Lille Grand Place

From 21 to 23 November France and Switzerland will contest the 2014 Davis Cup Final at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in the Lille suburb of Villeneuve d’Ascq. If you’re planning to attend and wonder how to get tickets, how to get to the stadium or what to do in Lille, this article is for you. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any question, and I hope you’ll enjoy your time in Lille!

Le Stade Pierre Mauroy à Villeneuve d’Ascq dans la banlieue de Lille va accueillir la finale de la Coupe Davis, du 21 au 23 novembre. Si vous avez l’intention d’y assister, ce guide est fait pour vous. Si vous avez des questions, n’hésitez pas, laissez un commentaire. Bon séjour Lille!

Welcome to Lille

Getting there

Train

Lille has two train stations: Gare Lille Europe and Gare Lille Flandres, situated 400 meters from each other and only a 10 min walk from the city centre.
Eurostar and TGV link Lille with Brussels (35min), Paris (1h) and London (1h40). If you come from Switzerland, take a high speed TGV Lyria from Geneva (3h), Lausanne (3h40), Basel (3h) or Zurich (4h) to Paris Gare de Lyon, then take a TGV from Paris Gare du Nord to Lille (1h). When you book your tickets, remember to allow about 60 minutes to cross Paris. The easiest way to go from Gare de Lyon to Gare du Nord is to take the RER D direction Creil (follow the signs). If you have time for a coffee, a beer or a lunch, try the beautiful Train Bleu restaurant at Gare de Lyon.

Lille possède deux gares séparées de seulement 400 mètres et à quelques minutes à pied du centre-ville: la Gare Lille-Europe et la Gare Lille-Flandres. Lille est facilement accessible en train: Eurostar et TGV relient Lille à Bruxelles (35 minutes), Paris (1h) et Londres (1h40).
Si vous venez de Suisse, prenez un TGV Lyria pour Paris Gare de Lyon à partir de Genève (durée: 3h), Lausanne (3h40), Bâle (3h) ou Zurich (4h). Quand vous réservez vos billets, n’oubliez pas de prévoir environ 1h pour changer de gare. Pour aller de Gare de Lyon à Gare du Nord, prenez le RER direction Creil (seulement 2 arrêts). Si vous avez le temps de prendre un café, une bière ou de déjeuner, essayez le célèbre restaurant le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon.

Gare Lille Europe:

Gare Lille Europe

Plane

Lowcost airline company easyjet links Geneva to Lille-Lesquin International 4 days a week. A direct coach connects to central Lille (stops outside Euralille, next to Gare Lille Europe) in 20 minutes, and runs once an hour costing €8 (return ticket is €10).

easyJet propose 4 vols directs Genève-Lille par semaine. L’aéroport de Lille est situé à Lesquin, à 20 minutes en navette du centre-ville de Lille (aller: 8€, aller-retour: 10€).

Getting around

Public transport

Lille’s transit system features two tram metro lines (lines 1 and 2), two tramways (Roubaix and Tourcoing) and a network of buses that connect Lille centre with the suburbs. In the city centre, metros run every two to four minutes from 5.30am until 12.30 am.
A single journey ticket costs €1.50. A 1-day unlimited pass (Pass journée) allows unlimited travel on the bus-underground-tram network for 24 hours and costs only €4. 2-days and 3-days pass cost respectively €7.50 and €9.50.

Lille dispose de deux lignes de métro (lignes 1 et 2), deux tramways (Roubaix et Tourcoing) et d’un système de bus assez dense. Dans le centre, les métros circulent toutes les 2 à 4 minutes de 5h30 à minuit 30 environ.
Un ticket simple coûte 1.50€. Le Pass journée permet de voyager en illimité sur le réseau métro-bus-tramway pour seulement 4€. Les Pass 2 et 3 journées coûtent respectivement 7.50€ et 9.50€.

V’lille

Lille also has its own public bicycle sharing system called the V’lille. To hire a bike, new users must register by providing a security deposit of 200 euros (which is not debited), either online or at any of the credit card enabled bike stations. Once registered, simply pick up a bike at any hire location then return it to any bike station around the city. The first 30 minutes of each rental is free.

V’Lille est le système de location de vélos en libre-service. Pour louer un vélo, les nouveaux utilisateurs doivent s’enregistrer en ligne ou à l’une des stations V’lille et verser une caution de 200€. Une fois enregistré, prenez un vélo à l’une des stations et redéposez-le à n’importe quelle station du réseau. La 1ère demie heure de location est gratuite.

V'lille station

Must see

If you think Lille is a grey and unattractive city, you might be surprised by its impressive architecture, his charming old quarter and its plethora of restaurants.

Si vous pensez que Lille est une ville grise et sans attrait, vous serez surpris par son architecture, son charmant quartier médiéval et sa multitude de restaurants.

Grand Place

La Grand Place, officially called Place du Général de Gaulle was originally the wheat market. Today, the Grand Place is the city’s heart and contains some of Lille’s finest buildings. At the centre of the square, the statue known as la Déesse (the Goddess) celebrates Lille’s victorious resistance against the Austrians in 1792.
La Vieille Bourse is the gem of the Grand Place. Probably the city’s most beautiful monument, it is made up of 24 identical houses surrounding a cloister. Inside, it houses a little booksellers’ market and sometimes chess players.

La Grand Place (officiellement appelée place du Général de Gaulle) était à l’origine un marché au blé. Aujourd’hui elle est devenue le véritable coeur de la ville. La statue de la Déesse au centre de la place commémore la défense héroïque de la ville face aux Autrichiens en 1792.
La Vieille Bourse est le joyau de la Grand Place. Probablement le plus beau bâtiment de Lille, elle est composée de 24 maisons identiques qui entourent un cloître. La cour abrite des bouquinistes et aussi parfois des joueurs d’échecs.

La Vieille Bourse:

La Vieille Bourse

La Grand Place:

Grand Place

Place du Théâtre

East of the Vieille Bourse, place du Théatre is dominated by the Louis XVI-style Opéra and the neo-Flemish Chambre de commerce. Both were built in the early 20th century.
Opposite the chamber of commerce is the Rang du Beauregard, an uniform alignment of three-storey houses, typical of 17th century architecture in Lille.

Sur la Place du Théâtre, le beffroi néo-flamand de la chambre de commerce côtoie l’Opéra de style Louis XVI. Les deux bâtiments ont été construits au début du 20ème siècle.
En face, le Rang du Beauregard est un alignement uniforme de maisons sur trois niveaux représentatif de l’architecture lilloise du XVIIe siècle.

Left, the chamber of commerce. Right, l’Opéra. A gauche la chambre de commerce. A droite, l’Opéra:

Chambre de commerce et Opéra

Rang du Beauregard:

Rang du Beauregard

Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille, which means Old Lille, is a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, filled with ancient buildings, cafes, restaurants and designer shops.
Vieux Lille’s main sight is l’Hospice Comtesse, rue de la Monnaie. This former hospital run by nuns was founded by Joan of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders in the 13th century. It is now a museum exhibiting the interior of a religious 17th century home in Flanders.
Another must-see is the Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille, a cathedral you will either love or hate. It started life in 1854 but was not completed until 1999.

Le Vieux Lille est un labyrinthe de rues pavées, bordées de bâtiments anciens, cafés, restaurants et boutiques de designers. Le monument principal du Vieux Lille est l’hospice Comtesse, un ancien hôpital tenu par des nonnes et foundé par Jeanne, comtesse de Flandres au XIIIè siècle. Aujourd’hui c’est un musée, évoquant l’intérieur d’une maison religieuse flamande du XVIIe siècle.
Autre incontournable du Vieux Lille: la Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille, dont la construction a commencé en 1854 et s’est terminée en 1999.

Hospice Comtesse:

Hospice Comtesse

Palais des Beaux Arts

The Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, the largest French museum outside of Paris, is a short walk from the Grand Place. The collection include works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin among many more.

Le Palais des Beaux-Arts, le plus grand musée des beaux-arts de province, est situé à quelques minutes à pieds de la Grand Place. Sa collection contient entre autres des oeuvres de Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya et Rodin.

Palais des Beaux Arts

Eat

If you want to try some traditional flemish cuisine, avoid restaurants on Place Rihour and Grand Place, and head to Vieux Lille, especially rue de Gand, a street lined with estaminets and restaurants.
Chez la Vieille and its sister restaurant Au Vieux de la Vieille (place aux Oignons) serve local comfort food like carbonnade flamande, waterzooi or pot’je vleesch.

Si vous voulez manger de la cuisine traditionnelle flamande, évitez les restaurants de la Place Rihour et de la Grand Place, et dirigez vous vers le Vieux Lille, en particulier la rue de Gand, bordée d’estaminets et de restaurants. Essayez Chez la Vieille ou son restaurent jumeau Au Vieux de la Vieille (place aux Oignons), qui servent des plats traditionnels comme la carbonnade flamande, le waterzooi ou le pot’je vleesch.

Enjoy more pictures from Lille (click to enlarge):

Davis Cup final:

How to get tickets

Tickets will go on sale from October 10th for members of the FFT (only on fft.fr), and from October 17th for general public (on fft.fr but also at Auchan, Cora, Cultura, Leclerc, FNAC, Carrefour). Tickets will be sold at a maximum of four per day per person, so a maximum of twelve tickets per person. Ticket prices are €30, 50, 75, 100 and 220. Watch this infographic for prices and seatings.

Les billets seront en vente à partir du 10 octobre pour les licenciés de la FFT (site fft.fr) et du 17 octobre pour le grand public (site fft.fr, Auchan, Cora, Cultura, Leclerc, FNAC, Carrefour). Chaque spectateur pourra acheter 4 places par jour, soit 12 places maximum. Il y a 5 catégories de prix: 30, 50, 75, 100 et 200€. Plus d’infos sur cette infographie

The stadium

The stadium is a multifunctional arena that can be converted from a football and rugby stadium to a large concert venue or smaller indoors sports or concert arena. It is equipped with a retractable roof, which can be opened or closed in about 20 minutes. The stadium was completed in 2012 and is usually the home of the LOSC football team. It will be one of the venues of the EuroBasket 2015, UEFA Euro 2016 and 2017 World Men’s Handball Championship.
And if you wonder who Pierre Mauroy was, he was Lille Mayor for 28 years and also François Mitterrand first Prime Minister.

Le stade Pierre Mauroy est une aréna multifonction, qui combine en un même lieu stade de football ou de rugby, salle de concert ou palais des sports. Il est équipé d’un toit amovible qui peut s’ouvrir ou se fermer en 20 minutes seulement. Le stade a été achevé en 2012, et depuis l’équipe du LOSC y joue ses matches à domicile.
Le stade est l’un de ceux qui accueilleront l’EuroBasket 2015, l’UEFA Euro 2016 et le championnat du monde masculin de handball en 2017.
Si vous vous demandez qui est Pierre Mauroy, il fut Maire de Lille pendant 28 ans, et Premier Ministre du premier gouvernement Mitterrand de 1981 à 1984.

Stade Pierre Mauroy

Getting there

The stadium is in the suburb of Villeneuve D’Ascq and is easily accessible by the metro – just take line 1 to the Hotel de Ville or 4 Cantons Grand Stade station – and then it is about a 10 minute walk, which is well signposted.

Le stade, situé à Villeneuve d’Ascq est facilement accessible en métro: prenez la ligne 1 jusqu’à l’arrêt Hotel de Ville ou 4 Cantons Grand Stade, suivez ensuite les indications, le stade est à environ 10 minutes de marche.

Any question? Feel free to ask, I’ll try my best to answer!

Si vous avez des questions, laissez un commentaire, je ferai de mon mieux pour répondre!

Roland Garros opens its doors

Every year in September, 50 European countries take part in the European Heritage Days, a programme that offers opportunities to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. For the first time, yesterday, the French Federation of tennis opened up the Roland Garros stadium and museum free to the public as part of Heritage Days, and of course, I was there.

Waiting to enter the museum, you could still see the Davis Cup semifinals poster and the French and Czech flags atop Court Philippe Chatrier.

Roland Garros

Tennis museum

The permanent exhibition showcases trophies, players memorabilia, a few videos as well as some infos about tennis history and the future Roland Garros stadium expansion.
You might be disappointed if you’ve visited the Wimbledon museum, Roland Garros museum is quite small, with less content and interactivity.

Below, the trophies presented each year to the winner of the men’s singles (Coupe des Mousquetaires) and women’s singles (Coupe Suzanne Lenglen):

Roland Garros trophies

Replica of the 1991 Davis Cup captured by Henri Leconte and Guy Forget over the dream team of Sampras, Agassi and Flach-Seguso:

1991 Davis Cup replica
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Boris Becker, Wimbledon 1985

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Becker, like Edberg has been around for a long time but is still young. It was not until 1989 that each emerged as a player obviously capable of winning major championships on any surface: to be explicit, on the extremes of grass and clay. In 1989 either could have become the first serve-and-volley specialist to win the French title for more than 20 years. Neither will be content with what he has already achieved, impressive though that is. Their form during the next few years will depend partly on fitness (each has had problems, largely arising from the physical stress the ‘big’ game imposes) and partly on their hunger for success. Ambition is not a constant condition of the human spirit. The flow of even the strongest river is subject to variations of rainfall on the watershed.

So far, Becker’s record has been the more spectacular and has also had wider repercussions? Like Bjorn Borg in Sweden and Guillermo Vilas in Argentina, he became a national hero whose example fired his compatriots and caused an enomous expansion in tennis interest: among players, public, court and equipment manufacturers, sponsors, and a variety of entrepreneurs.
Becker’s triumphs, swiftly followed by those of Steffi Graf, were almost as exciting for television viewers in East Germany, where tennis has been an undeveloped minor sport. Given Becker, Graf and the game’s restoration to Olympic status in 1988, we may assume that what is at present East Germany will be a productive area of growth for tennis in the 1990s.

Becker’s influence has also been considerable – and benefical – in a more senitive area. Germany needed a heroic figure commanding world-wide respect and he took on that role as if born to it. His first Wimbledon championship came 40 years after the end of the Second World War and 45 years after a German bomb had fallen on to a corner of the competitors’ centre court seating area. There was a spice of irony in the fact that Becker’s tennis on that same court dominated television, radio, and newspapers and magazines in his homeland. For most of us the War was only an older genreation’s vague, receding memory, a faint shadow in the mind. But to the German-speaking peoples it remainded a slightly touchy subject. Young though he was, Becker was aware of that: and aware, too that the new Germany needed a paragon? He responded as if all his 17 years had been spent in the diplomatic service. On court, he was an immensely Teutonic sportsman: fair-haired and blue-eyed, big and strong and a fighter to the core. Off court, he was all charm and tact and low-keyed common sense, recognizing the ‘Blond Bomber’ and ‘Blitzkrieg’ headlines as no more than facile metaphors. In short, Becker made Wimbledon history and at the same time did an impressive public relations job for Germany.

Becker’s home is a little more than six miles from Graf’s. They have known each other since childhood, when they often used to hit together and, later, played in the same tournaments. By the age of 12 he was an unusually promising footballer but gave up that game in favor of tennis. At 15 he was West Germany’s junior champion and, in the first round of the boys singles at Wimbledon, was beaten by Edberg – the top seed, who was almost two years older. At 16 Becker left school to play full-time. His potential had been recognized by the national federation’s coach, Gunther Bosch.
Since their childhood at Brasov, which lies at the foot of the transylvanian Alps, Bosch had been associated with Ion Tiriac, an uncommonly smat man with an intimidating presence. Tiriac played Davis Cup tennis for Romania from 1959 to 1977, by which time he knew everybody an all the angles. As coach, then as manager and entrepreneur, he was – and remains – a cute businessman. Tiriac went to Leimen, guaranted Becker’s parents a fat income, and took charge of the lad’s career. Bosch became Becker’s personal coach.

Thus was Becker under new management, so to speak, from 1984 onwards. In April of that year he qualified for Luxembourg’s first grand prix tournament, which was additionally memorable for the fact that there was a dog show in progress and players shared a hotel with thoroughbreds – sometimes audibly restive during the night. On court, Becker’s ferocious hitting raised images of Ivan Lendl. He had two match points against Gene Mayer. Becker qualified for Wimbledon, too, but tore some ankle ligaments when hotly engaged with Bill Scanlon and was carried away on a stretcher. By the end of that year he was already 6ft 2in tall and weighed 12st 8lb (he has since put on about half an inch and half as stone). Just the build, in fact, to take on Wimbledon and the world. Tiriac and Bosch were doing what they could to improve his quickness and agility.

Just before the 1985 Wimbledon, Becker won the Stella Artois tournament at Queen’s Club, suggesting that he could be a future Wimbledon champion. The future was now. Becker beat Hank Pfister in Wimbledon’s first round and observed that he was looking forward to ‘not being a nobody’. Joakim Nystrom and Tim Mayotte in turn took him to five sets and almost beat him. Then Becker got lucky. He did not have to play any of the top three seeds, because Kevin Curen tore through John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in straight sets and Henri Leconte‘s fireworks display reduced Ivan Lendl to dazzled helplessness. By the time the final came round, Curren, who had already done enough to win most Wimbledons, did not have quite enough left. By contrast Becker was still strong, still dreaming the dreams of the young. He was having the time of his life and let us know about it: by joyously punching the air with his fists and giving his celebrated impression of a man cycling down a cobbled street without a bicycle. He was not only the first German champion, the youngest champion, and the first unseeded champion: he was also four months younger than the winner of the boys’ singles, Leonardo Lavalle. Moreover, Becker did it again in 1986, this time with more ease. His last two victims were Leconte and Lendl. Again, neither McEnroe nor Connors crossed his path.

Becker has often said that, as a tennis player, he was born at Wimbledon, that he feels at home there. The tournament changed his life and made him a celebrated millionaire. True, he had to shoulder a championship’s increased responsabilities to the game and did not always welcome the attention he attracted, the erosion of his privacy. ‘But it’s worth paying the price’, he admitted. It has often been suggested that Wimbledon is the easiest Grand Slam tournament for a man to win, because grass permits violently short rallies that make only limited demands on a player’s experience and tactical versatility. On the other hand a Wimbledon championship is the most coveted prize in the game and carries enormous prestige. It follows that, to some extent, Becker achieved too much too soon. He was like a man standing on the top of the Everest and realizing that he had yet to learn the craft of mountaineering.

Becker learned but it took him three years to win another Grand Slam title. Let us remember that, although twice Wimbledon champion, he was only 18 years old – still growing up in the midst of sudden fame and fortune.
In January of 1987, during the Australian championships, Becker’s natural need for more independance – moe time to go his own way, enjoy the company of his girlfriend, and find out what it was like to live an approximation of a normal life – led to a split with Bosch, who was unwilling to accept the part-time role Becker now demanded of him. But Tiriac was always there and Becker could easily pick him out, beneath clouds of cigarette smoke. And by the end of 1987 Franck Dick, a British athletics coach, was making Becker a better all-round athlete and Bob Brett, an Australian coach from the Harry Hopman school, was beginning to make Becker a better tennis player. gradually, Becker came to terms with manhood – and with the kind of tennis played on surfaces far more prevalent than grass. The Davis Cup competition helped, because Becker knew that he was playing for a team, a nation, and simply had to produce the goods – whatever the surface. And he did produce the goods.

The 1988 Davis Cup triumph was followed by a year in which it all came together. On the slow clay of Paris, Becker was narrowly frustrated but proved that he was ready to pass that most difficult of all tests for any player from the serve-and-volley school. And the Becker who regained the Wimbledon championship was a far more mature player than the the Becker of 1985 and 1986. He made a little more history too. In the first set of the final Edberg was taken by storm and scored only 10 points. It was the first 6-0 set in a men’s singles final for 40 years. Moreover, Steffi Graf won the women’s title the same day. Never before had Germands won both singles championships at Wimbledon – and Becker and Graf were to repeat the feat in the United States championships two months later, though Becker had saved two match points (one with the fortuitous intervention of a net cord) in a second round match with Derrick Rostagno.
It was the first time a German had won the US men’s title. Becker is unning out of firsts but will keep coming back for more: especially if his knees and ankles and the soles of his feet are spared an excess of the pounding they get on courts that are both hot and hard.

Becker is a commanding figure and an awfully powerful player. There is a hint of arrogance in the chin-up, icy glare he gives his opponents in the moments between rallies. Off the same toss, he can win any of three sevices: flat, kick, or slice. His forehand is equally fearsome. Becker flings his racket at the ball as if he never expects to see either again. Often, no volley is needed. A similar blazing speed can be evident when he puts top-spin on his backhand, which he usually hits with underspin. His volleys, whether punched or caressed, are like the cursory last spadefuls of soil on the graves of rallies. The pattern of his assault is varied, but the persistent strength of becker’s hitting keeps his opponents under terrible stress. On top of all that there is the bounding athleticism: the huge leaps for overheads, the spectacular falls as he hurls himself into wide volleys, and the quick ease (remarkable in such a big man) with which he moves in behind his service or an early-ball approach shot. And his unquenchable fighting spirit permeates the court like some electric curent.
At the age of 22 Becker began 1990 as the best player in the world.

Stefan Edberg, Wimbledon 1988

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

For the obvious reason that he is still a young man, capable of striding along the summits for many more years, ths can be no more than a half-term report on a graceful, classic exponent of the ‘big’ game. Unless memory lies, Mal Anderson has been the only other player of comparable class who, in the past 30 years or so, has served and volleyed with as much elegant facility as Edberg. In 1968, in Hamburg, I spent a long time watching Anderson. The serve and volley routine can be hard to take. It lacks charm. But Anderson’s instinctive ease of movement and racket-contol somehow gave that routine the uncomplicated allure of a Strauss waltz. So it is with Edberg. This is not to suggest that Edberg is the most efficient modern graduate of the serve-and-volley school. One refers only to the natural flair with which he does his thing. Unlike such heavily muscled contemporaries as Becker and Pat Cash, Edberg brings an aesthetic quality to the three-shot rally. His emergence is a striking eminder that Bjorn Borg‘s playing method – that of a baseliner with a two-fisted backhand – inspired no more than a transient trend in Swedish tennis. That method was Borg’s, not Sweden’s.

The main features of Edberg’s game are his mixture of services (many players find the second ball more difficult to handle than the first), his volleying, especially the cross-court backhand, and his backhand service eturns, which often explode down the court like shells. His forehand is a comparatively second-class shot for a first-class player: seldom threatening, and often wayward when his confidence is low. But Edberg’s command of the backhand and the top-spin lob gives him weapons enough for counter-punching from the back of the court. He is happiest in the forecourt, bending like a sapling in a gale as he springs this way and that and tucks away the volleys – whereupon he often gives a little hop of satisfaction at a point well won.
His general demeanour, though, is one of sad, dreamy languor. Often, he looks only half-awake. But this embodiment of a sight is a dangerously deceptive as those tall, quiet gunfighters familiar from Western movies. Edberg seems reluctant to hurry but, when he does move, the action tends to be swift and short and terminal. One can picture Edberg casually blowing the smoke out of the barrel and instantly going most of the way back to sleep.

He is that kind of man: by no means the aggressive, pushy type, but stubbornly resistant to being pushed. Edberg likes a peaceful, comfortably stable life. Gentle and unassuming, reserved and laconic, he is a private man who enjoys company as long as it is not too demanding. No fuss, if you please. He is among those who apply to themselves the principle that everybody is important but nobody is very important.
Physically, Edberg is a long-limbed, willowy 6ft 2in (which Rod Laver considers may be the ideal height for a tennis player) and weighs around 11st 7lb. He has an arresting and attractive court presence and when that handsomely composed but gloomy mien is enlivened by one of his slow smiles, the mothering instinct wells up in ladies of all ages.

Edberg has a London apartment, in Kensington, but his home is the industrial home of Vastervik on the Baltic coast. He played tennis from the age of seven, took up the game full time at 16, and in the following year, 1983, won the junior Grand Slam. This invited less attention than the 17-year-old’s form in the now defunct Bournemouth tournament. He had to qualify but then reached the semi-finals by beating the cerebral and charming Balazs Taroczy, a specialist on such slow surfaces. Edberg told us that he was a policeman’s son and took up tennis because his mothe wanted him to. His Bournemouth form, plus the comment about his mother, was the first hint we had that he was something special but needed help in fuelling the fires of ambition.

For a few years he was none too sure of himself, none too sure what he wanted out of tennis, and none too sue if the ultimate prizes were worth the effort. He was lucky in that the European representative for Wilson’s, the company who made Edberg’s rackets, turned out to be a congenial friend and, before long, assumed the more constructive roles of manager, coach, and – most important of all – motivator. Tony Pickard had, in fact, turned up in Sweden almost five years before Edberg did. That was in 1961, at Bastad, where Pickard made his Davis Cup debut for Britain. As a player Pickard did not have quite enough talent to match his self-assurance. He soon discovered that it was the other way round for Edberg.

The biggest problem, was to get him to believe in himself. It took nearly three years.

Pickard, almost 32 years older than Edberg was exactly what the young man needed: a wise, witty, avuncular extrovert who knew when to nag Edberg and when to leave him alone.

At 18 Edberg made his Davis Cup debut, playing a spectacular role as Anders Jarryd‘s partner in two remarkable doubles wins. At 19 he confirmed his growing reputation as a tough, resilient competitor by winning the Australian championship. He saved two match points against Wally Masur and beat Ivan Lendl 9-7 in the fifth set. A week after his 21st birthday Edberg produced further evidence of his guts and his belief in himself when he retained the Australian title by beating Melbourne’s local hero, Pat Cash, in a five-set final contested in fierce heat. Between them, Edberg and Mats Wilander won that Australian title for Sweden five years in a row. No other overseas nation has done that.

The next big triumph for Edberg came at Wimbledon in 1988, when he recovered from two sets down to beat Miloslav Mecir in a semi-final that provided an enthralling contrast in playing methods – and then played a glorious match to beat Boris Becker in the first men’s singles final to begin one day and end the next. That year, too, Edberg came from behind to beat Mecir 9-7 in the fifth set of a decisive Davis Cup match.

In 1989 Edberg played the finest clay-court tennis of his career to each – and almost win – the French final. Becker was too strong for him in the Wimbledon final. But it takes a player of exceptional talent and competitive maturity to advance to the French and Wimbledon finals in the same summer. During the era of open competition (1968 onwards) the only other men to manage it were Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe – formidably distinguished company for a player who, for a time, had seemed to be vulnerably diffident. With Pickard’s help, Edberg learned the truth of a couple of lines in Shakespeare:

Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win

Adriano Panatta

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Panatta had much in common with Ilie Nastase in that both were under-achievers who never fully exploited their talent but gave immense pleasure and attracted huge followings. The obvious differences between them lay in playing method and conduct. Nastase was the more flamboyant competitor but his behavior was often offensive. Panatta had more power and his deportment was elegantly disciplined as his tennis. He was a heart-throb who milked the role in an engaging way, rather as John Newcombe did. His teenaged fans could admire the man and his tennis without the reservations necessary in Nastase’s case. Panatta was a model of the tall, dark and handsome hero or, to flaunt another cliché, the strong, silent man. At the same time he could be demonstrative in the Italian way and the ladies did not mind at all when he put on his sulky look or tossed back his forelock.

At six feet and almost 13 stone Panatta was a fine athlete, though the professional sportsman was always slightly at odds with his well developed taste for food and wine and the dolce vita. He was a renowned, attractive sportsman who fitted perfectly into fashionable Roman society. When he appeared at the Foro Italico the public’s excitement was so passionately partisan – to the point of conducting matches rather than merely watching them – that players from overseas felt no more popular than early Christians did at the Colosseum. In Panatta’s era the crowd’s hostility towards his opponents was sometimes frightening. Nor was justice consistently evenhanded. But all that was not Panatta’s fault. His presence simply kindled emotional fires that occasionally out of control.

On the other hand one would not wish Italians to be anything but warmly appreciative of tennis players whose brush-strokes respect the nation’s proud artistic traditions. Panatta was not the first.
Two particularly interesting characters 30 years ago were Beppe Merlo and Nicola Pietrangeli. Merlo was a dapper little chap who defied most of the conventions except in his ability to put the ball where his opponents didn’t want it and, often, didn’t expect it. He used a short grip and had no more than a hint of a backswing. No more than a hint of a service, either. He just prodded the ball into play. Merlo’s racket was so loosely strung that his strokes were noiseless save for a muffled plunk. But he was an artful nudger commanding a deceptive variety of spin. Merlo’s tennis was so eccentric, so baffling, that opponents ran the risk of getting their legs knotted.

By contrast Pietrangeli was a classically conventional clay-courter. Born in Tunis of Franco-Russian parents, he could have been a top-class footballer. Instead, Pietrangeli played and won more Davis Cup matches than any other player, took Italy to two challenge rounds with the help of a giant called Orlando Sirola, and twice won the French championship. He played with enviable economy of effort and had such a deft touch that occasionally, like Manuel Santana, he could make a drop-shot spin back over the net. In 1962 Pietrangeli and Nikki Pilic established a Wimbledon record with a 46-game set. Pietrangeli was also an active socialite who often stayed up half the night, arguing that there was nothing much to do in the mornings except sleep.

Panatta first caught ou attention when he beat Clark Graebner in the 1968 Queensland championships in Brisbane. It soon became evident that for all his size and strength and his agility at the net, Panatta was most at ease when using the drop-and-lob routine to design leisurely, almost languid patterns across sunlit clay courts. […]

His annus mirabilis was 1976, when he won the Italian and French championships in three weeks and – with the help of Corrado Barazzutti in singles and Paolo Bertolucci in doubles – brought Italy the Davis Cup for the only time in the competition’s history. It helped that four out of six ties were played at home. Panatta’s individual triumphs in Rome and Paris were remarkable for the fact that in each tournament he came within a point of losing in the first round.

In Rome, Kim Warwick had no fewer than 11 match points. In Paris, Pavel Hutka, an ambidextruous Czechoslovak newcomer to Roland Garros, had only one match point – but the memory of that point is vivid. Silence fell like a pall over the sunny stadium as Panatta prepared to serve. Fault. Both men fidgeted. There was no other movement, no sound. The birds had stopped singing. Hutka clipped the net cord in returning the second ball. Panatta, dashing in, had to break his stride but hit deep and stood towering at the net, waiting to see what Hutka and the gods had in store for him. Hutka’s lob looked a winner but Panatta’s vertical take-off achieved a feeble return off the frame. Hutka’s passing shot looked a formality but Panatta guessed right, flung himself headlong like a torpedo and hit a winning volley – again, off the frame. Whereupon Panatta crashed on to the court, the ground seemed to shiver and the stadium thundered with applause. That was the most amazing point I ever saw.
After that it was all profit. Even Bjorn Borg, champion in the two preceding years, could not cope with the imaginatively adventurous Panatta, who no longer recognized any distinction between the improbable and the inevitable.

Panatta’s arresting presence and artistically macho tennis also gave us memorable hours of pleasure when he was playing on grass, a surface hostile to the graces. And at Wimbledon in 1976, when he was playing Charlie Pasarell, the was an incident that told us much about the man. As Panatta was about to serve, a sparrow twittered away on the grass a few yards behind him. Distracted, Panatta gently olled a ball towards it, but the sparrow could not or would note move. So Panatta strolled back, picked up the fluffy chirper in a strong yet tender hand, and carefully took it across a spectator. Panatta had a way with birds. He had a way with tennis, too. The game was a means of expression, a form of communion with the ghosts of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.