Today, June 2, marks the 40th anniversary of one of the blackest episodes in the history of Roland Garros and that has Spanish Manuel Orantes as the main protagonist. The man from Granada did not appear to play his round of 16 match against Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas as a protest against the postponement that the referee judge agreed to at the request of the South American player. Did you have Praying reasons to do what you did? Let’s review everything that happened.
Manuel Orantes received the news from tournament supervisor Dick Robertson that he had obtained access to the quarterfinals due to the absence of Vilas, who had suffered stomach problems that made it impossible for him to jump on the court to play tennis. After hours of many rumors, the Spanish ended up being disqualified for not showing up to play a game he had already won. Philippe Chatrier, who at that time was the president of the French Tennis Federation, worked at the wrong time to be able to disqualify the Spaniard for the image he was showing to the tournament and to the entire world who were looking stunned at what was happening in the second Grand Slam of the season.
On June 2, 1980, Orantes arrived at the Roland Garros facilities like any other normal day. His round of 16 match against Guillermo Vilas was scheduled for the second turn on court number one, just after the match between Italian Corrado Barazzutti and Australian Peter McNamara. When the game reached the final stretch, Tiriac, who at that time was the coach of Vilas, went to the offices of the tournament leaders asking for a postponement, a request that was rejected and that forced the Argentine to jump on the track no earlier than 15.00 in the afternoon.
Ion Tiriac did not want to give clues to his opponent and did not comment at all to Orantes about what was happening. The man from Granada, meanwhile, was in the locker room focused on the tough game that was coming. A few minutes after his match started, Dorfmann (tournament referee judge) indicated to the Spaniard that there may be a delay in his match and that he will keep him informed of any new developments. A few minutes passed and Orantes jumped onto the track and with a stunned face witnessed that his rival did not show up for the match and therefore, Dick Robertson confirmed that the man from Granada was the winner of the match and therefore advanced effortlessly to the quarterfinals. But it was the beginning of the greatest injustice.
After not being able to play his game, Orantes went to the gym to exercise and not lose the competitive rhythm. When he was squeezing himself to the fullest, Philippe Chatrier appeared who with a very serious face confessed to the Spaniard that he did not advance to the quarters, but that his match was postponed for the next day: “When I was exercising in the gym Philippe Chatrier came. He told me that he had I had to accept that the match against Vilas had to be played on Tuesday. I replied that the rules were to be fulfilled and that I was the fair winner of the match due to the non-appearance of my rival, that even the supervisors had given me the reason. Chatrier, very serious and angry about what he was telling him, told me that here the supervisors do not paint anything and that here in the tournament the decisions were made by him, “he confessed in statements collected by MD.
Unbelieving Manuel Orantes for what was happening, he fought in every possible way for justice to be done and confirmed that if they did not give him the game for cattle, he would not appear the next day. So it was. On Tuesday, June 3, Guillermo Vilas, already recovered from those gastrointestinal complaints, jumped onto track number one and, to everyone’s surprise, Orantes did not appear. After 15 minutes, Dorfmann confirmed that the Spanish was disqualified for failure to appear and it was Vilas who advanced to the quarters. The entire track number one booed nonstop for the decision made by the tournament organization. The ATP and numerous players on the circuit positioned themselves in favor of Orantes, who although he was eliminated from the tournament, decided to take the matter further. He filed a complaint against the French Tennis Federation for what happened and after a few months of trials, Manolo won and justice was done, although the damage was already done.
Was an injustice carried out with Manuel Orantes? The Spanish was one of the great favorites to win the Parisian tournament.