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WINNING ATTITUDE : Grass Is Greener for Sanchez Vicario After French Title

June 29, 1989|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — Only 17, her reign in Spain apparently secure for a while, French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez arrived at Wimbledon with a new name to conquer new ground, the kind covered with grass.

Sanchez has added her mother's maiden name, Vicario, to her own, as is sometimes done in Spanish-speaking countries. And although she speaks five languages, until Wednesday she was strangely silent about the grass courts of Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round in two previous appearances.

But on a cold and damp grass court, Sanchez Vicario won for the first time here and after beating Jana Pospisilova of Czechoslovakia in straight sets, she said she is changing her opinion about grass.

"Before, I feel like the grass is only for the--how you call it?--cows," Sanchez Vicario said. "But now, I am thinking different."

Most everything else about Sanchez Vicario is the same. Winning the French Open thrust her swiftly into the public eye, especially in sports-crazy Spain, but Sanchez Vicario has not blinked.

While many of the top women's players leased flats for the Wimbledon fortnight, Sanchez Vicario chose instead to stay at the noisy, crowded players' hotel in the South Kensington section of London.

After all, Sanchez Vicario said, why should she change?

"I am the same person," she said.

Before Sanchez Vicario won in Paris, her only other tournament victories were achieved last year in the Belgian Open and this year in Barcelona, her hometown. But that tournament was played on clay, as was the French.

Grass? Grass may be for cows, but soon it may be for Sanchez Vicario, too.

"I really don't play it very good, but I am learn," she said.

One thing in which Sanchez Vicario does not need instructions is how to have fun. She danced until 3 a.m. at a Paris discotheque to celebrate winning the French Open at Roland Garros. Her coach, Juan Nunez, said it was sort of unusual for Sanchez Vicario to be out that late.

"She usually starts yawning about 10," he said.

After Sanchez Vicario returned to Spain, she went to Madrid to see King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.

She showed them the French Open trophy and said it was in honor of the Spanish people.

"That's pretty heavy for a 17-year-old," Nunez said.

The spoils of victory also included a dog. Sanchez Vicario likes dogs almost as much as tennis, so a Spanish friend gave her a Pekingese as a gift.

Sanchez Vicario named the dog Roland.

Being proficient on multiple services seems only natural for Sanchez Vicario, who may lead Wimbledon in languages spoken--Spanish, German, English, Italian and French--and names.

This is the first year that Wimbledon has allowed women to choose how they wish to be identified on the scoreboards. Previously, women were only known by their own or their married names. Chris Evert was married to John Lloyd, for instance, and therefore she was Mrs. J. M. Lloyd.

This year, though, Wimbledon loosened its name rule and Sanchez decided she wanted to be called Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

And, from now on, she wants to be called Arantxa Sanchez Vicario everywhere she plays.

She has discovered, though, that her new name did not arrive without some confusion.

"Two journalists stop me and they tell me if after the French Open I marry somebody," Sanchez Vicario said. "I say, 'Oh, no! ' "

Her full name is longer than were her first two visits to Wimbledon. Her first name, Arantxa, is actually a diminutive of Aranzasu. Her middle name is Isabel.

Thus, we have Aranzasu (Arantxa) Isabel Sanchez Vicario.

It was Evert who served as her role model. They both hit two-handed backhands and they both play at the baseline. Sanchez Vicario said she thinks there might also be one more similarity.

"She is a nice person."

Evert has won Wimbledon three times and Sanchez Vicario has won only one match, but Nunez said his pupil's time may be coming.

"There is proof you can win from the baseline," he said. "Borg did it. Chris Evert. You don't have to just serve and volley to win Wimbledon. What she has to do is believe.

"From the first time I saw her, I saw it in her eyes," Nunez said. "She has the eyes of a champion."

Lily Alvarez thought so, too. The 84-year-old was the last great Spanish women's player and she encouraged Sanchez Vicario before the French Open final against Steffi Graf.

Afterward, Alvarez had another message.

"Now go out and win Wimbledon," Alvarez said.

It doesn't seem impossible any more, not after Sanchez Vicario defeated the supposedly invincible Graf with a series of cross-court backhands and a crooked grin.

The old Arantxa had no chance at Wimbledon. The new Arantxa with the trainload of names has a chance, if not now, maybe soon.

"I don't know when I am going to win Wimbledon, but I have a lot of time," she said. "I think one day I can do it."

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