40 greatest female athletes: Steffi Graf

A monster forehand and immaculate footwork helped Steffi Graf capture 22 Grand Slam singles trophies. Al Bello/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

When she was 18, Steffi Graf took down a legend in the finals of the French Open. A year later, Graf won the "Golden Slam," claiming all four majors and winning the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics.

In all, the No. 9 woman in ESPN's countdown won 22 major singles titles, second all-time for women and men, and was ranked No. 1 in the world for 186 consecutive weeks.

"She would be out on the courts in the early morning putting in the work," says former men's tour player Brad Gilbert, who coached Graf's husband, Andre Agassi. "She was always putting in the work. When somebody is that great and working harder than anybody else, that's when you get absolute greatness."

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale

No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller

No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner

No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King

No. 10: Tennis player Serena Williams