His life is a novel, and tennis definitely seems like a piece of cake after the hardships he endured. The yellow ball gave everything to Mansour Bahrami, him who arrived without money or papers in France after the Islamic revolution in Iran. In return, the most beautiful moustache of the post-war courts - tied with Ion Tiriac - lived this sport as a shared moment with the audience: joy, laughter and complicity before the victory. He gave us his Top 5 of the greatest magicians of the yellow ball.
1- Ilie Nastase
"There’s a legend that says Nastase could set himself the challenge to last a whole set without playing the same move twice. I don't know if it's true, but somehow, the simple fact that we can actually consider this possibility speaks volumes about Ilie's talent... and whimsical character. Everyone has a story with Nastase: I remember, when I was twelve, I was a ball boy during a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas match: Iran - Romania. He yelled at me on the court because I couldn't help but support my player! But I quickly fell in love with his game. Ilie had an incredible hand, a superior ball feel. And he loved to share it with the spectators. He won the heart of the audience with his sincere love for tennis."
2- Roger Federer
"Federer is a genius, the greatest player of the modern era. Because of his 17 Grand Slam titles, of course, but also because - I think - he managed to never forget the fact that tennis is first and foremost a game, he seems to always enjoy playing a good point, to always have fun on the court. And that’s something that has become very difficult nowadays. A junior with potential today is immediately surrounded by pros and sponsors... Interests and stakes are high. Whereas in my time, we were winning little... and therefore we had little to lose! It changed so much since. A champion can no longer afford to laugh. "
3- Rod Laver
"He had both finesse and power. This generation of Australian players, Rosewall and Laver, are the first champions I've seen on a court, during an international tournament in Iran. At the time, they weren’t the best players in the world like in 1960s, but they were still very impressive, especially because wooden rackets had nothing to do with the current hardware."
4- Fabrice Santoro
"There are two categories of players participating in exhibitions in the Senior Tour or in the Legends Trophies: those that make you laugh, and those who, more serious, still live strongly for the competition. It's a matter of personality. On the court, Björn Borg doesn't make anyone laugh. But he impresses everyone with his stature and the presentation of his 11 Grand Slam titles when he enters the court. Someone like Fabrice Santoro doesn’t have such a track record, but he has unique moves and a smart game that earned him to be recognized as a magician of tennis. The way he plays is one of the most unusual I’ve seen in recent years. "
"Come on, maybe me then. Nastase told me that if I could have played normally between the age of 20 and 30, I would have made the Top 10. I don't know. What is certain is that I love playing and I love the fact that people are still having a good time watching me. I lost many matches because I preferred pleasing the audience rather than triumph! But at the end of the day, I won a lot more: at my age, it's still amazing that people still want to see me on a court. I'm not Borg or McEnroe, and yet, they still ask me to play in front of thousands of people. I never would have thought this could ever happen... "