Martinez gives value for money

The 'Latin quarter' brought the ladies' tournament to life, writes Tim Glover

Say what you like about women's tennis, but it beats working for a living. It makes some men, most conspicuously the fathers of the contestants, extremely happy, not to mention proud.

Take Osvaldo Sabatini and Cecilio Martinez. Osvaldo retired in 1986 after a career as an executive with General Motors, but the smartest move he ever made was to buy his daughter, Gabriela, a tennis racket. She in return, after amassing about $8m (pounds 5m) in prize money, bought a ranch three years ago and appointed her father as curator. As for Cecilio, a retired accountant, he can give Conchita fiscal advice on a purse in excess of $4m.

Even by modern standards of professional sport, the sums are ludicrous, but yesterday the All England Club were indebted to Martinez and Sabatini.

Conveniently, the quarter-finals were completed before the announcement of another one-sided victory at Westminster, but at least Conchita and Gabriela gave the crowd on Centre Court their money's worth. The duration of their match in the Latin quarter was eight minutes short of two hours, and at the end, when the 23-year-old Spaniard defeated the 25-year-old Argentinian, 7-5, 7-6, they were given a standing ovation.

Whether this was more for endurance than quality is open to debate, but the fact that the players broke sweat has something to commend it. Martinez is the defending champion, although it is a fair bet that if you asked half the people here who won last year, they would say Steffi Graf. The other half would probably say Martina Navratilova.

Martinez, though, is a tough hombre. Question: Do you actually feel like the Wimbledon champion, or do you feel that Steffi is just going to come along and take the title away? Answer: "I'm the defending champion. I'm the Wimbledon champion. Nobody can take it away from me. I have a lot of confidence right now."

What lifted the spectators was that the match had an element of suspense. Sabatini, with a couple of breaks of serve, led 4-1 in the first set, and then did what she has so often done in the past - she fell on her posterior. Serving for the set in the 10th game, she tossed in two double faults and in between went sprawling near the baseline to concede another point.

Martinez, who has yet to concede a set here, had been so nervous at the start that Sabatini served two double faults in the second game and still won; in the fifth, Martinez put together a string of double faults to go 4-1 down. In the deciding game of the first set, Sabatini saved two set points, but Martinez is not just tough, she is cute.

A largish woman, she is not the fastest mover around a court, and when she is forced to run flat-out, heavy breathing ensues. At times like this, Martinez's shoelaces tend to come undone. In the second set, it was Sabatini who appeared to be fading fast and in no time at all she was 5-1 down.

This, of course, was also vintage Sabatini. This is the girl who has had a fiery orange-red rose named in her honour, has launched a perfume, signed a multi-million dollar contract with Pepsi, and had a doll produced in her likeness.

Sabatini had been in no-woman's land in the second set, and was unsure whether to unreservedly take the high ground at the net or stay back. Martinez's strength, apart from being able to win matches on a surface that is supposed to be anathema to her game, is that she possesses a red- blooded cross-court backhand.

What had become a disconcerting experience for Sabatini nearly became one of her finest hours. In the eighth game, she saved two match points and the crowd began to sense a revival.

Gaby, who had been the queen of unforced errors and double faults, kept the ball in play and won four games in a row to level. The tie-break was also close, but ultimately it was decided by a rare burst of adventure from Martinez. A confirmed baseliner, she approached the net and punched away the winning volley.

She is almost equally as defensive in the interview room. Question: Do you detect a lack of interest in your defence of the title? Answer: "The only thing I can tell you right now is that I'm incredibly happy to be in the semi-finals. I'm sure some things are upsetting me, but the worst thing that can happen is to let these things upset me."

The interview, sparsely attended, was then conducted in Spanish, and the inquisition sounded a great deal more interesting.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific