Photo: Paul ZimmerArantxa Sanchez Vicario (ESP)
PARIS, FRANCE: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was the star of the show at the ITF World Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in Paris as she was presented with the prestigious Philippe Chatrier Award for her services to the game.
Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova received World Champion honours in the men’s and women’s singles categories after their stand-out seasons in 2011, while there were a bevy of other awards for doubles, senior, junior and wheelchair players.
Sanchez Vicario delivered a humble speech on receiving her award from ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, pointing out that the night was made even more special because of the location. “Roland Garros helped define my career,” she said, “so it’s great to be here tonight.”
The Spaniard won the Roland Garros title for the first time at the tender age of 17 and went on to claim a further two titles on the Parisian clay in 1994 and 1998, taking her total Grand Slam singles haul to four trophies together with her victory at the US Open in 1994. She was also a prolific doubles player.
Sanchez Vicario, who was the first Spanish player to reach No. 1 in the world rankings after achieving the feat in 1995, represented her country with incredible spirit and loyalty. She won the Fed Cup five times in the 1990s and played at five straight Olympic Games, winning four medals.
Now a mother of two, the Spaniard stepped up her charity work with Fundacion SOS, which helps children in Africa, since retiring from professional tennis in 2005 and has gone on to take over as Spain’s Fed Cup captain at the start of this year.
If Sanchez Vicario was the headline act of the evening, then Djokovic came a close second. The world No. 1 received a standing ovation from those packed inside the Pavillon d’Armenonville venue when he made a late arrival to the evening’s proceedings.
To be honest, it was remarkable that Djokovic arrived at all given his exploits at Roland Garros a short while earlier. After fighting back from match points down to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an epic five-setter, he raced to the dinner to receive his award.
The Serb enjoyed an incredible year in 2011 that saw him establish himself as the dominant force in men’s tennis, so much so that he now stands on the verge of winning a historic fourth successive major title if he can finish the job off in Paris this week.
Kvitova was also charming as she was recognised for her efforts in 2011. Last year was a break-through season for the Czech left-hander as she picked up her first Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon alongside helping her country to be crowned Fed Cup champions.
The doubles awards went to serial champions Bob and Mike Bryan, and first time winners Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, who admirably shook off the disappointment of losing a late night three-setter at Roland Garros to come and collect their trophies.
The junior champions were Jiri Vesely and Irina Khromacheva, while the wheelchair winners were Maikel Scheffers and Esther Vergeer, who has now won the women’s award for an incredible 12 straight years.
For the first time at the World Champions Dinner, an award was given out for Outstanding Services to Seniors Tennis, and the deserving recipient was Lorne Main. The Canadian, now aged 81, is the most successful player in the 54-year history of the seniors circuit.
Main, who played Grand Slam and Davis Cup tennis in the 1950s, has won an incredible 39 titles at World Individual and Team Championships, together with countless other singles and doubles trophies.
Roll of honour
- Philippe Chatrier Award: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (ESP)
- Men's Singles: Novak Djokovic (SRB)
- Women's Singles: Petra Kvitova (CZE)
- Men's Doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan (USA)
- Women's Doubles: Kveta Peschke (CZE) and Katarina Srebotnik (SLO)
- Junior Boys: Jiri Vesely (CZE)
- Junior Girls: Irina Khromacheva (RUS)
- Seniors: Lorne Main (CAN)
- Men's Wheelchair: Maikel Scheffers (NED)
- Women's Wheelchair: Esther Vergeer (NED)
For more information, visit the ITF World Champions page.