The spirit, the will to win and achieve excellence, transcend in what you build and who you are. These are the things that last. These qualities are much more important than even the events that occur.
This was the life of Philippe Chatrier, whom you may recognize, given that the central court of the Roland Garros French Open bears his name and every time the tournament is played in May, his unforgettable name resonates at four winds.
Phillipe Chatrier, born in Créteil-France in 1926, was surely one of the best leaders in the history of world tennis. Visionary, great manager, excellent organizer, world leader, with great character, ideas, and knowledge. Those who knew him know who he was.
Although he played international tennis, his results showed a normal player from the late 1940s. and early 50s. However, his transcendental contributions that changed the direction of tennis in France and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) come from his vision, innovation, and strengths as an organizer, promoter, and leader. Always understanding tennis.
Captain of Davis Cup of France between 1969-1972. Founder of the famous and prestigious magazine “Tennis de France,” in which with whom was his tennis analysis partner Gil de Kermadec, he built the first and most instructive technical and informative magazine of his time. A success that remains today.
His valuable contributions come as his assumption as President of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) for 20 years of 1973-1993 and President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for 14 years, 1977-1991. Notable that he has been able to have both positions so successfully.
Great motivator, perfectionist and strong personality, avid reader, intelligent in management, leads the French Tennis Federation to be a notable organization with entrepreneur profile, moving with the programs generated from 224,000 registered players to 1,250,000. – on its management challenges.
On the advice of Arthur Ashe, who sees Yannick Noah playing in a visit to Cameroon with Charlie Pasarell in 1971, Chatrier decides to support him and bet on his tennis development. History rewards him being Yannick, precisely, the last French male champion of Roland Garros in 1983.
He identifies the changes of professional sport and raises the level of Roland Garros generating a Grand Slam that approaches the international guidelines of joining sport with television and sponsorship companies and more, defines and works on the concept of the union of the 4 Grand Slams to be the protagonists of international tennis.
Together with Antonio Samarach (OC President at that time) and his teams, as president of the ITF, he takes tennis to the Olympic Games again, being in 1984 in Los Angeles-USA a demonstration sport, and in the Seoul-Korea Olympics Games 1988, as part of the official competition. The Tennis returns to stay permanently.
Controversial at times, he had the courage and the decision to take the destinies of the ITF and dialogue intensely with the ATP to generate a better calendar and conditions for new tournaments such as the Super 9 category at that time, among other international circuit advances.
I always remember with pleasure the story that Enrique Morea (Who was the President of the Argentine Tennis Association that led me to be the national tennis director of Argentina) in which he told me that being a member of the Junior Committee in 1978 (The ITF Development Department did not exist ), together with Phillipe Chatrier and Gil de Kermadec started the program “Tennis in Africa”, one of the first tennis development projects in the world. Precisely, one of the coaches who made several tours, was Doug McCurdy, later, ITF development director.
Time made in 1995, Enrique Morea himself introduced me to him and I had the pride of shaking his hand and to have a brief conversation.
And so much more that we could tell about his contribution, which leads us to reflect, that in times where international tennis is so fragmented for different reasons already known, in which we have so few certainties about the destinations and the vision towards where we are going with each of the tennis areas. Today there are many opportunities for improvement that´s why, we may need a new man to catalyze them being a TENNIS LEADER and MULTIPLIER and not just someone who divides.
As Francesco Ricci Bitti-former ITF President said: “Phillipe Chatrier was the father of International Tennis”
Therefore, we surely need someone like Chatrier, on his modern version.
International tennis shows delays in its evolution in its development worldwide, in aspects such as: increase participation of people in tennis, better commercial approaches on tennis business, improvement of the competition circuits and the conditions of prize-money for tennis players; establish a system for to development leaders at national and international level, generate an official ITF certification for teachers and coaches (I will publish another article about this shame situation), integrate actions for the care of the environment-ecology (Golf is already working on it), generate programs for the well-being of our sport and issues related to betting; making the World Tennis Congress, and among many others. That person has to be a catalyst to generate union between the different entities which lead international tennis. This is a key.
We need a leader who integrates: innovation, creativity, responsibility, certainties, negotiation skills, extensive knowledge of international tennis, tennis codes to respect culture and tradition beside other concepts, positivism, teamwork, somebody who knows how to listen, clear ideas, firm determination, character and be ready to take actions to achieve results that these ones MULTIPLY the amount of tennis, tennis players and values for our sport internationally.
Chatrier there was only one, we need that emulous that generates a positive revolution led by a leader at the international level that understands the historical responsibility of the actual moment and the needs and responsibilities that it implies, seeing that with the example of Chatrier, success is possible.
Honoring Phillipe Chartier, a big hug and the best for tennis for you.
By Fernando Segal.