Sanchez Vicario, Arantxa

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Arantxa Sanchez Vicario


Spanish tennis player

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario had the privilege and the misfortune of playing tennis during the reign of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles . Despite playing in their long shadows, Sanchez Vicario won the French Open three times and the U.S. Open once, as well as six Grand Slam doubles titles and four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. Her peppy, expressive personality endeared her to fans as did her tenacious play. At just five-feet-six-inches and 123 pounds, she endured and often overcame the giant strokes of her larger, stronger opponents.

Professional at Fourteen

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was born on December 18, 1971 in Barcelona, Spain. Named after Saint Aranzazu, the patron saint of the Basque region of Spain, Sanchez Vicario was the youngest of four children. Her father, Emilio, is an engineer, and her mother, Marisa, is a teacher. Sanchez Vicario fell in love with tennis, or at least a tennis racket, when she was two years old. Because she was constantly toddling onto the court and interrupting the play of her parents and older siblings, her mother gave her a Slazenger racquet to distract and occupy her. Once Sanchez Vicario picked it up, she never put it down. The racket became her constant companion and her favorite toy.

Following in the footsteps of her older siblings, Sanchez Vicario soon became an impressive tennis player. At first she spent hours hitting balls against the wall at the country club. She then began to train with Manuel Orantes, a former top-ten player, who worked with

Sanchez Vicario on the clay courts of nearby Club Real de Tenis. By the time she was thirteen, she was the top female player in Spain. She turned professional in June 1986 at the age of fourteen.

In 1987 Sanchez Vicario made a grand debut at her first Grand Slam event by reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open. She did not drop a set until losing to Gabriela Sabatini , ranked No. 7, in the quarterfinals. Although she was defeated in the first round at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, her year-end ranking had risen to from No. 124 to No. 47. In 1988 Sanchez Vicario once again did well on the clay courts at Roland Garros, where the French Open is played. She again reached the quarterfinals, this time by upsetting Chris Evert , ranked No. 3 at the time. She won her first singles title at the Belgian Open just a month before her seventeenth birthday.

Stuns Graf

During 1989, her third year on tour, Sanchez Vicario claimed her first Grand Slam title by winning the French Open in an upset over Graf, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 7-5. She became the first Spanish woman to win at Roland Garros. Her defeat of seemingly unbeatable Graf, who came to the French Open having won the last five consecutive Grand Slam titles and 117 of her last 121 matches, brought Sanchez Vicario, seeded seventh, to the fore-front of the tennis world. The three-hour match was marked by long rallies of 30 to 40 shots in which Sanchez Vicario chased down everything that came her way. Graf, who was suffering from a stomach ailment, made 71 unforced errors, failed to convert 10 of 11 break points, and could not put Sanchez Vicario away serving for the match at 5-3 in the third set.

Upon winning the French Open, the elated Sanchez Vicario rolled in the red clay then sprang up, rushed to Graf, giving her a heartfelt hug. According to Sports Illustrated, in her endearing broken English, Sanchez Vicario exclaimed, "I am very joyed. I am so exciting to win Steffi." Following her win, Sanchez Vicario and her family were granted a private audience with Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. After reaching the quarterfinals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Sanchez Vicario ended the season ranked No. 4.

Following her French Open win, Sanchez Vicario, who up to this point had been known simply as Arantxa Sanchez, decided to tack on her mother's maiden name so that she could honor both sides of her family and they could all see their name in the newspapers. During the 1990 season Sanchez Vicario won two singles titles, four women's doubles, and the mixed doubles title at the French Open. Her best Grand Slam finish was the semi-finals of the U.S. Open. Her biggest win came at the Hamburg Open, where she finally defeated Martina Navratilova , ranked No. 2, after six previous losses. Advancing to the finals, Sanchez Vicario lost to Graf in three sets.

A Decade of Winning

In 1991 Sanchez Vicario returned to the finals of the French Open by defeating Graf in the semifinals, 6-2, 6-0, but lost to No. 1 ranked Seles in the finals, 6-3, 6-4. With Sanchez Vicario's help, Spain won its first Federation Cup championship in 1991. The following year the Olympics were held in Barcelona, and both Sanchez Vicario and her brother Emilio played for Spain. She won a bronze medal in the singles and a silver medal, with countrywomen Conchita Martinez, in doubles. In the same year she managed to upset Seles to win the Canadian Open and advanced to the finals of the U.S. Open for the first time, defeating Graf in the quarterfinals, but lost in the finals to Seles. That same year she won ten doubles titles, including her first Grand Slam doubles win at the Australian Open.

Sanchez Vicario reached the semifinals of three of the four Grand Slam events (Australian Open, French Open, and U.S. Open) and made the quarterfinals of 17 of 18 singles tournaments in 1993. She ended the year with a 77-14 singles record, four singles titles, four doubles titles, the Australian Open mixed doubles title, the U.S. Open women's doubles title, and a second Federation Cup title. In 1994 Sanchez Vicario claimed two more Grand Slam singles titles. She beat hard-hitting Mary Pierce , 6-4, 6-4, to retake the French Open title and overcame Graf, 1-6, 7-6, 6-4, to win her first and only U.S. Open title.


1971Born in Barcelona, Spain
1985Ranked first among Spain's female tennis players
1986Turns professional at the age of fourteen
1987Makes first appearance at a Grand Slam event at the French Open
1989Wins first Grand Slam title at the French Open
1992Attains No. 1 doubles ranking (October 19-November 15)
1994Wins two Grand Slam titles, the French Open and the U.S. Open
1995Attains No. 1 singles ranking (February 6-19; February 27-April 9; May 15-June 11)
1995-97Regains No. 1 doubles ranking (February 13-26, 1995; March 27-November 5, 1995; November 13-April 6, 1997)
1998Wins third French Open title
2000Takes extended break after the end of the season
2002Announces retirement on November 12

Awards and Accomplishments

Sanchez Vicario helped Spain win four Federation Cup Championships in 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1995.
1987Wins Sanex World Tennis Association (WTA) Most Impressive Newcomer Award
1989Wins French Open ladies singles title
1990Wins French Open mixed doubles title
1991Named Spain's best athlete by newspaper El Mundo
1992Wins Australian Open doubles title; wins French Open mixed doubles title; wins silver medal in doubles with Conchita Martinez and bronze medal in ladies singles at Olympics
1993Wins U.S. Open doubles title; Wins Australian Open mixed doubles title
1994Wins Australian Open ladies singles title; Wins U.S. Open ladies singles title; named International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Champion; named Spain's best athlete by newspaper El Mundo
1995Wins Australian Open doubles title; wins Wimbledon doubles title
1996Wins Australian Open doubles title; wins silver medal in ladies singles and bronze medal in doubles with Martinez at Olympics
1998Wins French Open singles title; receives the Principe De Asturiasi, Spain's highest honor; named Spain's best athlete by El Mundo ; named Tennis Magazine Comeback Player of the Year
2000Wins U.S. Open mixed doubles title; receives the Family Circle Cup Player Who Makes A Difference Award
2001Receives, with Martinez, the inaugural Award of Excellence from the ITF and International Hall of Fame

Briefly holding the No.1 spot in 1995 in both singles and doubles, Sanchez Vicario lost to Pierce in the Australian Open singles finals. She also reached the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon, but on both occasions fell to Graf. Their battle at Wimbledon became known as one of the best women's finals ever to be played. Tied at a set apiece, with the score was 5-5 in the deciding third set, Sanchez Vicario and Graf battled through one 20-minute, 32-point game that finally awarded Graf her sixth Wimbledon title. Despite her eventual loss, Sanchez Vicario was highly praised for her aggressive, tenacious play.

In both 1996 and 1997 Sanchez Vicario reached the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon, but failed to walk away with another Grand Slam title. In 1997 her best finish was the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, but in 1998 she earned her third French Open championship and fourth Grand Slam title, defeating Seles in the finals. Although this was to be her last Grand Slam title, Sanchez Vicario continued to find her way through the early rounds of most of her matches. In 2000 she played in her fifth Grand Slam event at the French Open. She reached the semifinals, marking the fourteenth time in fifteen years of playing at Roland Garros that she made it into the quarterfinals or better.


Sanchez Vicario took a break after the 2000 season and skipped the Australian Open. Her best Grand Slam finish of 2001 was the third round of the U.S. Open. In 2002 she did not play at Wimbledon and did not make it beyond the first round in any other Grand Slam tournament. Although she did not win a singles title in 2002, she did win six doubles titles. In November 2002, Sanchez Vicario announced her retirement. She was a gritty player, who had no exceptional weapons in her arsenal of shots, but won nonetheless through sheer determination. Chasing down every ball, she frustrated and exhausted her opponents until the points totaled in her favor. Although other tennis greats took more Grand Slam trophies home, Sanchez Vicario took home over $16 million in prize money, making her the third highest paid female tennis player to date.


Address: c/o IMG, 1360 E. 9th Street, Ste. 100, Cleveland, Ohio 44114.


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Sketch by Kari Bethel

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