Almost 30 years ago, the Madrid tournament gave birth to a previously unseen final : a match between Emilio and Javier Sanchez, heirs of a long-lasting line in tennis.

Almost 30 years ago, the Madrid tournament gave birth to a previously unseen final : a match between Emilio and Javier Sanchez, heirs of a long-lasting line in tennis.


On Madrid’s ochre clay, two men are battling behind the baseline. Watching the kilometers ran by the duo point after point, there is no doubt that the two opponents have chosen clay to be their surface of expertise. The clock, which now counts more than 3 hours and 30 minutes of constant battling, confirms this first impression. On both sides of the net, two brothers. Emilio Sanchez, 21, and Javier Sanchez, 19, are facing each other for the first time of their lives, but this final has a special taste. Both born in Madrid, the Sanchez brothers are playing for a part of their family supremacy on this day of September 1987. And have to resort to fight with their own weapons. 


« He shouldn’t have won a single set »


To understand the importance of the duel, we must travel a few years back in time. Brought up by a demanding father, Emilio and Javier are put on the tennis courts at a very young age, alongside their sister, Arantxa. If Emilio himself confessed that « he didn’t have the natural abilities of great players », the siblings will make a name for themselves on the circuit. The first to reveal himself, Emilio, who has already won six tournaments before heading to Madrid, and Javier, who wishes to follow in the footsteps of his older brother. But during this year 1987, the two brothers are still relatively young. It’s therefore quite a surprise to find them both facing each other in the final. As he is two years older, Emilio is naturally branded as the favorite. And he matches the expectations by winning the first set, 6-3. Far from being discouraged, Javier will fight his elder brother back and win the second set on the same score, thanks to, notably, a passing shot hit between his legs. But it’s finally Emilio who will take the lead in the third set, thanks to his serve (9 aces). 6-2, game over, the family supremacy is established. Being a little pretentious, Emilio tells the press : « He started the match well, but I mostly had stomach problems. He took advantage of that, but I shouldn’t have lost the second set. He shouldn’t have won a single set. »


Arantxa against her brothers


A defeat which marks the beginning of the end for Javier. As Emilio piles up 14 titles in the singles, but mainly stars in the doubles alongside Sergio Casal, Javier shows himself to be much more in the shadows. In any case, Arantxa has been overshadowing her brothers for a long time. However, the siblings will turn out to be one of the three families to have a brother and a sister compete in a major tournament’s final (with the McEnroe, notably). Since then, Emilio and Javier have quit the fight, which in any case, had been won by the eldest (10 wins in 12 matches). After a victory as the captain of the Spanish BNP Paribas Davis Cup team, Emilio even opened an academy where Javier comes to hit a few balls. An everlasting friendly relationship which Arantxa can’t really relate to. Having accused her parents of embezzling all her prize money earned in tournaments, notably in favor of her brothers, the youngest of the family has cut all her relationships with her relatives, to the point where she was even kept aside from her father’s funeral. In the Sanchez family, the fight is never really over.


By Raphaël Gaftarnik