The tennis season calendar is as long as your arm, just like the list of countries visited by the players throughout the year. And during a tournament, the number 1 solution for the players’ accommodation is staying at a hotel. A place which, just like Andy Murray’s recent adventure with a maid, has brought a lot of adventures and anecdotes to the world of tennis.
Suzanne Lenglen’s triumph
Who can defeat Suzanne Lenglen ? In the middle of the 1920’s, the answer is : no one. Imperial, dominant, and undefeated since 1919, the Frenchwoman however heard of a storm coming from America, a certain Helen Wills, also considered unbeatable in her country. It’s the American who gave the world the opportunity to see both of them facing each other, crossing the Atlantic ocean to take part in the Carlton hotel tournament, in Cannes. Wills and « la Divine » faced each other in the final, for one of the most prestigious matches of all time. The Carlton was swarmed by spectators and journalists, and the whole crowd saw the Frenchwoman triumph in two sets. A legendary match, which contributed to forging the two players’ legend, as they are still today considered to be untouchable icons.
Roy Emerson’s bender
In 1964, Roy Emerson was at the peak of his career. Winning many tournaments during that season, the Australian seemed to be almost walking on water. However, he didn’t enjoy drinking it much, and went on occasional drinking binges, even in the middle of a competition. During the Toronto tournament in 1964, Emerson went out one night and came back to his hotel completely drunk in the middle of the night. After stumbling in the corridor, he ended up crashing down, waking up the occupier of one of the rooms, who immediately walked out to see what was going on. The curious chap was in fact the Egyptian Ismail El Shafei, Emerson’s opponent for the next day, who had gone to bed early. Seeing Emerson in that state, he started hoping for the win, but a few hours later, the Australian party animal crushed him on the court as if nothing had happened.
Just like with his tics when he’s on the court, Nadal rarely changes his habits. When he arrives in Paris for Roland-Garros, the Spaniard always stays at the Melia Royal Alma, period. After his victory in 2012, Rafa still left his hotel to go for dinner in town with his friends, to celebrate his seventh title at Roland-Garros. The hotel’s bartender took the opportunity to enter his room, and steal his 300 000 euros Richard Mille watch from him. But the thief was quickly caught, and tried to explain during his trial that he thought Nadal, who never said hello, was unpleasant. He also said : « I wanted to keep it because it would have brought me luck to have Nadal’s watch, quite simply. » An argument which hasn’t convinced the judge, as the bartender-thief was sentenced to six months in prison.
Serena Williams’s feast
Last May, Serena Williams was taking part in the Rome tournament, a key stage of the clay season, and of the preparation for Roland-Garros. And she hadn’t made the trip alone, as her dog also embarked on the adventure. A small Yorkshire named Christopher, which she regularly shows her fans by posting pictures and videos on her social networks, and which she seems to deeply love. In her Roman hotel, the American couldn’t help but notice that there was a special menu for dogs, with starters, main courses and deserts, and meals such as soup, rice and salmon. She then ordered a meal for her dog, and tried a little bit herself. « It seemed perfect. It was tastier than my own meal », she said in a Snapchat video filmed from the room. After that ? She had to run to the toilet two hours later and apparently almost passed out.
Before entering the world Top 10, the Swiss Timea Bacsinszky almost quit in 2013. During a difficult period, she enrolled in the Hotel School of Geneva, and did an internship in a luxury hotel of a Swiss ski resort. She was a waitress, a bartender, a cook, and definitly thought of giving up her tennis life to dedicate her time to her new life in hotels. But Roland-Garros arrived, and she received a letter stating that even though she hadn’t played for a long time, she could take part in the tournament. Bacsinszky went to Paris, lost in the first match of the qualifying round, but realized that she still wanted to play, and started her career over again just after that.
As often with sports, it’s the English who helped institutionnalise and make tennis popular. It’s mainly during the second half of the 19th century that the sport conquered western Europe, and it was mainly helped by hotels. Trying to satisfy the needs of rich English tourists who wanted to play tennis, many hotels of the Côte d’Azur set up tennis courts, sometimes forced by the best players of the time. It’s for example the case for Willis and Ernest Renshaw, two English twins who have won eight editions of Wimbledon between themselves during the 1880’s, and who asked the managers of the Cannes Hotel Le Beau Site to build tennis courts. The hotels in Nice and Monaco followed the trend, and also organized tournaments which quickly earned a good reputation.