Tennis Prose



Biofile with Henri Leconte

Status: Member 1991 French Davis Cup-winning team. Winner of nine career ATP singles titles and 10 doubles titles. Leconte was a French Open finalist in 1988 (lost to Mats Wilander, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1) and partnered good friend Yannick Noah to capture the 1984 French Open doubles championship. He reached a career-high rank of No. 5 in 1986 and won tournaments on all surfaces including grass (Sydney d. Evernden in ’85). Leconte owns career wins over Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Yannick Noah, Pat Cash and Boris Becker.

DOB: July 4, 1963 in Lillers, France.

Tennis Inspirations: “Jimmy [Connors], Arthur [Ashe], John [McEnroe], Bjorn [Borg], when I start.”

Hobbies/Interests: “First of all, take care of my family. Playing golf, racing cars and I’m playing tennis.”

Favorite Movie: “Born On The Fourth of July.”

Favorite TV Show: “Same as Letterman show we have in Paris.”

Musical Tastes: “I like Robbie Williams, I like U2, Dire Straits.”

Early Tennis Memory: “The first time I played John [McEnroe] in Australia it was in Kooyong. I had the chance to win and I lost but it was a good memory. Good match, I was leading 5-2 in the tiebreak, two sets to one for me. And I choke [laughs].”

Pre-Match Feeling: “It could go up and down. At the beginning you feel very strong. Then on the way to the court you hope you are going to play well. And then all kinds of things can happen to your mind before you play. But if you train hard and have a lot of confidence, it’s another story.”

First Job: “Tennis.”

First Car: “Peugeot (blue).”

Greatest Sports Moment: “Davis Cup ’91. France beat the United States. We hadn’t won Davis Cup for 49 years (since 1932), something like that. I beat Pete Sampras on the first day. Then we won the doubles with Guy over Flach and Seguso. And Guy beat Pete in the last match.”

Most Painful Moment: “Three times I had the operation in my back. So I lost two years. That’s it.”

Funny Tennis Memory: “There’s a lot. Almost every day I laugh. When I played the first time with Ilie Nastase in doubles, in Bournemouth in England, another great moment. He was just joking around. Like always, especially with the umpire. I was just a junior so I was just coming out on the circuit and I was playing with Ilie. And I said, If that’s the way to play on the tennis circuit, that’s not so bad. We can have some fun.”

Embarrassing Tennis Memory: “When you lose. And you look like shit. And you played so bad. Especially at the French Open when you lose in the first round. The day I lost to Marian Vajda, I lost in three sets. I shouldn’t play. I was not really physically — I shouldn’t be playing — two months before I had the operation in my back and I just want to come back and play that tournament. But I shouldn’t have played. I wasn’t…but.”

Closest Tennis Friends: “Mansour Bahrami. Yannick. All the guys are good friends. It’s amazing. Mats Wilander. Mats for sure. Good friends. Michael Pernfors. It’s amazing, now we play on the Seniors Tour, the mentality is… I can’t imagine the friendship we can have now on the Senior Tour than when we were playing on the regular Tour. Because it was so much pressure. And, funnily, we didn’t know each other so well. So now we spend a lot of time together and it’s great.”

Funniest Players Encountered: “Mikael Pernfors — very funny. Of course you have Bahrami. Our generation. Yannick. John could be funny sometimes [laughs]. John.”

Toughest Competitors: “Mats, for me. When I was playing — Mats and John.”

Favorite Tournament: “French Open. In the States, the one tournament was great and I really love it — Columbus. I don’t know why but it was a great time and I have good memories there.”

Best You Ever Felt On Court: “I have two. The first was Davis Cup final — Pete in singles. Andre beat Guy in the first match and I beat Pete in the second match (6-4, 7-5, 6-4). That match in Lyon against Sampras was the best match I played in my life. And also one match against Ivan Lendl at Forest Hills. Was an exhibit tournament at Forest Hills, we play there. Couldn’t miss, no way can I miss. Just everything went in. But the best was at Davis Cup. I had a good match at Wimbledon against Lendl and Pat Cash. I played quite a few good matches at the French Open, Michael Stich.”

Favorite Players To Watch: “Safin. Federer, of course. Because he can do whatever he wants. Also I love to watch Kuerten and Nadal on clay — the way he can never give up. But I really love watching Safin. When he was playing well it’s unbelievable.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “Honesty. And enjoy life.”

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  • Dan Markowitz · August 17, 2010 at 3:11 am

    Nice, Scoop. Leconte was always one of my favorite players. I loved his style of play, so free-wheeling, and then he did show enjoyment on the court. A rare athlete who can express his enjoyment of the game. And I loved his one-handed backhand. He reminded me of Charlie Chaplin a bit, whimsical, great facial and body expressions. And when he was on, he was pure beauty. Just kind swatted the ball without bending his knees much.

    I remember one match he played vs. Mala Vai Washington at the Open in Louis Armstrong, the match was held over to the next days, and I saw both days. One of my favorite players. The French have had a lot of great showmen, Noah, Leconte, the Magician Santoro, even Gasquet has that quality in his game. I always liked Clement and Grosjean, too, and of course, Monfils and Tsonga.

  • Andrew Miller · August 18, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Leconte was awesome! Another clever lefty. Lefties (unlike Nadal, who is a forced lefty) would rule tennis if they could work on the mental game! Agassi had talked about his first Wimbledon (a loss vs. Leconte) at 17 years old and subsequent boycott, but the real story was that Leconte was legitimately excellent, and Agassi was not a mature grass court player.



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