In 1989, a certain Alberto Mancini won Monte Carlo and Rome back to back. Before disappearing almost as quickly as he had arrived. The cause? Money and party, of course.

In the category "I was predestined to have a great career, people even thought that I could win Roland Garros, but I finally exploded in flight," Alberto Mancini a place of choice. Winner in Rome in 1989, a few days after triumphing in Monte Carlo, the Argentine quickly burned his wings. Why? Money and party, of course.

 

One look at the winners of the Rome tournament is enough to realize that there are only World Number Ones (Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic etc...), Roland Garros winners or finalists (Yannick Noah, Andres Gomez, Magnus Norman etc...), or, worst of the worst, sturdy fellows who played more than half a thousand matches in their career (Jimmy Arias, Felix Mantilla etc...). There is only one exception, and one only, to confirm the rule: Alberto Mancini, winner in 1989, who managed to make it into the World top 10 the following fall.

 

That year, Mancini the bad boy was the season’s biggest hit. It must be said that during this 1980s spring, the bomb Alberto Mancini exploded in quick succession in Monte Carlo and Rome. The noise was even more powerful since the player who started the year at the 49th place worldwide caught in finals the two most violent players of the moment, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi. On the 21st of May 1989 in Rome, the day after his twentieth birthday, Mancini saved a match point in the fourth set against the American, before putting him KO in the fifth round, 6-1. Agassi left Italy completely stunned. Unbelievable but true, he found more muscular than him and still seemed touched twenty years later in his autobiography: "He had legs like tree trunks. He was hitting the ball with terrific pressure, a force, a tornado, it was touching the racquet as if it was a magic ball. "A few weeks earlier, Mats Wilander, crossed off the table in two small sets on the Rock, confessed to have never seen a player so strong on both sides!

 

«He was just partying»

 

Praises then showered from everywhere. Mancini would be the “heir of Guillermo Vilas”, his childhood idol. Somewhere between Popeye and Marlon Brando, Mancini would have something similar with his famous boxer namesake. His coach and mentor, Francesco Mastelli, the one that made him choose tennis over rugby when he was still in his native Rosario, would have “golden hands”! Inevitably, Alberto Mancini was announced as the future godfather of Roland Garros. Except that in Paris, the film ended in the quarterfinals, the never-ending attacks of Stefan Edberg snubbed the Argentine puncher. It was already the beginning of the end. "In two weeks, Alberto had won 500,000 dollars. At twenty, with a Latin temperament... He was just partying all the time.” This is the explanation given to French newspaper L'Equipe by an Argentine colleague, who preferred to remain anonymous.

 

The fall from grace happened in 1990. And it was breathtakingly steep. Henri Leconte ridiculed him in Monte Carlo and Andrei Chesnokov put him to sleep in Rome. Just after arriving, victim of his success and excesses, he left the top 100. People then said the worst things about him. Rumours, which were never proven, claimed that was doing a lot of drugs. Already "has-never-been" at 21, Mancini returned from the end of the earth with a new coach. A new mental but bearing the marks of excesses, the Argentine returned to the final in Rome in 1991 and reached the final of Key Biscayne in 1992 after a daunting match against Boris Becker. Alejandro Gattiker, the successor of Francesco Mastelli, said the goal was clearly to win in Paris. Where the new boss of clay, Jim Courier, eventually burnt him to the ground in the round of 16. Aware that he was no longer seen like a white wolf, Mancini also saw his body say stop after this brief comeback. "I want to change my life. I cannot find the same pleasure and the same motivation, " he said during the summer of 1994. The curtain fell just before his 25th birthday.

 

Coria, nandrolone and Davis Cup

 

Having failed to win Roland Garros, Alberto Mancini will try to do that in another life, that of coach. But failed again: Guillermo Coria, suspected of using nandrolone, ended their relationship six months before his famous defeat in the Paris’ final. After becoming captain of the Argentine team in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Mancini took David Nalbandian and friends in final twice. No one ever imagined that they would lose the second, in 2008, facing Spain without Rafael Nadal. Over the years, he became a little chubby and lost most of his hair, but Mancini's career continued on the same motto, that of a giant stumbling at the bottom of the mountain every time.

 

By Julien Pichené