9 July 2017

Adriano Panatta – tennis player

French Open champion was most at home on the clay

Adriano Panata was at the peak of his career in 1976
Adriano Panata was at the peak of his career in 1976
The only tennis player ever to defeat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros in Paris, Adriano Panatta was born on this day in 1950 in Rome.

A successful singles player, Panatta reached the peak of his career in 1976 when he won the French Open, gaining his only Grand Slam title, defeating the American player, Harold Solomon, in the final 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.

Panatta learnt to play tennis as a youngster on the clay courts of the Tennis Club Parioli in Rome, where his father was the caretaker.

He won top-level titles at Bournemouth in 1973, Florence in 1974 and at Kitzbuhel in Austria and Stockholm in 1975.

In the same year that he won the French Open, Panatta won the Italian Open in Rome, beating Guillermo Vilas in the final 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6. In the first round of the competition he had saved 11 match points in his match against the Australian Kim Warwick.

Panatta ended 1976 by helping Italy capture its only Davis Cup title, winning two singles and a doubles rubber in the final against Chile. He also reached his career-high singles ranking of World number four that year.

Adriano Panatta aged 20 in 1970 - the  year he beat Nicola Pietrangeli
Adriano Panatta aged 20 in 1970 - the
 year he beat Nicola Pietrangeli

The only player to have defeated Bjorn Borg in the French Open, Panatta had the distinction of achieving this feat twice, in the fourth round in 1973 and in the quarter finals in 1976.  

Panatta’s most notable performance at Wimbledon was in 1979 when he reached the quarter finals. 

In all, he won 10 tournaments in singles and 17 in doubles. He is one of only four Italian players to have won a Grand Slam tournament, the others being Nicola Pietrangeli, who won the French open in 1959 and successfully defended his title in 1960, Francesca Schiavone, who won the French in 2010, and Flavia Pennetta, who was US Open champion in 2015.

It was by defeating Pietrangeli in five sets at the Italian International championships in Bologna in 1970 that Panatta first gave notice of his potential to reach the top.

As wells as helping Italy win the Davis Cup in 1976, Panatta assisted his country to reach the final in 1977, 1979 and 1980.

Since retiring as a player in 1983, Panatta has served as captain of Italy’s Davis Cup team and as Tournament Director of the Rome Masters.  For a while, he pursued an interest in speedboat racing and also served on Rome City Council as councillor in charge of sports and major events. For a number of years he worked as a television commentator.

The Parioli district is a pleasant Rome suburb with bars and pavement cafes
The Parioli district is a pleasant Rome suburb with
bars and pavement cafes
Travel tip:

The Tennis Club Parioli, where Panatta learnt to play, is in Largo Uberto De Morpergo in the Parioli district, a northern suburb of Rome. The name comes from Monti Parioli, which are a series of hills. During the Fascist regime, many high-ranking party officials had residences in the Parioli district. Nowadays it is one of Rome’s most elegant residential areas and a number of foreign embassies are located there.

The Italian Open attracts large crowds to the Foro Italico
The Italian Open attracts large crowds to the Foro Italico
Travel tip:

The Italian Open, which Panatta won in 1976, is one of the most prestigious clay court tournaments in the world. It takes place each year at the Foro Italico, formerly known as Foro Mussolini, which was built between 1928 and 1938. Foro Italico is considered a prime example of Italian Fascist architecture, which was encouraged by Mussolini. The purpose was to bring the Olympic Games to Rome in 1944, however London won the bid. In the event, the 1944 Olympic Games had to be cancelled because of the Second World War.

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