Arantxa battles back, as a businesswoman
19 November 2007, Madrid - When a high-level athlete retires from professional sports, they leave behind the trips, the stress, and the pressure, but also the applause and the admiration.
19 November 2007
Madrid - When a high-level athlete retires from professional sports, they leave behind the trips, the stress, and the pressure, but also the applause and the admiration.
Or so goes the theory, because watching Arantxa Sánchez Vicario do the rounds at the Sony Ericsson Championship that finished a week ago Sunday in Madrid, she seems more popular then when she shook half of Spain with her French Open wins.
Made-up and wearing an elegant black party dress, the image of the younger Sánchez Vicario seems a distant past, considering that she only left the courts five years ago.
As the image of the Madrid tournament and a commentator for TVE television, she is now a 35-year old professional woman, at ease in any environment. She doesn't miss the tumultuous life of top competition, where she spent 18 years, winning four Grand Slam titles (10 including doubles).
"I don't miss it at all. But I always liked having a lot of public contact. The bigger and fuller the stadium, the better I played."
And some of the most rewarding aspects of the job have remained.
"Now, you don't live the same way. But people remember you, and in the street they keep telling me that I am the best and that gives me great satisfaction."
What they remember about her are the three French Open titles she won (1989, 1994, and 1998) and the US Open in 1994. In turn, Arantxa has kept in contact with the tennis world.
Apart from her involvement in the Madrid WTA ladies championship, she runs Barcelona's KIA tournament, and is mentor to the Russian player Svetlana Kuznetsova.
"When she has any doubts, she asks for my advice. She gets the support of a player who knows what it was like to have been number one... the pressure that it took to get there."
What she won't hear of is talk about getting back on the court; not even as coach.
"No, no, no. Now I'm on the organizational side, as a businesswoman. Now not everything depends on you. It's a new experience for me. You have to organize everything, coordinate sponsors, TV, everything. I like this side and it's a way to empower women's tennis."
But the game is quite different from Arantxa's day, invaded by athlete-models who get younger and younger. "Women's tennis is much more feminine now. It's not only about playing... and the brands know that. The girls can do a lot of advertising and they concentrate more on their looks, and I think that's good.
But, in the long run, what people really remember is if you've been number one and how many Grand Slams titles you've won."
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ AMAYA IRÍBAR 2007]
Subject: Spanish news