Mansour Bahrami

17 May 2011

Mansour Bahrami (Persian: منصور بهرامی) (born April 26, 1956) is a professional tennis player. He has held dual French and Iranian nationality since 1989.

Early life

From an early age he worked as a ball boy within a sports complex in Tehran, Iran. He observed many of the best Iranian tennis players in action but he was never allowed to play. Eventually he snuck onto one of the courts but his first racquet was destroyed by an outraged armed guard who also beat him badly for his misdemeanour. He resorted to learning the game through the use of his hands or frying pans or broom handles. Bahrami has often commented that his outrageous shotmaking ability resulted from mastering tennis using such unusual implements.

Tennis career

The time came when the Iranian team was short of players and Bahrami was finally permitted to play the game on a tennis court. His talent was obvious and he reached the Davis Cup team (and helped the team to victory at the age of just sixteen) but in the late 1970s the Islamic Revolution within Iran led to tennis being viewed as a capitalist and elitist sport. He spent the next three years playing backgammon as all tennis courts were closed down. In desperation he fled to France with his life savings, soon gambling these away in a casino. A number of friends supported him financially as he began to play a few tournaments within France.
Whilst his best days were behind him and he never maximised his potential in singles, he became a successful doubles player who even reached the French Open doubles final in 1989 in partnership with Eric Winogradsky. His weakness and indeed his strength was an inescapable thirst for providing a crowd with a show. He often lost in the early rounds of singles tournaments due to his tendency to play trick shots from the off or when he was bored with winning too easily. He was able to play more seriously in doubles where he felt that he could not be seen to be letting his partner down.

Senior tournaments

Bahrami did not become a household name during his days on the main ATP Tour but enough of his fellow players had seen his talent at first hand to be impressed. He was perhaps the only player in history to be paid a guarantee just to enter the qualifying tournament for ATP tournaments. However, when the Champions Tour was set up for players aged over 35 in 1993, he had found his niche. Over time, the matches that he played with the likes of Jimmy Connors, Björn Borg and John McEnroe ensured that he achieved star status in his own right. Bahrami also formed a memorable doubles partnership with former French Open finalist and Davis Cup winner Henri Leconte as well as former French Open champion Yannick Noah. His best achievement in the senior tour so far was winning the ATP Champions Tour event in Doha, Qatar.

Bahrami had always been an entertainer but his attitude fitted perfectly with the aims of the Outback Champions Tour where giving the public a show was essential. He continues to travel for 40 weeks of the year playing exhibition tournaments in which his range of unusual and breathtaking shots are played. His speciality shots include the power shot through the legs, the lob through the legs and the drop shot which bounces back over the net due to excessive backspin. His sense of humour shines through all of his matches and the crowd are never sure of his latest move, be it serving whilst holding six balls (although he is known to hold 21), an under arm serve, catching the ball in his pocket, deliberately missing a smash or playing an imaginary, slow-motion point.

Fame came to Bahrami over time to the extent that he has now played within all of the major tennis venues throughout the world, something he could not do early in his career while on the regular tour, including the show courts at Wimbledon and the French Open. He is married to Frederique and they have two children. His autobiography, “Le Court Des Miracles” was published in 2006, accompanying a DVD entitled (The Man Behind The Moustache) chronicling his life and the highlights of his career. His autobiography has been translated into English as “The Court Jester” and was released in late 2009

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