Re: The "we already miss Arantxa" thread!
Sports of The Times; How Arantxa Used Chris as Her Model
The New York Times
July 7, 1995
SHE was only 16 when she first put her feet on the treacherous grass of Wimbledon. It took her three tournaments to finally win a match there. Then Arantxa Sanchez Vicario made this observation to Spanish journalists: "Chris Evert did it. So I must do it, too."
Chris Evert had won three Wimbledons with a game better suited for slower, more predictable surfaces. That is what a champion -- or at least a professional -- does.
It was not easy because Sanchez Vicario has a game best suited for the crushed red brick of the French Open. She has won there twice, which is why her two dogs are named Roland and Garros, after the tennis center in Paris.
Sanchez Vicario may never get to name another pet after one of the great names of Wimbledon -- Fred or Chris or Martina -- but she has basically lived up to her vow of six years ago. She has fought the lawn, and she has won.
She has Steffi Graf looming ahead of her, and she can see the shadow of the 800-pound gorilla, Monica Seles, looming over her. But for this moment, between yesterday and tomorrow, this bouncy little competitor, with the extra yellow ball stuck securely on the back of her tennis shirt, has gone hippety-hippety-hop into the Wimbledon final.
Arantxa is in the final because she didn't weasel off annually for a two-week holiday the way her compatriots, Sergi Bruguera and Alberto Berasategui, did this year. To be fair, the Spanish men can see the handwriting on the wall -- or at least the chalk dust rising from serves out of the cannons of Goran and Pete and Boomer and Andre, today's four semifinalists, and dozens of other hard-ballers.
Such is the minimal state of women's tennis that a persevering little chunk of will can force herself upward on the fever chart of tennis: 1r, 1r, QF, 1r, QF, 2r, 4r, 4r. She had never been an "SF" in eight attempts at Wimbledon. Now she's at least an "F," having outlasted her fellow Spaniard, Conchita Martinez, last year's champion, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1.
The American football Super Bowl mentality would insist that Sanchez Vicario has basically accomplished nothing yet, that she will be a yellow quitting dog if she cannot win the final. Ah, but it is not Super Bowl season. And Sanchez Vicario dared to suggest that being a Wimbledon finalist is a lovely thing unto itself.
"It's a dream come true for me," she said yesterday. "I mean, after winning the French Open, I think that what I wanted to do is try to play my first final in Wimbledon. I started pretty strong, and it feels great. I mean, I passed the quarterfinals. That was my goal to come here and now, having a tough match and winning this way, it gives you confidence to go into the final, and it's a great feeling."
It's a great feeling because of the way she attacked the dreaded grass. The other day, after surviving hard-serving Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, the Spanish Energizer Bunny described her efforts.
"I enjoy myself much more on grass so I'm having fun when I play," Sanchez Vicario said. "That makes a difference on the court. And another thing is that deciding myself to be patient but go more to the net and put more pressure and win a lot of points at the net instead of just playing from the baseline. Also, my serve has improved, so it's getting better and I can win more points. Everything together makes me feel more comfortable on the court."
Sanchez Vicario has tasted being the top-ranked player in the world while Graf's back was acting up. But the powers in women's tennis are preparing a policy for when La Seles decides to come back from her hideous incident with the back-stabbing German fan.
Tennis officials are likely to give Seles a highly lucrative and ego-rewarding co-No. 1 ranking. If Graf should win tomorrow, and Seles is welcomed back at the top, Sanchez Vicario would lose the second best slot in the draw.
Asked about it yesterday, Sanchez Vicario said: "First of all, there has been some discussion about it, and that's what it is at this point. I just don't think about it at all at this point, and I try to concentrate for the tournament. That's all at this moment. That's my feelings."
Her ability to concentrate has landed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in a Wimbledon final. Let her enjoy it today.