TENNIS | What happened to Conchita Martínez, the Spanish tennis player?

TENNIS | What happened to Conchita Martínez, the Spanish tennis player?
TENNIS | What happened to Conchita Martínez, the Spanish tennis player?

“The step has been taken. Conchita Martinez She has gone from being a circuit player to becoming the Wimbledon champion. No Spanish tennis player had ever managed to break this barrier. Lilí Álvarez’s three finals in 1926, 1927 and 1928 have gone down in history”. This is how one of the many journalistic chronicles that were written on July 2, 1994 began to attest to the greatest feat of the well-known Aragonese tennis player, who at 22 years old was able to defeat in that final Martina Navratilovathen the last legend of the circuit with 18 Grand Slams under his belt, thanks to his tennis talent and tenacity.

Winning that match against her idol was the culmination of an old dream for the girl from Monzón (Huesca), who was a child when she started playing tennis as a game and to stay active. “At home we played on two tennis courts that belong to the factory where my father works and are very close to home,” she explained in one of her first interviews. “I was in charge of collecting the balls when my father and brother played. Then, in my free time, to imitate them or to be able to play like them, I would hit my racket against a wall that they had to reinforce with cement because of all the hits I had given it.”

When I was nine years old, Jose Maria San Vicentewho would become her first coach, saw her one day hitting tennis rackets and decided to encourage her father to sign her up for classes. Conchita began to attend the Aragon championships and was signed by the Urgell Tennis Club in Lleida. At just twelve years old, she obtained permission from her family to go to the Blume Residence in Barcelona, ​​where they would teach her to improve her tennis.

“At Blume everyone loved me and pampered me, because I was one of the youngest athletes in the residence,” she said. “But I am very shy. I feel incapable of getting close to anyone. I had no friends. I played my tennis matches and locked myself away in my room. I was always alone, looking at tennis publications, reading biographies of Martina Navratilovawho is my idol, and many other great tennis players.”

Controversy with his coach

Such a sacrifice was worth it for her, as she soon began to climb the ranks. women’s tennis world ranking. He also changed coaches several times in a short period of time. In 1987 he was preparing with Paco Ferrer y Alvaro Margetsfrom the Catalan Federation, but after a conversation between his father and Manuel Orantes The decision was made to have her train at the school of the former tennis player from Granada. After a year she left Orantes, who could never travel with her due to other commitments, and accepted an offer from the Swiss René Stammbachwho took her to the small town of Leuggern and provided her with money and a personal trainer, the Dutchman Eric van Harpenwith a certain reputation for being rigid and tough in his training.

Van Harpen, who had coached Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in her early years as a professional, was responsible for introducing the Aragonese to the professional circuit and helped her increase her mental strength. In fact, Conchita quickly became a regular tennis player among the world’s top ten.and in the spring of 1988 she reached the round of 16 of the Roland Garros tournament. Unfortunately, just a year after this she found herself the protagonist of a scandal after the magazine Interviú published a report in which the journalist Juan María Alfaro claimed that the woman felt frightened by her coach, from whom she wanted to get rid of at all costs.

“Meanwhile, a series of interests that the tennis player herself has created around her looms over her, trying to dissuade her,” he wrote. “For his part, Van Harpen resorts to all the tricks, ruses and deceits so that Conchita does not escape him, as already happened with Arantxa Sánchez. Since the threats to ill-treatment, slander, accusations and fallacies. Van Harpen is denigrating not only Conchita, but also Argentine tennis player Gabriela Castro, who he claims is not only a lesbian, but also has sexual relations with Conchita, blaming the Argentine for being the cause of the current conflict.

According to some people, That article affected the discreet player’s moodwho for a time neglected her professional commitments. Having recovered from her disappointment, Conchita found the path to triumph again. And at the beginning of 1995, after having been proclaimed Wimbledon champion, she broke the ties that united her to Van Harpen, with whom, despite the tug-of-war, she would train again on several more occasions during the following years.

Left heel injury

It was in April 2006 when he announced his retirement from professional tennis, among other reasons, or rather above all, because of the lack ofinjury that I had been suffering for months in my left heel. During the press conference where the news was announced, Conchita made it clear that she was more than proud of everything she had achieved over her 18-year career. And with good reason: in addition to triumphing on the grass of the most prestigious championship in the world, she was a finalist in two other Grand Slam tournaments – Australia 98 and Roland Garros 2000 – she became number two in the world and won five Federation Cup titles (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998).

She achieved all five with Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, with whom she also starred in one of the great rivalries of tennis in the nineties. What’s more, the press of the time insisted that there was jealousy and bad blood between the two players – some said that Conchita lacked Arantxa’s grit, while others believed that the former had the better strokes. “The relationship between us was always cordial,” explained the Aragonese. “It is proven that our rivalry was healthy because, if not, we would not have won five Federation Cups and two Olympic medals together. Our era was very important for Spanish tennis, we brought many victories and we were the ones who began to win individual and national tournaments.”

After hanging up her racket, Conchita devoted herself to commentating matches for Eurosport and coaching some players who asked her to, such as Garbiñe Muguruza. In the summer of 2015 she was named coach of the Spanish Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams. Her signing was widely discussed in the media, as it came after the sudden dismissal of Gala León, who was not even given the opportunity to sit on the bench, as was the fact that, just two years later, to her surprise and disappointment, the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET) decided not to extend her contract.

“It is very ungrateful to take the reins of the ship when there is a storm and then when you achieve peace and commitment, they dispense with you. It was supposed that with the arrival of the new board the situation would change, but it is more of the same, tennis is still not a priority. I would have liked to continue, but the decision was unilateral. I think that after all my contribution and involvement with Spanish tennis I did not deserve to end in this way, in my opinion, so disrespectful,” said Conchita, who currently serves as director of the Billie Jean King Cup finals, the former Federation Cup, and trains the latest promise of world tennis, the Russian Mirra Andréyeva.

 
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