Steffi Graf, treating her blistered right foot several times during the match, won the WTA Tour Championships on Sunday in New York in only the second women’s five-set final in 94 years.
“It’s an incredible end to an unbelievable year,” Graf said after outlasting German compatriot Anke Huber 6-1, 2-6, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
The baseline battle on the blue Madison Square Garden carpet lasted 2 hours, 47 minutes.
Only when Huber’s backhand was intercepted by the net to cap a long rally and give Graf a service break in the eighth game of the fifth set was Graf close to winning the title and the $500,000 first-place check in this season-ending tournament.
The last time there was a five-set final was in 1990, when Monica Seles defeated Gabriela Sabatini. The previous time a women’s match went five sets was in 1901, before women were limited to best-of-three sets matches.
At Frankfurt, Germany, an emotional Boris Becker won his first major title in three years, beating Michael Chang 7-6 (7-3), 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) in the ATP Championship final.
It was a fitting farewell gift to Becker’s faithful Frankfurt fans, who have supported him boisterously in all his appearances in the 9,000-seat Festhalle, which was filled.
After six years, the ATP Championship is moving to another German city, Hanover, next year.
After the awards ceremony, with the spotlight on Becker in a darkened hall, the fans swayed with lit lighters in their hands, while his wife, Barbara, came down to kiss him.
Becker, three days short of his 28th birthday, had not won a major tournament since the 1992 ATP Championship. His last Grand Slam title was the Australian Open in 1991, when he held the No. 1 ranking for 12 weeks.