Tennis Prose



Sander Groen’s Unique ATP Career

By Scoop Malinowski

Sander Groen mentioned on Facebook that he sat in Guga Kuerten’s box during the 1997 Canadian Open semi clash with Michael Chang, which was won by Guga.

“I stayed in Montreal way after I lost doubles with Goran Ivanisevic because I was unlikely to get into doubles the following week in Cincinnati. While hanging out in the players lounge playing video games with Guga this subject came up. Coach Larry Passos said “Don’t worry, Guga doesn’t have a partner for Cincinnati so I will arrange a wildcard for you two.” So before the semifinal against Chang which was night session, he called the tournament director in Cincinnati asking for a doubles wildcard. Because back in the day singles players were not allowed to use their singles ranking to enter for doubles, there was plenty of top singles players requesting a doubles wildcard and the tournament director told coach Passos, “Perfect, I have Rios, Haas, Bruguera and Medvedev (Andrei) asking for doubles wildcards also, so Guga can team up with one of them. Coach Passos replied, “No, Guga is playing with his friend.” Tournament director: “What is the name of this friend?” Passos: “Sander Groen.”

Tournament director: “WHO???! Call me back in the morning.” Then Guga beat Chang 6-1 6-3 and the tournament director said the next morning, “No problem, you got it!!!”

The Guga and Groen doubles team did not light up Cincinnati though, they were defeated 64 46 63 by Haas and Rios in the first round. “We got killed by Haas and Rios, due to Groen’s incompetence,” Groen admitted.

But there is a silver lining in ever cloud. After the match, Groen found a new partner for the following week.

“After the match in Cincinnati, I told Rios maybe we should play together sometime so he said “Why not next week?” I said sure. So we took a wildcard but he did not talk to me all match!”

Groen and Rios lost first round in Indianapolis to Grant Stafford and Marcos Ondruska 62 63.

I remember the name Sander Groen back in the 90s and decided to do some research. I discovered he accomplished a very uniquely decorated career with some very special moments.

Groen won one ATP doubles title in Dubai with Goran Ivanisevic (they beat Sandon Stolle and Cyril Suk 76 63) and he reached a career high of no. 61 in doubles in 1997.

His best doubles results at Grand Slams were third round at Wimbledon and French Open in 1997.

That may not seem very impressive but further investigation revealed more.

Though not a household name with tennis fans, Groen has competed and beat some of the biggest names in tennis history. He has partnered with many top 5 singles players including Pat Cash, Goran Ivanišević, Gustavo Kuerten, Marcelo Ríos, Marat Safin, Magnus Norman, Greg Rusedski, Alex Corretja, Marc Rosset and Roger Federer. Federer won his first-ever professional title on the Tour playing together with Groen in Segovia 1999.

Groen has scored doubles wins over Federer, Safin, Rios, Patrick Rafter and ATP world No. 1 teams Eltingh/ Haarhuis (with Fredrik Bergh), Bhupathi/ Paes (with Jan Siemerink and with Andrei Pavel) and Knowles/ Nestor (with Laurence Tieleman).

His singles career was far less decorated but nothing to sneeze at. On the singles court, Groen qualified for nine ATP Tour events, reaching the second round three times as he recorded wins over Tim Henman, Richard Krajicek Felix Mantilla and Andrei Chesnokov.

Also, he won the Dutch National Masters in 1992 beating Fernon Wibier in the finals and was runner-up to Jan Siemerink in 1994.

In 2004 Sander Groen achieved success on the ITF senior tour by winning the Men’s Singles over 35 World Championships and was the runner-up in 2005 and 2006. He also won the men’s singles over 35 European championships in 2005.

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