07 Jun 2017

World Champions honoured at dinner in Paris

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Paul Zimmer2017 Philippe Chatrier Award winners Sergio Casal (ESP) and Emilio Sanchez (ESP)

At the time of writing Andy Murray is still going strong in the French Open, a testimony to the coaching prowess and clay court expertise of Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal, whose academy in Barcelona the British world No1 attended during his formative years from the age of 14.

So it was fitting that the two Spaniards should be feted here on Tuesday when they received the International Tennis Federation’s prestigious Philippe Chatrier Award for services to tennis.

With an upcoming quarterfinal Murray unfortunately was unable to attend the dinner in person at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines when he too was honoured, for the first time, as an ITF world champion, although there was a recorded video from him giving thanks.

Doubtless he would have been one of the first to congratulate Sanchez and Casal, without whose guidance he would almost certainly never have mastered the clay to the extent that he has. Murray, who of course reached the French Open last year, has long since asserted that the red stuff is the truest test of a player so it would be deeply rewarding if he were to win this title one day. Casal was not alone in musing over a possible Murray-Rafael Nadal final which would seriously test the Spaniard’s sense of allegiance.

“Andy would have to do pretty well everything to win and last very long - three, four, five sets,” he said. “Nadal is one of the guys who doesn’t quit so he is going to stay [out there] for ever. It would be a good final.”

It was a good night for the Brits; in fact it was a good night for the Murrays because brother Jamie won the men’s doubles world title and his partner the Brazilian Bruno Soares was present to receive the award in person. Another first time winner was another Scot Gordon Reid, the Paralympic Games wheelchair tennis gold and silver medallist as well as a two-time Grand Slam champion in 2016.

Jiske Griffioen went one better than Reid in Rio by taking gold in the singles and doubles and was the only returning World Champion here. Much too early, of course, to compare her to her fellow countrywoman, the great Esther Vergeer, but the Dutch girl is maintaining some high standards.

Another woman adroitly handling the pressure of favouritism, in her case in the absence of Serena Williams, is Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the winner of two Grand Slam titles last year as well as runner-up at Wimbledon, who was a shoe-in as the women’s singles World Champion.

The  boys’ World Champion was Miomir Kecmanovic, the first Serbian to receive the award; which must be about the only award in tennis that fellow countryman Novak Djokovic hasn’t won. Not surprisingly, Kecmanovic cited the former world No1 as his inspiration. Likewise, it was no surprise that the girls’ World Champion Anastasia Potapova, of Russia, should find herself owing a debt of gratitude to Maria Sharapova.

Other World Champions: women’s doubles: Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, of France; Davis Cup by BNP Paribas: Argentina; Fed Cup by BNP Paribas: Czech Republic.