Found this great article today (its from the 1995 US Open Programme), and thought I'd share it. It really captures Arantxa's personality, and makes 1994 (such an exciting year in tennis for me, because Arantxa won everything) seem like yesterday. Enjoy, Arantxa fans Please enjoy - my hands are killing me after typing it all!
Marisa Vicario never met a roller coaster that she didn't like. But the shake-and-rolling rattler at Tibidabo, that venerable amusement park perched on a crag overlooking Barcelona, has a special place in her Castilian heart.
Having rejoiced with husband Emilio Sanchez in the births of their two sons and a daughter, she was presently informed by her physician that no more children were possible. A disappointment, but young Marisa, Emilio and Javier, in that order, were healthy kids with athletic inclinations, and life went on.
But what, you ask, about the foremost achiever of the historic tennis brood, Sanchez- spunky Arantxa, the reigning Reina of Flushing Meadows? Later.
Later...an unexpected blessing: the roller coaster kid arrived in 1972, four years younger than Javier. It happened that one day Mama Marisa, whose deeply concerend countenance you've noticed on many a television screen, spiritually chaperoning her last-born at play, had taken the three children to Tibidabo in their home town for an amusing afternoon. Included was roller coaster ride time. Not long after, startlingly, Marisa was pregnant - and, some 17 years after, that piston-legged blessed event was beating steffi Graf at Roland Garros to become the youngest French open champion.
Although Arantxa would lose her Paris record for precocity 12 months later to a 16-year-old Monica Seles, she had established herself in the hearts of her countryfolk as the only Spanish woman to win a major title. The sublime Lili de Alvarez had flirted with such an honour way back, as Wimbledon finalist in 1926-27-28.
By seizing her second Roland Garros title last year, Arantxa shared a Catalan double feature with Sergi Bruguera. They became king and queen of France while King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain proudly applauded their regal commoners.
That common ground was, of course, European ruby red terra firma. Arantxa, however, realized theres more to tennis than dirtkicking if you're intent on becoming the very best. Unless you can master the mean green slabs of this metrolpolitan Meadow, or the meadow-like sod of Wimbledon, you're compartmentalized as strictly a clay court maven. Such as Bruguera, thus far.
"I think I can win on anything, " says the U.S. champ of 1994, whose straight name is Aranzazu Isabel Maria Sanchez Vicario. "I proved it at Flushing Meadow last year. That was a big change, big progress for me. I've shown I can play on the hard court."
The proof was sweet: a rebounding 1-6 7-6(3) 6-4 triumph over the three-time champ Steffi Graf during which Sanchez Vicario flitted, buzzed and stung so electrifyingly that you knew you were in the presence of the Barcelona Bumblebee.
"What is a bumblebee?" a Spanish journalist asked me of Arantxa's nom de play. "We dont have such an animal."
"But you do - one...the unique Arantxa."
To let her countryfolk know, she frequently wears a hunk of jewelry, a life-size bumblebee pin than an admirer gave her.
Keeping up with her names is no easier than keeping pace on court. Arantxa is not Arancia (orange) as Italian journalists insist on spelling it, possibly classifying her as peppy as mega-doses of vitamin C. Rather, Arantxa is a homemade nickname for the obscure Aranzazu, a Basque saint. Mama Marisa had a friend who regarded that saint very highly, and asked her to give the name to any future daughter that she might have. It seemed a futile request - until that cocktail shaker of a roller coaster trip.
After winning her first French as Arantxa Sanchez, she told the press that she was appending Vicario "because I want to honour my mother when I am written about and talked about. No hyphen." Whatever a champion wants, correct? We became accustomed to Muhammad Ali replacing Cassius Marcellus Clay, didnt we?
This champion, Arantxa, may have arrived rather later, but she was a quick study and starter, female number 1 in Spain aged 13 when she became a professional. Although much adverse - and justified - criticism has been aimed at this sport which permits such egrarious child labour, Sanchez Vicario, and another who joined the female workforce at 13, Steffi graf, appear to have come through all right. "Yes, I sacrificed some of my childhood, lost a part of my youth I will never get back," Arantxa acknowledges. "But its what i wanted. Not everybody has the will to do it."
Nobody would ever question the Bumblebee's high-tech-strength will. But she was also lucky in her parentage and guidance. Her father has a job, as an engineer. She isnt expected to support the family, a burden that has meant pressure overload for so many prodigies. Her mother, as companion - "my best friend, " says ASV - provides the balance of home on the road. Coach Gabriel Urpi is influential in sensible scheduling that allows Arantxa healthy stretches of time off to recover from the rigors of the tour.
Were the Sanchezes parents who dragged their kids to the club and tied them, for inspiration, to the net post while Mom and Pop played? No, that was Ivan lendl's mom. But there was a club with a swimming pool and courts, and the folks thought it would be a nice place for summertime fun. Eldest, Marisa, showed quite an aptitude for tennis, and would gravitate to Pepperdine University's team as Santa Monica, California, on scholarship, the family's only varsity letter winner. Graduation to professional tennis didnt appeal to her.
Then Emilio, now 30, was heard from. Big. Rising as high as No.7 on the planet in 1990, he was a Spanish davis Cup mainstay, Italian open champ in 1991, Olympic silver medallist in doubles in 1988, alongside Sergio Casal, with whom he won the U.S. Open here two weeks before and a career total of 43 titles. A universal title that even a sports hater would admire was Emilio's positioning among People magazines's "Fifty Most Beautiful people in the World" for 1992.
Though Javier, 27, may have been overshadowed, in the public eye, by Emilio and Arantxa, the fact is he travels among the elite, consistently ranking in the 30s, wins tournaments, and has contributed a healthy share to his family career prize money earnings of $15,399,049 as 1995 began. Arantxa has accounted for more than half: $8million-and-change.
"We love Arantxa so much and are pleased she's done so well - the star of the family," says Emilio.
She responds, "They always played with me, the little one, and helped me. They come to watch when they can, and it helps when I see them in the box with my parents.
"Maybe the most embarrassing time in tennis for me and Emilio came at the Spanish Championships - the one for just Spanish players - in 1985. I was only 13, but playing for the womens championship against a woman named Ninoska Souto. I never left the baseline then, but very steady. We played for over an hour and still its the first set. Very boring. The tournament organisers and the crowd got impatient. They wanted to start the mens final on the main court, with Emilio. Finally they moved us to another court so Emilio could play. He didnt want to kick me off, but they did it. He felt awful. I told him it's OK. He played bad until he heard I won. Then he won."
They're all still winning. Nothing quite like the Spanish Family Sanchez has graced tennis so prominently. Arantxa, always the liveliest, the most outgoing, has taken over as the front-runner, winning more, covering more ground, and adherent of the Ernie Banks philosophy - its a nice day; lets play two. Whats a Martini without the olive? Arantxa would say, whats singles without the doubles? She wants to play both (plus the mixed, if available).
In 1994, Sanchez Vicario engaged in 83 singles (74-9) and 78 doubles (71-7), making an overall win-loss record of 145-16 for 161 matches, plus eight titles in singles, 11 in doubles. Thats the most anybody has laboured since Martina Navratilova went 158-7 in 1982. It shouldnt be forgotten that when money and attention were scarce, Billie Jean King set the monumental record for toil in 1971 as she won 192 of 210 matches, 17 singles and 21 doubles titles.
"I love to play, as much as I can," Arantxa says. "I want to be No.1 (which she has been now and again this year in a tussle with Graf) but most of all I want to play. Tennis makes me very excited." Her brown eyes leap.
In her early days of mastering English, a requisite for a tennis player good enough to be dealing with the press, she would confess "I am very exciting," when she meant "excited". But it was fun to hear, and it was prophetic. Arantxa is exciting. So, we assume, was thehistoric roller coaster ride that heralded her arrival.
Bud Collins, author, television commentator, Boston Globe columnist, and a regular contributor to Tennis Championships magazine, is America's most widely-travelled and best-known tennis journalist. He is the author of Bud Collins' Modern Encyclopaedia of Tennis and was inducted into the International tennis Hall of Fame in 1994.