The best South American female player of all time ended her career at the early age of 26, following, according to the press at the time, kidnapping threats. Since then, she swapped the racquet for the saddle, still manages her perfume line, and also found a third passion: singing.
“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, tell me who is the most beautiful between Sharapova and Kournikova.” “Gabriela Sabatini” he could answer. Even today, the beautiful Argentine has nothing to envy in her juniors. Gabriela Sabatini might be in her forties but there are no wrinkles to be found on her face. If she confesses “not to have touched a racquet in four years”, the 1984 junior world champion hasn’t put sport completely aside anyway. “I started cycling five years ago,” she explains at her five stars hotel in Buenos Aires. “I train two hours three times a week. I have participated in several races in various parts of the world. For me, cycling is a way to explore new territories. I particularly enjoyed a race I did in Cape Town, South Africa. I took advantage of it to travel the country, all over the coast. I’ve been impressed by the beauty of the beaches and the kindness of the South African.” Has she transferred the competitive spirit she had on the courts to the road? “I can’t conceive sport any other way. This is why I train regularly, to stay in good shape. I don’t want to arrive not feeling good and suffer or have a hard time because I wasn’t prepared” insists the woman who won the 1990 US Open against Steffi Graf. She got to see competitive cycling up close in 2007 and 2009 when she did “a few stages of the Tour de France, with the amateurs, but following the professionals circuit. We were passing before the professionals so we were able to watch the stage afterwards.” Most notably the Spaniard Alberto Contador, of whom Gabriela Sabatini is a big “fan”.
A little tour on the big Boucle
But, even more than adding the Alpine hors catégorie to her list of conquests, if there’s something of which the former world number 3 is proud, it’s her own perfume. A company she created when she was still a teenager! The pretty brunette says to be “very involved in the creation process, the aroma’s choices and the packaging”. The story started in the late 80s, when the famous German cologne company Muelhens proposed that she create a perfume bearing her name: “I was sixteen and, like every girl at this age, I was quite flirtatious, I liked to dress well and started to be interested in perfume. It had to reflect my personality, my current mood. The first one finally came out in 1989” Today, the perfume line of Steffi Graf’s former nemesis has taken on much greater proportions from that first scent: she now has dozens of different perfumes and even started working on a men’s perfume with the working name “Wild Wind”. Quite a busy schedule...
Adele, Celine Dion and Phil Collins
Other common point with her Latina rival Shakira, who also has her own perfume - Gabriela Sabatini is a keen singer: “I always loved singing; it takes me to another world. Singing has been a big part of my life since I was a child. I started to take lessons at the end of my professional career” However, unlike the Columbian, she “doesn’t want to perform publicly. I progressed, but I want to keep singing privately.” If she admits a soft spot for Adele “who has an incredible voice, I’d like to go and see her live soon”, her range of influences is, well, quite large, as she professes to liking singers from Usher to Pink and Celine Dion, or from Whitney Houston to Phil Collins. And where does tennis fit in all that? She has, for all-intents-and-purposes, drawn a line under it. "I like to go to New York or Rome, the cities in which I feel good, but not necessarily to attend tournaments. I still watch the matches on TV, but I no longer go there, except Miami, where I go almost every year. I’m not nostalgic for my life as a tennis player" says Sabatini. Tennis fans, however, still are.
Interview and text by Florent Torchut, at Buenos Aires