On Tuesday, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced that Spanish duo Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez will receive the ITF’s highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, for their services to the game as players and coaches. The award will be presented at the 2017 ITF World Champions Dinner on June 6 in Paris at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines.
The Philippe Chatrier Award, named after the former ITF President, was introduced in 1996 and is awarded each year for outstanding contributions to tennis. Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, the All England Club, and 2016 Award winner Brad Parks are among the former recipients.
Casal and Sanchez first teamed up in 1984, when Casal, then 21, formed a doubles pair with the 19-year-old Sanchez at the suggestion of their mutual coach William Alvarez. It began a partnership that lasted 12 years on court and has continued for 20 years off court.
Casal and Sanchez were one of the leading doubles teams of their era, winning 44 tournaments including two Grand Slam titles. They won the 1988 US Open and 1990 French Open, and were Wimbledon finalists in 1987. Competing at Seoul 1988 as tennis made its full return to the Olympics, Casal and Sanchez lost a five-set final to Ken Flach and Robert Seguso, but their silver medal was one of just four medals captured by Spain at that Games.
They finished among the Top 10 doubles teams for 10 out of 11 years from 1985 to 1995, achieving the year-end No. 1 team ranking in 1987. They were also proficient singles players, Casal reaching a career-high ranking of No. 31 and Sanchez going as high as No. 7.
The pair had been thinking about starting a coaching academy even before they retired in 1997, and in 1998, they opened the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona. Their idea was to provide a complete education, with a school on the same site as the courts, so that students could train and study at the same time. They were also keen to make sure that, whether the children in their care made it as professional tennis players or not, they became good citizens in whatever they did in life.
Casal and Sanchez’s coaching model has flourished, with a second academy opening in Florida in 2012 and, last year, a third in Nanjing, China. They run programmes for adults and coaches alongside their work with promising players from all over the world. Their approach and the academy’s unique training system has produced many elite players, including world No. 1 Andy Murray, two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Grigor Dimitrov, Daniela Hantuchova and Juan Monaco.
ITF President David Haggerty said: “We are delighted to present Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez with the Philippe Chatrier Award for their contributions to tennis as a successful doubles team and in the field of coaching. Their on-court achievements paved the way for further Spanish success, and in founding a successful coaching academy, they have shaped the careers of several prominent players and the lives of many more.”