Tennis

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario narrates her inspiring tale

Role model:  Arantxa Sanchez Vicario addressed the junior players who are part of the Rendezvous Roland Garros tournament on Monday.

Role model: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario addressed the junior players who are part of the Rendezvous Roland Garros tournament on Monday.

For the brave, every negative observation is an inspiration. Three-time Roland Garros champion and former World No. 1 in singles and doubles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, addressed the young players assembled for the Rendezvous Roland Garros junior wild-card tournament on Monday, and recalled the finest moment of her career and how she coped with adversity while on Tour.

By the time she retired, the Spaniard was one of the greats of the game, with 14 Grand Slam titles — including in six doubles and four in mixed doubles — to her name, apart from four Olympic medals in singles and doubles.

But, going into her maiden Major final in 1989 at Paris against defending champion Steffi Graf, Sanchez Vicario recalls being asked how many games she was hoping to win.

“I told the journalist that I would first enjoy the moment of reaching the final. Second, I said we would speak the next day,” said Sanchez Vicario. “The whole night I could not sleep. I was only 17, playing my first Grand Slam final, against Graf who had not lost a match for two-and-a-half years. I was tired when I went for the warm-up next morning.”

Sanchez Vicario said her goal then was to get over self-doubt and give it her all, aware that she had nothing to lose as she was playing the best in the world.

“We went 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, and it went to the tie-break. The French crowd was with me. They gave me energy and motivation. I won the first set in an hour and 10 minutes,” recalled Sanchez Vicario.

“I lost the second 3-6, and was losing 3-5 in the third.

“But I broke for 4-5, and again for 6-5. Serving for the match, my legs were shaking and I was nervous. When I eventually won, I threw my racquet in the air and rolled on the ground. Only when I went to the net to shake hands with Graf did I know that it was real!”

To ringing applause, she said: “I was the happiest girl in the world, and enjoying the moment like a baby. It took me three days to realise what I had done.”

The journalist apologised to her, she said.

Sanchez Vicario said her lack of great height or strength never stopped her from giving her best and fighting hard without worrying about the results.

She also spoke of how playing on clay is the best preparation for developing an all-court game, and exhorted the players to capitalise on the opportunity that the Rendezvous Roland Garros programme presents.

“I will be there rooting for you,” she promised the juniors.


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 11:04:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/a-champion-narrates-her-inspiring-tale/article18081810.ece