The ultimate Mexican glitter; memories of an era victory

MEXICO CITY.

Luis Enrique Herrera takes several seconds in silence to travel between the nooks and crannies of the memories of three decades, right back to June 22, 1992, when he beat the legendary Jimmy Connors in the first round of Wimbledon… Sweet moments of glory with bitter tones when reflects that in the end that was the last great feat of Mexican tennis.

The spider Herrera left that victory among the records with partials of 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 and 6-3 against an American veteran, who marked an era in the 70s and 80s and was leaving the ATP circuit, in which he left a trail of brilliance with the conquest of eight Grand Slams and the current mark of 109 titles.

The 20-year-old tricolor gave luster to his own career, which in November of that year enjoyed a new zenith by climbing into the top 50 in the world ranking with his 49th place. A step that no other national has been able to even approach since then. … Crude years for the Mexican white sport.

Wow!… The truth is, when you told me, I thought: 30 years old!… Am I that old already? a few weeks he works as director of tennis. “It has been a long time”.

The spider assimilated 30 years ago that he was facing a glory in the moments of his decline. He was a good player on grass to show his potential. In that Wimbledon he also set the record that prevails among Mexicans of having reached the third round, a position that after him no other national has reached in a Grand Slam singles event.

Many things speak volumes about that game and for the Mexicans it was huge. Right now I start to think: what would have happened to us with social networks? ”, She reflects. “Yes, definitely, that was the last great victory that a Mexican had in a scenario like that… In a tournament like a Grand Slam, it was definitely the last great national match.”

The courier that Herrera took as a tennis figure in a country with a rich history —with outstanding triumphs in Davis Cup series against powerful rivals such as the United States or Spain— there was no one who held her tightly after him and the tradition of have Mexicans standing out in the global arena, as figures of the stature of Rafael did before Hairless Osuna, Antonio Palafox, Pancho Contreras and the last glory: Raúl Ramírez.

The spider He shared cabinets with more veteran tennis players such as Jorge Lozano, Leo Lavalle or Francisco Maciel, but after them national tennis was overshadowed. Alejandro Hernández was the best exponent with a singles ranking of 125 in the world in February 1997. Santiago González has been the most relevant in recent years, but as a doubles specialist.

We always thought we were going to be better off; that generations after ours were going to arrive to improve, as had been happening with me. Obviously what Raúl Ramírez was (who became the fourth best player in the world on July 11, 1976) is on another level, but what came in a generation prior to mine I think I did overcome… We would never have thought that Mexico would take up to 30 years, for now, not to have any player within the 100 in the world. That’s… We don’t get it. We don’t explain it to ourselves!”

Knowing that today celebrates the 30th anniversary of that victory against Connors, Luis Enrique Herrera reserved a beer to toast those first 30 years of what he hopes will not be the last great Mexican victory against a renowned rival in the Grand Prix tournament. Slam.

Herrera beat Connors on one of the alternate courts; that track no longer exists. Photos: Special

HARD JOURNEY TO STAND OUT

The path for a tennis player to reach the professional sphere and enjoy a successful career is full of challenges. From the formative stages begins a long journey in which the character of the athlete (and that of his family) will be constantly tested.

Three decades after Luis Enrique Herrera advanced to the third round of Wimbledon -the best result of any Mexican in a Grand Slam since then- he tells about the hard road to that personal peak, one that started from childhood.

There have to be many factors aligned for growth and development to continue. It is a long process… It costs money. One would think that when one starts it is cheaper, but it is the other way around”, recalls Herrera, the youngest of four children of a family that instilled in him the practice of tennis from the earliest childhood.

Herrera received a scholarship to continue his preparation as a tennis player in the United States when he was 14 years old. He polished his skills and continued his academic training with the goal of being a professional tennis player. From the Mexican authorities, at that time, he also had important support.

The president of the Mexican Tennis Federation, Jesús Topete, gave him and other tennis players the support to cover part of the costs of their trips or lodging so that they could participate in tournaments in those early days in which they did not generate enough income to cover your needs.

Herrera showed skills to stand out and there were more people in the country who supported him financially to cover the transfers, his stays and the payment of his coaches and multidisciplinary groups.

The now director of tennis at Witt Academy, in Mérida, Yucatán, is especially grateful to businessman León Hamui, who gave him great support in those first years that he ventured as a professional. That help was essential for achievements such as beating Jimmy Connors in a Wimbledon game.

TRICOLOR TENNIS, IN AN ABYSS

When Rodrigo Pacheco reached the semifinals of Roland Garros in the youth competition a few weeks ago, a new candle of hope was lit among Mexican tennis fans, waiting for the arrival of that generation that will appear again in the global arena. Luis Enrique Herrera knows firsthand that the absence of figures who are even fighting to be among the 100 best in the world has many explanations, but the main one is that many administrations of this sport stopped promoting the training of tennis players.

We could spend the whole day here discussing and debating, but I think that mainly very bad administrations have happened, there has been no planning, there has been no structure, there has been no plan to get out of that”, he reflects The spider Herrera, amazed that a country like Argentina has had more than twenty tennis players in the draw of the past Roland Garros.

Infrastructure is not the problem, Mexico must be one of the countries with the best facilities and clubs in the world… It really is inexplicable why we can’t start producing players of another level”, says Herrera, who wants to emulate what has happened in Spain. , where many of its former players have been involved in the detection and development of tennis players, as the retired Juan Carlos Ferrero did with the young sensation Carlos Alcaraz, whom he follows from children’s categories.

Now they have done a great job with Rodrigo Pacheco, I think he is already a real promise towards that goal and I think he may be the first one who can break what we are talking about”.

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