My Roland-Garros: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario

 - Reem Abulleil

Three-time champion Sanchez Vicario describes her relationship with Roland-Garros.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario Monica Seles 1998©FFT

For more than a decade, the name Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was virtually synonymous with Roland-Garros.

A champion in Paris in 1989, 1994, and 1998, Sanchez Vicario accumulated a remarkable 73-13 singles win-loss record (84.9%) at the tournament during her career.

Between 1987 and 2000, the Spaniard reached the quarter-finals or better on 13 occasions in a 14 year stretch, and also picked up two mixed doubles titles on Parisian clay in 1990 and 1992. Besides the surface, why do you think you were able to do so well here at Roland-Garros for such a long period of time?

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario: "It's always been my favourite tournament since I was a kid. As a Spaniard we always grow up watching Roland-Garros on TV. Obviously as a kid I was dreaming to win my first Grand Slam here, before the other ones. For me it's always been a very special place, I feel like at home here. And besides that I always played well, I had a very good connection with the crowd, the results as well. So it's like my second home."

What's your first memory of this tournament?

"When I was 16 I beat Chris Evert on Court 1 in the third round, she was my idol at those moments and was already No.1 in the world, so for me to have that win meant a lot. Then the following year, at 17, I won the major beating Steffi [Graf]. So everything started really well, beating all the best players, No.1s in the world in that moment and I made history the same as them and I'm really happy about that."

Which year do you think you hit your peak here in Paris?

"I think my whole career started in 1989. That's when the first one started when I was only 17 years of age. I was very young and the first Spanish female or male to win, and the youngest ever, to win this Grand Slam, that's how my career started. And after that it became much more, on other surfaces and other tournaments as well, but it was the beginning of my career."

What are some of the things that make this tournament unique?

"This is a unique place because it's the only big clay tournament we have. You have to be very patient, you have to slide well, to move well on this surface. You need to prepare well the point, you can defend but at the same time attack. Conditions are changing every time. It can be sunny, it can be raining and really heavy, so you have to be mentally very strong, and if you have all the conditions together and you play well enough with your game, you can have chances to win. I've done that and that's why I've had so much success here."

Is there a specific place you make sure to visit upon your arrival here each time?

"Obviously when I come to Paris, the Eiffel tower is very special because it's a very unique place to be but when I come to Roland-Garros, just being onsite makes it very special because it brings me such good memories. Just walking here, the atmosphere is great. The connection with the crowd has always been good and it still is now."

Arantxa Sanchez©Christophe Saidi / FFT

Do you make sure you set foot on centre court each time you're here?

"You just watch the match from the stands you already feel it. Just to be here, see how it's growing, how it's changing, how bigger it's getting. Especially with Court 1 that has all the names on it, but now it's going to disappear. It's a lot of different things, lots of memories. But just for me to walk in here and to be in front of all this is very special."