If like me, you used to watch tennis in late 80’s early 90’s, you are familiar with Arantxa Sanchez family. Her mother Marisa, in particular, was a permanent fixture in the player’s box at tournaments around the world.
Arantxa’s family appeared to be perfectly normal, much more than the one of her two biggest rivals: Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. At least it seems, until recently.
My parents’ behavior has caused me a lot of suffering. In recent months, I have been through such difficult situations that there are still moments when I think I’m in a nightmare. What’s certain is that my relationship with my family doesn’t exist. How is it possible that everything I’ve obtained has disappeared, has ceased to be?
In her autobiography Vamos, Memorias da una lucha, una vida y una mujer,Arantxa Sanchez says her parents left her broke and that she has no relationships with anyone in her family, including her two former pro player brothers, Emilio and Javier.
Of course I had heard all those rumors surrounding her marriage to businessman Jose Santacana, but I really didn’t see that coming.
“They’ve left me with nothing. I’m in debt to the (Spanish equivalent of the) IRS (she was condemned to pay €3.5 million in fines for paying taxes to Andorra while living in Spain), and my properties are very inferior to those of my brother Javier, for example, who has won much less than me over the course of his life.”
During her 17-year career Arantxa captured 4 Grand Slam singles titles, reached the number one ranking in both singles and doubles, and won about $17 million in prize money. The sponsorships she had during that time elevated her income to some $59 million by her count.
According to El Pais, sources knowledgeable of the tennis world and her family are surprised by the insinuation of bankruptcy (“She has a boat, houses…”) and the elevated figure of her earnings: there are high taxes on tournament prizes (up to 35%), and Arantxa did not enjoy a large advertisement contract outside the tennis world.
I never doubted how my father managed my money. Today I am out of resources (…) I am the victim and the deceived.
Arantxa, according to the book, was a girl who robbed a motorcycle to escape the tennis academy in which she was training. An adolescent whose her parents wanted her to go to bed early and leave her own birthday party. A champion weighed down by her “faithful shadow”, her mother – “for her, discipline and victory went before anything else, when sometimes what I needed most were caring words…I ended up doubting my self-worth and looking for help from psychologists to recover my self-esteem.”
Arantxa with her parents Marisa and Emilio after her Roland Garros victory in 1994:
Of course, it didn’t take long for Arantxa’s mother to issue a statement in which she explains her daughter’s book was a total surprise to her. She also emphasises the cancer suffered by Arantxa’s father and the sacrifices they made for their daughter’s career.
For twenty years we lived for her. We put everything aside. We mortgaged our lives and our marriage. I travelled with her since she was a little girl. In fact, I left my husband and my other children to do so. After that, my husband left his job and came along with us so he could help her. We tried our best. We obviously failed. She was the one who received the most from us and now it turns out that -after turning forty- all the bad stuff that is happening to her is our fault. She accuses us of leaving her in bankrupt, of taking everything away from her, with the bitterness and resentment that one could only expect from the worst of the enemies.
I will not go into details. We will wait until the book is published and, much to our regret, we will carefully read it. Once it is done, it will be the time for me (and in my husband’s name) or our lawyers to give an appopriate reply to the false accusations we are undergoing. And, of course, it will be obvious that we have never taken advantage of Arantxa and that, indeed, she’s not ruined.
“I’m the second seed in the 2003 Australian Open, and I come out growling, ferocious. I reach the semis and beat Ferreira in ninety minutes. In six matches I’ve dropped only one set.
In the final I face Rainer Schuettler from Germany, I win three straight sets, losing only five games and tying the most lopsided victory ever at the Australian Open. My eighth slam, and it’s my best performance ever. I tease Stefanie that it’s like one of her matches, the closest I’ll ever come to experiencing her kind of dominance.
Austin wins the match, and Navratilova wins the heart
Excerpts of The 100 greatest days in New York sports by Stuart Miller
“At Wimbledon, the French and Australian Opens, there can be no final set tiebreaker, but at the US Open it’s do-or-die. And in 1981 Tracy Austin and Martina Navratilova squared off in the first final set tiebreaker.
Austin had won the Open at 16 in 1979, but in 1981 she’d been sidelined by sciatic nerve injuries. Navratilova had won Wimbledon twice and the Australian Open in 1981 but was still an erratic, emotionally vulnerable player.
She’d been an American citizen that summer, endured tabloid stories about her sexuality, finally subdued rival and top seed Chris Evert in the semis, and was desperately eager to win.
Navratilova seemed to have the trophy in her grip after grabbing the first set 6-1. But Austin, noted for her steely determination and concentration, began grinding away. Navratilova’s aggressiveness and gambling proved her undoing as she blew several break points with unforced errors – she’d make 43 to Austin 17 by day end.
Austin snuck off with the second set 7-6, 7-4 in the tiebreaker.
The third set was equally tight. Down 6-5, Navratilova committed 8 unforced errors and double faulted twice, but saved 3 match points to force another tiebreak. Then Austin showed her greatness, switching suddenly from hitting short to Navratilova’s backhand to slamming balls deep to her fierce forehand. This bold move rattled Navratilova, who fell behind 6-1, then double faulted.”
If you are intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes at Wimbledon, Chris Gorringe‘s book Holding Court is a must-read. Gorringe tells the story of his 26 years journey as All England Club chief executive. The book is full of anecdotes about legendary players (McEnroe, Sampras, Borg to name a few), but also describes in details the structure of the Club, the organization of the Championships, and Wimbledon’s Long Term Plan.
A few pages are of course dedicated to the Centre Court roof, which has been the real star of the 125th Championships so far.
Enjoy of few extracts of Holding Court:
“When we had first laid out the LTP (Long Term Plan) in the 90s, a retractable roof had been possible in as much as the technology was available, but what had not been proved to our satisfaction was that you could have a sliding roof that would work for grass court tennis. We had not seen a roof design that would: retain the grass at a quality that would withstand two weeks of play, and that would not make it sweat and be slippery; that would provide the right ambiance for the spectators; and that would allow grass to grow for the rest of the year.”
Australian Open roof vs Wimbledon roof
“We did not have all the answers, but certain members of the media and our committee wanted it as they had be to the Australian Open and seen the roof in action there.
However, the Australians had a different set of circumstances. When they moved from Kooyong’s private members’ club to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park), in order to finance the set-up, the main centre court had to be a stadium design, not just a tennis arena. They needed the stadium to be used for as many days a year as possible, for concerts or whatever, which meant adding a roof but saying goodbye to grass. Once grass is taken out of the equation, the addition of a roof becomes very much easier.
Theirs is infinitely heavier than ours, is not translucent in any way, and is presumably specially designed in order for it to work well for concerts or musical events: there is no escape of noise or light through their roof. As well as having the roof over the main stadium at Melbourne Park, they have also built an adjacent stadium – again another multi-purpose building with a roof on it.”
Ladies locker room:
The highlight of the tour is when you get to go inside the ladies dressing room. But you might be surprised at how small the locker rooms are:
Only 20 sentences dedicated by Andre Agassi to his 2001 Australian Open win in his autobiography Open? The Australian Open, a tournament he “loves some much”…… as much as he loves tennis, or not.
Sure, there’s not much to say about his 6-4 6-2 6-2 routine win over the surprising Arnaud Clément.
Extract from Agassi’s biography:
“In January we fly to Australia. I feel good when we land. I do love this place. I must have been an aborigine in another life. I always feel at home here. I always enjoy walking into Rod Laver Arena, playing under Laver’s name.
I bet Brad that I’m going to win the whole thing. I can feel it. And when I do, he will have to jump the Yarra River.
I batter my way to the semis and face Rafter again. We play three hours of hammer-and-tong tennis, filled with endless I-grunt-you-grunt rallies.
He’s ahead, two sets to one. Then he withers. The Australian heat. We’re both drenched with sweat, but he’s cramping. I win the next two sets.
In the final I face Clément, a grudge match four months after he knocked me out of the US Open. I rarely leave the baseline. I make few mistakes, and those I do make, I put quickly behind me.
Clément is muttering to himself in French, I feel a serene calm. My mother’s son. I beat him in straight sets.
It’s my seventh Slam, putting me tenth on the all-time list. I’m tied with McEnroe, Wilander, and others – one ahead of Becker and Edberg.
Wilander and I are the only ones to win three Australian Opens in the Open era. At the moment, however, all I care is seeing Brad do the backstroke in the Yarra, then getting home to Stefanie.”