Showing posts with label Adriano Panatta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adriano Panatta. Show all posts

22 March 2024

Lea Pericoli - tennis player

Star remembered for on-court fashion as much as tournament success

Lea Pericoli wearing one of Teddy Tinling's outfits in Rome in 1959
Lea Pericoli wearing one of Teddy
Tinling's outfits in Rome in 1959
The tennis player Lea Pericoli, who won 30 tournaments on the international circuit between 1953 and 1972, was born in Milan on this day in 1935.

Pericoli, who continued playing until the age of 40, also won 27 titles at the Italian national championships, a record that still stands today.

She never progressed beyond the last 16 in singles at three three Grand Slam tournaments in which she participated but was a semi-finalist twice in women’s and mixed doubles at the French Open in Paris, playing on the red clay surface which most suited her game.

Yet she achieved fame beyond mere results after joining up with the British player-turned-fashion designer Teddy Tinling, whose designs she would often be the first to wear on court.

In an era not long after a female player wearing only a calf-length skirt was considered mildly outrageous, Tinling dressed Pericoli in a succession of culottes, short dresses and skirts, extravagantly decorated with lacy frills, sometimes feathers and even mink.

Crowds were drawn to Pericoli’s matches as much to see what she was wearing as to watch her play.  Tournament organisers took to asking Pericoli and Tinling to keep her outfits secret ahead of their first appearance, to enhance the sense of anticipation.

Although the commercial rewards on offer to well known players in Pericoli’s time were a fraction of the money today’s stars can make, Pericoli did win some modelling contracts and was able to forge careers in television and journalism when she finished playing.

One of Tinling's more extravagant creations
One of Tinling's more
extravagant creations
Yet unlike some stars in the modern era who have become fashion icons and enjoy lucrative endorsement deals with barely any history of tournament success, Pericoli was an accomplished player with a tenacious streak, to which her record of tournament success is testimony.

She reached the fourth round on Wimbledon’s grass courts three times in addition to four appearances in the last 16 of the French Open on clay. The nickname ‘La Divina’ coined for her by the renowned Italian tennis writer Gianni Clerici was as much for the elegance of her ground strokes as her photogenic qualities.

Pericoli was a particularly talented doubles player, too, noted for her skills at the net, and made the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the French with fellow Italian Silvana Lazzarino in 1964, having been a semi-finalist in the mixed doubles there four years earlier with another compatriot, Antonio Palafox.

The daughter of a businessman, Felippo Pericoli, Lea spent her childhood in Addis Ababa, where the family had relocated soon after Mussolini’s expansionist ambitions in Africa resulted in Ethiopia becoming part of a nascent Italian Empire.

She returned to Italy at the age of 17 following a holiday in Versilia in which she discovered she had a talent for tennis.

Focussing on the game as a potential career, she won her first title in 1953 when she and Lucia Bassi won the women’s doubles at a tournament in Rapallo in Liguria. She won her first national title - alongside Lazzarino in the women’s doubles - in 1954 and became singles champion for the first time in 1958.

Pericoli, now 89, has survived cancer twice and campaigned to support research
Pericoli, now 89, has survived cancer twice
and campaigned to support research
Her association with Tinling was not without its problems, however. On her first appearance at Wimbledon in 1955 at the age of 20, he made her an outfit that featured lace knickers under a tulle petticoat-style skirt. It aroused considerable spectator interest but the Italian Federation might have banned her from playing if her furious father had not intervened first, ordering her to stop. Thankfully, he relented after a few months and she was able to resume her career.

Unabashed, Tinling continued to dress Pericoli in daring outfits, for which other female players were grateful in the end.  Many approached Tinling to design for them, not because they wanted to shock but because they wanted to look fashionable and play in clothing that was cooler and less restrictive than conventional tennis uniforms.

After calling time on her career as a player, Pericoli was invited by editor Indro Montanelli to write for Il Giornale, the Milan daily newspaper, covering tennis and fashion. She also worked as a television commentator on the game, as well as hosting a number of quiz and entertainment shows.

Twice she has been diagnosed with but recovered from cancer, once when she was still playing, in 1973, when routine tests revealed a uterine tumour, and again almost 40 years when she discovered she had breast cancer.

Her treatment was successful on both occasions. She agreed to work with Umberto Veronesi, a leading Italian oncologist, to become the face of a campaign called the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer, which sought both to raise awareness about symptoms and to generate funds for research.

In 2015, Pericoli’s name was one of those commemorated by the Walk of Fame of Italian Sport when it was inaugurated in the Olympic Park of the Foro Italico in Rome, along Viale delle Olimpiadi. The walk consisted initially of 100 tiles as a chronological list of those athletes considered the most representative in the history of Italian sport.

Forte dei Marmi, part of the Versilia coastline, is part of a 21km (13 miles) stretch of sandy beach
Forte dei Marmi, part of the Versilia coastline, is
part of a 21km (13 miles) stretch of sandy beach
Travel tip:

Versilia, where Pericoli became aware of her talent for tennis during a family holiday, is an area of coastal Tuscany that extends approximately from Carrara at its northernmost point to the Monte Argentario promontory in the south. It includes among other places the resorts of Viareggio, Livorno, Forte dei Marmi and Pietrasanta, the inland towns of Seravezza and Stazzema, on the slopes of the  Apuan Alps, and the tranquil Lago di Massaciuccoli. Favoured for its mild climate, the area has always attracted high-profile residents. In the 16th century, the Medici leader Cosimo I had a sumptuous villa built at Seravezza, the 20th century writer, poet and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio had a villa built for himself in the pine forests around Pietrasanta, and the composer Giacomo Puccini, born in nearly Lucca, had a home on the shore of Lago di Massaciuccoli, which celebrates his association with the area by staging a Puccini Festival each year.

The ornate Foro Italico in Rome includes Italy's National Tennis Centre
The ornate Foro Italico in Rome includes
Italy's National Tennis Centre
Travel tip:

Foro Italico, the sports complex in Rome where Lea Pericoli is honoured alongside fellow tennis stars Nicola Pietrangeli, Adriano Panatta, Corrado Barrazutti and Flavia Pennetta, was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini. Inspired by the Roman forums of the imperial age, its original purpose was to host the Olympic Games of 1940 as a showcase for Fascist values. In the event, the Second World War meant the 1940 Games were cancelled, although it was the main host venue for the Rome Olympics of 1960. The complex of today includes the Stadio Olimpico, home of Rome’s two major football clubs - Roma and Lazio - and the largest sports stadium in Italy, the ornate Stadio dei Marmi athletics stadium - headquarters of the Italian National Olympic Committee - and the national tennis centre, which - like the Stadio dei Marmi is surrounded by classical statues of athletes.  The Foro Italico is home to the Italian Open tennis championships.

More reading:

Matteo Berrettini - the first Italian to reach a Wimbledon final 

Adriano Panatta - the only player to defeat Bjorn Borg on the Paris clay

Sara Errani - the five-times Grand Slam doubles champion

Also on this day:

1837: The birth of model and secret agent ‘La Castiglione’

1885: Foundation stone laid for Victor Emmanuel II Monument in Rome

1921: The birth of actor and director Nino Manfredi

1986: The death of banker and fraudster Michele Sindona

(Picture credits: Forte dei Marmi by Alessandro Rovellini via Wikimedia Commons)


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.