid Fund.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.