A Letter to Gabriela Sabatini Back to the site
By Bobby Dominguez
Posted on March 16, 1999.
I remember it was May of 1985 and I was surfing through the channels and there wasn't anything on t.v. that I wanted to watch. The French Open was going on and although I had no interest in tennis, the color of the red clay surface caught my attention. I recognized Chris Evert, every American knew who she was but I remember that her opponent was someone I had never seen and yet she was running the graceful champion from one end to the other and the crowd was going bananas. I just sat there mesmorized by the raven haired beauty just as the crowd at Roland Garros seemed to be. Clearly she was very young and at first I firgured she was Italian but then I heard the commentator mention her native Argentina. Gaby lost that day but she earned the respect of Evert and the hearts of millions of tennis fans including me.
Every tournament that was televised there after was on my agenda to watch. I needed to see more of this Sabatini. She was so neat. I was a mere 14 year old and she was 15. I became obsessed with the sport and stared playing within acouple of weeks. I wanted every shot of mine to be just like hers. I was able to get the forehand down pretty well, but the backhand didn't come close. My backhand was good, but it was two handed and not a graceful and powerful shot like Gaby's. It was great to see such a well liked and pretty girl be so nice and down to earth. She was almost shy, I remember tennis magazine called her Greta Garbo with strokes. I must have watched every single tennis match she played on television. I was living in a small west Texas town where I had been all my life and there were no hopes of traveling to New York for the Open or to Rome or Paris to see her dance around in the clay. When Gabriela won her only grand slam at Flushing Meadow against Graf, it was one of the most exciting days of my life. It made me cry, honest to God it did and I wanted so much to travel down to Buenos Aires to congradulate her in person. Through the Sabatini fanclub I made lots of good friends in Holland, Argentina, Scottland and Italy. One of my closest friends lives in Buenos Aires and we met through the fan club, now we exchange letters and pictures about our every day lives instead of just photos of Gabriela.
Through her entire career of ups and downs I remained a true fan. It was very obvious to me that she wanted to be number one but Steffi and Monica were too much and she began to lose interest in the game a little bit at a time. The tremendous pressure from millions of fans worldwide I think took its toll. In 1996 when Sabatini announced her retiremant I had been living in Dallas for three years. My last chance to see her in a public appearance involving tennis would be her farewell ceremony in New York. I didn't know a soul in New York and was behind on my bills but I saved what little money and a friend in Texas asked a friend who I had met a few times from Manhattan if he could let me stay the night. I took a flight on Value jet on sunday evening went straight to the Garden the next day after walking a few hours around the hectic and wonderful streets of the big apple. When the announcer made his way to the middle of the court I was so excited. He began to call out the players one at a time and I got really excited when I saw Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. I remember yelling out ARANTXA, she looked around but didn't see me. When Monica Seles came out she flashed her notorios and familiar smile to everyone. I had the chance to meet and talk to Seles at a tournament in San Antonio a couple of years before and always admired her game and her personality. Steffi Graf was the last player to be called out before Gabriela and a strange feeling came over me as she walked out in front of where I stood. Steffi meaned so many different things. She was one the greatest if the not the greatest player of all time but more than that she was Gabriela's nemesis. Sabatini and Graf battled many times on all parts of the globe but it was the slender German with the decisive edge. It was Steffi that kept Sabatini from becoming number one in my mind. She was simply too good. They introducd Graf as Sabatini's geat rival. The announer made some wonderful comments about Gaby and her career and then directed our attention to the screen high above the court for a musical tribute to Gabriela and her tennis life. As the screen flashed images of her most famous matches and breathtaking shots people in the crowd began to cheer and cry out. Then the lights went out for a second and the announcer called out " ladies and gentlemen GABRIELA SABATINI".
Wow, what a moment. She walked out in a tight black dress and I couldn't believe I was actually there. It was all like a dream. Finally after following her career for a solid 11 years I was actually in the same room where Gabriela Sabatini was walking and breathing and talking and existing. Everyone was yelling out her name and I was no exception. She probably heard me yell a couple of times after everyone stopped. She gave her speech in both English and Spanish and when she was done mobs of people pushed there way courtside to get her autograph. I had traveled to New York without a camera but I had a pen and magazine in hand and began to call out her name in desperation like all the other love sick fans. She looked around for a while not knowing where to began and as I pleaded in Spanish for her to come over she looked right at me and started to walk my way. It was like a gift from God, all the years of having to see her on t.v. were paying off. She approached me and took the pen and magazine from my hand, signed it and smiled at me as she gave it back. I WAS STUNNED. I somehow mustered up the courage to tell her in Spanish that I wished her all the best in everything she did and she smiled at me and said Gracias. She began to disappear as the crowd overwhelmed me and everyone else standing in there way and slowly she signed autographs as she walked away. My flight left that night and I only spent a day in New York but it didn't matter. I was able to finally meet Gaby and even spoke to her and she glanced at me as she thanked me for the sentiment I gave her.
I hope to someday go to Ne York again, but mainly I hope that someday I can meet her again and tell her what an important part of my life she has been. I still collect all I can with her photograph or her name and I still love the sport that she introduced me to and have the friends that I gained in her fanclub.
Gaby will always be the best in my heart.
Not only for her beauty but for wonderful game and fantastic charisma.
Te amo Gabriela.