Steffi Graf feted at CHASE Championships
For one more night, Steffi Graf was embraced by the New York fans. After announcing her retirement earlier this summer, the legendary German was honored in a ceremony last night at Madison Square Garden, site of the Chase Championships and the venue where she won five of her 107 career singles titles. The ceremony began with a video tribute which included the songs "One Moment in Time" by Whitney Houston and "Time of Your Life" by Green Day. After that, it was time for Graf to soak up the cheers of the crowd for the final time. "This is just overwhelming," she said. "I want to thank everyone for getting together. It's so special for me." Among those gathered to honor Graf were USTA president Judy Levering, Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts, WTA chief operating officer Bart McGuire, Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard and most of the field playing this week. "You have been uncompromising in your determination on the court," McGuire said. "You have been a measure in excellence in all sports worldwide." Graf received gifts ranging from a New York Rangers jersey with the No. 5 on it -- representing the number of times she won at Madison Square Garden, a New York Knicks autographed basketball, several paintings, an autographed racket from each of the players competing this week and a picture of her holding one of the five U.S. Open trophies she won, along with a piece of Louis Armstrong Stadium. Helped by former New York Knicks Dave DeBusschere and Earl Monroe, a banner bearing her name and the years of her Garden titles was hoisted to the top of Madison Square Garden. It will hang next to Martina Navratilova's banner, the only one not belonging to members of the Knicks or Rangers. While she retired at the tender age of 30, Graf said she will feel "old" when people reflect on her career. "People will say, `I remember when you played here 15 years ago,'" she said. "I'm getting there." One person noticeably absent from the festivities was Graf's beau, men's tennis star Andre Agassi. When a male fan shouted, "Where's Andre?" Graf responded, "He's probably at home watching. He's probably checking you out. You don't want to mess with him." Graf got emotional at the end of her speech but managed to pay homage to the city that was the site of some of her greatest triumphs. "I love New York. I still love New York," she said. "I could not have asked for a better place to have this ceremony." Graf retired in August with 22 career Grand Slam titles, two short of Margaret Court's all-time record. She is the only player in tennis history -- man or woman -- to win each of the four Grand Slam titles at least four times (Wimbledon 7, French Open 6, U.S. Open 5, Australian Open 4). Graf holds the all-time record for total weeks as the top-ranked player with 377. She finished third on the all-time list for most titles behind Navratilova (167) and Chris Evert (157) while earning a tour-record $21.8 million in career prize money.