Steffi Graf was No. 1 everywhere in the world but Centre Court at Wimbledon, where Martina Navratilova ruled for nearly a decade.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old West German made her reign universal and became the undisputed queen of women's tennis.Graf won 12 of the last 13 games to capture her third straight Grand Slam title and end Navratilova's bid for Wimbledon history with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory in the women's final.
"It's hard to put an exclamation point or a period on eras," Navratilova said after losing a Wimbledon singles match for the first time since 1981. "But Steffi is No. 1 right now. It may not be the end of an era, but it's definitely the end of a chapter."
The chapter may have a storybook ending for Graf, who is trying to become the first since Margaret Court in 1970 to sweep the four major tennis tournaments in the same year.
Graf, who turned 19 last month, won the Australian and French Opens before coming to England. If she can win the U.S. Open in September, she will seal the Slam.
"Everybody's talking about it," said Graf, who celebrated her first Wimbledon title by throwing her racket into the stands. "But I'm going to concentrate on every tournament. I'm not going to change now."
In the completion of a match suspended by darkness Friday and delayed twice by rain Saturday, two-time men's champion Boris Becker beat top-seeded Ivan Lendl 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (8-10), 6-4 in the semifinals after Lendl saved eight match points.
Becker meets third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the men's singles final Sunday.
Some fans may have thought they were watching the men's final after Graf's awesome display of power tennis. It left them gasping and Navratilova frustrated in her bid to establish Wimbledon records with a seventh straight singles title and ninth overall.
Graf never has won the U.S. Open, where she lost to Navratilova in last year's final. But she has won consistently on hardcourts, including the Australian Open this year, and grass was the last surface where she had failed to win a major title.
"I didn't succumb to pressure. I succumbed to a better player today," said Navratilova, who had won 47 straight singles matches at Wimbledon since losing to Hana Mandlikova in the 1981 semifinals.
"Sure, I would have loved to get the record," Navratilova said. "But I certainly don't feel any shame. Eight ain't so bad, you know."
No. 9 may never come as long as Graf fires the kind of rocket returns, sizzling smashes and booming serves she did on a fickle weather day at the All England Club.
"She's amazing," said Navratilova, who failed to win a singles or doubles title at a Grand Slam event for the first time since the 1983 French Open.
"I was hitting good volleys and she kept running them down," she said. "She's just so fast. Other players would not even get to those balls, and she was hitting winners."
In last year's final, Navratilova took advantage of Graf's unsteady backhand and beat her in straight sets. This year, there was no weakness to exploit.
"She's better than she was a year ago," Navratilova said after losing a Wimbledon final for the first time. "She's definitely improved her backhand return and she volleyed extremely well. I was surprised she came in so much."
Graf, the youngest woman singles champion at Wimbledon since Maureen Connolly won in 1952 at age 17, won nine straight games after falling behind 2-0 in the second set.
"I got really pumped up in the second set," said Graf, the first German woman to win the singles title since Cilly Aussem in 1931. "The last two sets I played the way I should have from the beginning."
Graf broke for a 3-2 lead in the first set with a lob that Navratilova jumped for and missed. But after Graf held serve for a 5-3 lead, Navratilova took the next four games to win the set.
Navratilova made it six straight games when she broke Graf with a backhand volley to make it 2-0 in the second set. But then the tall teen-ager caught fire, winning nine straight games before Navratilova broke her with a backhand winner to close within 3-1 in the final set.
The match was then suspended for 44 minutes by rain, which fell sporadically throughout the day. When play resumed, Graf quickly broke Navratilova to go up 4-1. The frustration showed when the 31-year-old defending champion slammed her racket down on her chair during the changeover.
After holding at love, Graf gained a match point with a blazing forehand return and then ended the contest with a cross-court backhand that nicked the top of the net and skipped past Navratilova.
"I saw her in the lockerroom (during the rain break) and she looked down," Graf said. "She didn't look relaxed. I thought she would have a tough time coming back."
Even though she is one of the all-time Wimbledon greats, Navratilova rarely is a crowd favorite here. After her semifinal victory over Chris Evert, she said the fans made her feel "like a Martian out there."
After Saturday's match, she again blasted the fans for booing her when she went to the sidelines to wipe her glasses during the second set.
"I was so upset, I couldn't believe it," she said. "I wasn't arguing about line calls and it wasn't gamesmanship. I was just wiping off my glasses."
Navratilova shares the Wimbledon record of eight singles titles with Helen Wills Moody and the mark for consecutive championships with Willie Renshaw, who won six in a row in the 1880s when the defending champion automatically advanced to the final.