Arantxa All Set For Barcelona
Published April 20, 2011 11:26
LLEIDA, Spain - With four Grand Slam singles titles to her name plus 10 in doubles and mixed, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario is a legend in tennis circles and an icon in her native Spain. Then there's her peerless record of national representation: Between 1986 and 2002 she competed in 58 Fed Cup ties, building a 50-22 record in singles and 22-6 in doubles.
She is, in short, the team competition's most successful player ever. And so it wasn't such a surprise to find the amiable 39-year-old in the city of Lleida, two hours northwest of Barcelona, last weekend. Spain was playing France in the Fed Group World Group playoffs, and although the Barcelona Ladies Open - of which Sánchez-Vicario is co-tournament director - was just a week away, there was no place the patriotic champion would sooner be.
"Being here definitely brings back special memories," she said, two-year-old daughter Arantxa swinging at her mama's feet. "Now it's a different story - I'm on the 'other' side. But I loved to play Fed Cup for my country. I never missed a round and I still think it's very exciting. And of course I still want for Spain to be the best - and back in the World Group."
Back in the day, Spain was, indeed, the best. A golden run in the 1990s saw them lift the cup five times, Sánchez-Vicario forming a supreme double act with Conchita Martínez. Together they won 18 doubles rubbers, still the record for a pair. And now they share something else in common: Martínez is also a tournament director, for the Andalucía Tennis Experience.
"Yes, it's a busy time, but I'm looking forward to a good tournament," said Sánchez-Vicario, who was heading straight home after Saturday's matches to continue preparations for her event. "I'm looking forward to having the most crowds, great matches. Good players are coming. Hopefully they can enjoy it and it can be a success."
So, does she swap notes with her old comrade Conchita about the challenges of their new roles?
"No, not at all," Sánchez-Vicario smiled, a competitive twinkle in her eye. "It's a coincidence that we are both tournament directors. But I think it's great that the Spanish players have the opportunity to play tournaments in their country. They don't have to go away all the time.
"But we talk, we can have a nice chat," she added. "Our tournaments are different weeks and we both want to do well for the players. It's a different story now. We are much more relaxed!"
And might little Arantxa take up the family business one day, in the footsteps of her mother, her uncles Emilio and Javier, and aunty Marisa?
"Well, she loves tennis," said Sánchez-Vicario with pride. "She's been really good, watching the first two matches. Just now in the third set we went to play because she wanted to play. But, so far, so good… I mean, she's only little, but she likes to watch and that's a good sign!"
This year marks the fifth staging of the Barcelona Ladies Open as a WTA event, having begun as an ITF Circuit stop a few years earlier. Former champions include Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and Maria Kirilenko, while this year's line-up features Marion Bartoli and Alexandra Dulgheru.
Sánchez-Vicario won 29 singles and 69 doubles titles on the WTA tour, including the French Open three times and the US Open once. In February 1995 she was simultaneously ranked No.1 in singles and doubles.