Like all the players who have played at least one professional match in the last fifty years, the ex-football player Paolo Maldini who, at 49, has just played a doubles match at the Milan Challenger, now has his own page on the ITF’s website. But the one who once was number 3 at the Ballon d’Or is not the first amateur to have this privilege.
On Tuesday June 27th, a lot of people appeared to be appalled by the Italian legend Paolo Maldini’s level of play. Among the comments found on the web, « oh, but I think that I could also defeat him ! », or « but how was he allowed to play a tournament at that level ? ». We’re not speaking about football here, but about tennis, the AC Milan’s ex-defender’s favorite sport since he has retired from football, in 2009. Having won, alongside his teacher, an ex-world number 975, a doubles tournament organized by his club in Milan, Maldini received a wild-card for the Challenger tournament which takes place there each summer. With an amateur level (and a habit of badly slicing his backhand which earned Maldini a few comparaisons with the French president Macron), the pair of dads was crushed in the first round (6/1 6/1 in 42 minutes) by Tomasz Bednarek and David Pel, two real « pros » who were nice enough to not give their best.
Escudé’s future coach
If you take a good look at the ITF’s website, where Maldini now has his own page, you’ll find pages about players who had even a worse level than Maldini, who, after all, moves around the court like a decent club player. In the 90’s, two friends who barely had amateur skills had managed to get a ranking at the ATP. On the sly. Their names : Philippe Poisson and Frédéric Derouvroy, two weekend players who were singled out by the Gods of tennis. How is that possible ? A sports amateur - he loved tennis but also rugby, Philippe Poisson had also been an occasional racquet stringer, like in 1994, at the Challenger tournament organized on his island, Réunion. A good way of making friends with the « pros », and even ask them for the impossible. So when he heard that a few teams were missing to complete the table of the qualifying rounds of the doubles, he didn’t hesitate to ask Arnaud Casagrande, one of his « clients », and the world number 810 in the singles, to team up with him. Amused, Casagrande accepted to pair up with an amateur. The organizers of the tournament did as well. And that’s how Philippe Poisson, who was at the right place, at the right time, in front of the right person, got the chance of pairing up with Nicolas Escudé’s future coach to win this qualifying match (4/6 6/2 6/3) against two players who were…15 and 16 years old ! How lucky can you be !
185 dollars in prize money
Here they were, in the main table. And the improvised duo lost straight away against another pair formed by local players, Ludovic Pain and Ludovic Ulrici (6/2 6/3). But Philippe Poisson’s great story didn’t just stop there : the amateur player, in addition to earning 185 dollars in prize money, won an ATP point. Now ranked as the world number 1051 in the doubles, Poisson earned a second ATP point a year later at the same tournament, where, this time, his ranking allowed him to qualify directly for the main table. As he now had an official ranking, the rules also allowed him to team up with a non-ranked player. He chose his friend, Frédéric Derouvroy, who was also an amateur. The two friends were lucky to avoid Henri Leconte or Fabrice Santoro during the draw, but one of their opponents was a young 21 year-old British player who was close to the Top 100…named Tim Henman. As the class act he was, the future semi-finalist at Wimbledon, who was paired up with his fellow countryman Andrew Richardson, graciously let the two friends win seven games (6/3 6/4), in front of an audience which was pleased by this amusing show. Frédéric, just like Philippe, won an ATP point. But the series, which could have gone on forever, stopped after this match…And it won’t restart with Paolo Maldini, at least not now, as no ATP point is given to the losers of the first round in the doubles at the Milan Challenger.