Tommy, when you’re on the court, make sure you think about this.
About what, sir?
If you make it through qualifying, I’ll give you a pass.
Just remember me.
It was April 1999 and tommy roberdo He was one of many teenage talents from around the world who dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player. He was just 16 years old, but the organizers of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell had granted him an invitation to play in qualifying at the outdoor clay court event.
Like any player his age, Robredo still had to combine tennis with academic classes at the Sant Cugat del Vallés High Performance Center where he trained. It was there that he found an unexpected source of support for his tennis in the form of Emili Luque.
Luque was Robredo’s economics teacher and was quick to strike a deal with the youngster ahead of his ATP Tour debut. “He told me that he was a good young man, that he was smart, but that he was never in class,” Robredo told ATPTour.com before playing the final tournament of a 23-year career in Barcelona this week.
Before stepping onto the court of the Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona-1899 on Saturday, April 10, Robredo ran into Luque, who promised him a pass in economy if he passed the classification. In the first round, Robredo defeated Jordi More 7-5, 6-3. A voice was heard above the rest in the stands, yelling “Come on, Tommy!” It was Luke.
Robredo listened to his mentor. So well, in fact, that he later defeated Ivan Ljubicic 7-5, 1-6, 6-2 to seal his ticket to the main draw. On Monday, before his ATP Tour main draw debut, she had to go to school. That did not prevent him from defeating the Italian. david sanguinetti 7-6(3), 6-1 in one hour and 20 minutes.
Tommy, do you have tickets for this afternoon?
Yes, I’ll give you one so you can come see me.
If you win today, I’ll give you a 7.
Wow! A 7?!
In one hour and 20 minutes, Robredo left the Italian david sanguinetti for powder, 7-6(3), 6-1. He had earned his first win on the ATP Tour and had also earned a 7 in economy. The next day, when she had to go back to class, her teacher couldn’t be more proud of her. “He bowed to me in the corridors,” recalls the Spaniard. “In the second round I met marath safin and he spoke to me again.”
Tommy, if you beat Safin, I’ll give you a 10.
Yes, a distinction.
Safin, who would rise to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings just a year later, stormed into the first set 6-1 as the young Robredo seemed destined to fail in the bargain with his master. However, the youngster made an impressive turnaround, completing a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory to reach the third round of the tournament also known as the ‘Trofeo Conde de Godó’.
“It was on Court 1, which is very intimate and fills up fast,” said Robredo. “My friends were there making noise in the stands. But I remember, especially at 5-4 in the third set, my mother, who was with my aunt and screaming non-stop, fainted from stress. Everyone tried to hide it from me, and I was so focused that [even though] I realized [I] I continued with the game.”
Spurred on, he returned to the Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona-1899 to face Todd Martin in the third round. This time he had no tickets for Luque.
Milly, I’m so sorry.
I have no tickets to give you this time.
Sorry I’ve had too many requests for them.
Don’t worry, I have to take a class anyway.
However, as the Catalan took to the pitch against the world number 8 American, he heard a familiar voice from the crowd: “Come on, Tommy!” Robredo did not need to turn around to see who he was. His teacher was there to cheer him up once more. This time, however, his adventure came to an end with a 3-6, 6-7 (6) loss.
The following Monday, when Robredo returned to the classroom, Luque had a little secret to share with him. “He pushed me aside and told me: ‘Don’t tell anyone, but I came to the school, told them I had gout and went to Godó,’” said Robredo. “I had spoken to the gate staff that he knew he was my teacher and they had let him in.”
Years later, Robredo and Luque met again. “I signed up at the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) for a course for people over 25 years of age and there was a math class, so I called him to help me,” said the 12-time champion of the circuit. “Although he was no longer a teacher at the center, he would come and give me lessons at the blackboard.”