Wojtek Fibak, the show must go on

Nov 10, 2016, 12:44:53 PM

This 2016 edition of the London Masters which starts on Sunday will mark an anniversary : The 40th anniversary of a final lost by the Pole Wojtek Fibak because of the American actor Kirk Douglas.

This 2016 edition of the London Masters which starts on Sunday will mark an anniversary : The 40th anniversary of a final lost by the Pole Wojtek Fibak because of the American actor Kirk Douglas. A real symbol for a player who’s always had one obsession : being part of show-business. Portrait of an aesthete, a huge art connoisseur, who was involved in a sex scandal with Robert De Niro.


It is the typical good hollywood scenario. An outsider, closed from achieving a real feat, who has got everything to create the surprise but who must be pushed by an exterior element, one of the twist and turns before the outcome. Which is happy, for most of the time. However, against all odds, a man changed the end of the script which was being written in this month of November 1976. His name ? Kirk Douglas, the main actor in Paths of glory, a huge tennis fan, who attended the final of the Masters, in Houston, between the Spaniard Manuel Orantes, and the Pole Wojtek Fibak ; the outsider is very close to creating a huge surprise as he was leading by 2 sets to 1 and 4-1 in the third set. Change of ends. The moment chosen by American television to interview a celebrity which is there, in the stands. The microphone is given to Douglas : « Fibak and Orantes are two gentlemen in the sport, but at this point, I think the winner will be Fibak. » Nothing too surprising at first glance. What came next was a little bit more surprising: the interview was screened live in the room. Kirk’s wife added a second layer : « Wait ! Orantes hasn’t lost yet. Orantes is a great fighter. » All-round laughter. The Spaniard smiled as well, and walked back on the court. Two hours later, he finally won the Masters. In the press conference, Fibak, disappointed, said he was unsettled by Kirk Douglas’ intervention : « This interview was surely a great idea…for the audience. » A film which had great reviews.


Hunting lodge in Paris


A nice story but a hard blow for someone who, for all is life, has been looking out for show-business’ protective eye. A star of the eighties’ professional circuit, winner of the Australian Open a few months before his Texan disillusion, the Pole had always shown his taste for Champagne and crocodile-skin shoes. His project ? To exist among the world’s most powerful people in an other way than through sport. In 1989, he spent all his savings  to buy the polish newspaper Gazeta Poznanska in an auction. A few months later, he bought the sports daily newspaper of Katowice, in Silesia. Four years later, « Citizen Fibak » owned around ten issues and bought his own printing company. The first stone of his empire was laid down. Thanks to it, Fibak was able to enjoy the luxury of living like a prince. He bought a XVIIIth century hunting lodge in Paris, a Scottish Castle in Connecticut, a New-York flat close to Central Park and a roof in Monaco, where he lived most of the time and where he became honorary consul of Poland. In Warsaw, after failing to buy the Bristol hotel, the businessman made the town the headquarters of his first passion. The type of hobby which earns you a ticket for high-class parties : art, thanks to the opening of a gallery. His father Jan had taught him how to paint ; after becoming an adult, the aesthete hesitated between the service box and the auction rooms where his preferences went to XIXth century Polish artists - Menkes, Zak, Makowski - but also Picasso, Matisse or Warhol. He can even boast for having introduced John McEnroe to painting.


« I want to be able to go skiing when I want to »


All of his efforts sone payed out. In 1992, this faithful catholic got to meet the pope John-Paul II. « The best day of my life », he said. Just after that, we’ve seen him playing ping-pong with the ex-president of Poland, Lech Walesa. He was even thought to be pursuing a political career. In the end, Fibak only ran the National Tennis Federation, for one mandate. « What’s the point ?, he once questioned. I enjoy my life. And I want to be able to go skiing or go to the beach when I want to. » Preferably with his good friend Robert De Niro. Another legend of American cinema, like Kirk Douglas, with who we’ll write another tragic scenario of his life. The scene takes place on February 10th, 2007. Sitting in the back of a Mercedes, Robert De Niro may very well shake a big torch to blind paparrazis who have swarmed around his car, the picture of him walking out of the palace of justice in Paris having already gone all around the world. He was then a witness in a big case concerning an international prostitution and procurement network. His name was given by three young women among other names, including rich Arab cheikhs, clients of french arm sellers, american playboys, a movie producer and a tennis player : Wojtek Fibak. Accused of an attempt of rape and sexual assault during a photoshoot with top models in Paris. Before being finally discharged. Since then, the ex-all-rounder has quit the jet-set to remain a rich entrepreneur like any other, focusing on his real estate investments, his new companies in the food-processing industry and Fibak Investment Group, his consultancy firm which represents Volvo’s interests in Poland. Each year, he nevertheless still has a guilty pleasure : having his own VIP box at Roland-Garros. Where Hugh Grant and Jean Dujardin have replaced Kirk Douglas and Alain Delon. You get the era and the cinema you deserve.


By Victor Le Grand