PARIS, June 4, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Gabriela Sabatini, who won Grand Slam titles in both singles (1990 U.S. Open) and doubles (1988 Wimbledon), earned an Olympic singles silver medal in Seoul (1988), and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (2006), is the recipient of the 2019 Philippe Chatrier Award.
Named for the former ITF President and introduced 23 years ago, the Philippe Chatrier Award is given to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to tennis, both on and off the court.
The Argentine retired in 1996 after winning 27 singles and 14 doubles titles, and reaching a career-high singles ranking of No. 3.
“The ITF Board of Directors are delighted to award the ITF’s highest accolade to Gabriela, a great champion and inspirational role model who has given so much to the sport through her contributions to many organizations for the benefit of young people and aspiring tennis players around the world,” said David Haggerty, ITF President, in a press release.
Since her retirement from tennis, Sabatini, 48, has continued to promote the sport by helping children around the world through her work with UNICEF, UNESCO, the Special Olympics and also as an Athlete Role Model at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games. She splits her time between living in Switzerland, Miami and Buenos Aires.
Sabatini will be presented with the Philippe Chatrier Award at the ITF World Champions Dinner in Paris Tuesday night. The event will also celebrate the achievements of the 2018 ITF World Champions: singles champions Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep; doubles champions Mike Bryan and Jack Sock, and Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova; junior champions Tseng Chun Hsin and Clara Burel; and wheelchair champions Shingo Kunieda, Diede de Groot and Dylan Alcott. The world champion nations of Davis Cup (Croatia) and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas (Czech Republic), are also being honored.
On Tuesday, Sabatini met with media for a Q & A session at Roland Garros. Among the interview highlights:
• Sabatini was asked about the up-and-coming impact of teens who have made their mark at this year’s French Open, such as American Amanda Anisimova, 17, and what kind of advice she would have for them. She said, “There are no secrets. You know, you have to have goals. Try to it your attention in your team, in your tennis. I know these days it’s difficult to do that because of all the media. But it’s important to really focus on the things that are really important that will take you to the next step … putting in all the passion, sacrifice, and to have dreams and to have goals.”
• Asked about the imbalance between the number of male and female tennis professionals being produced in her home country of Argentina – 21 Argentine men and boys competing in the French Open and no Argentine women or girls – Sabatini said, “Yes, I think the fact that there are not as many women as men is a difficult situation. Maybe, there are not enough references for female Argentinian players. And, playing tennis for a woman is more difficult than for a man because it’s always more difficult for a woman to be alone. And for a father to decide that his daughter will play tennis is a difficult decision to take, so the fathers won’t necessary choose tennis for their daughters.
“We are living in a country which is far away from other countries. We have difficulty in traveling, owing to the difficulties in the exchange rates. That leads to a lot of complications. And also, you need money to be able to invest in tennis in our country in Argentina.
“That’s a major part of the problem. We have to be able to collect funds to work on the development of tennis in Argentina.”
• Asked about her rivalry with Steffi Graf in singles and partnering in doubles, Sabatini said, “When I talk about our rivalry, I think I was very lucky to have Steffi Graf on the other side, because i was a better tennis player every time I played against her. A great competitor. I think she’s a great person.”
• As a resident of Switzerland, Sabatini was asked what she liked about Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. She said, “What can I say? I mean, two amazing players. I love to watch them play. I mean, it’s beautiful to watch those backhands, that tennis. That’s going to be very interesting, knowing the story of Stan here at the French Open, and Roger being back and playing good tennis.”
• Looking back on her tennis career, Sabatini reflected: “Tennis has given me a lot, much more than I gave myself to tennis. And what I am today, what I can do today, is thanks to tennis. Tennis has opened my mind, has enabled me to travel, and today I love traveling.”