Outside the tennis circle and public, tennis is usually a punished sport in terms of attention. Unlike soccer and boxing, which are disciplines of great popular interest in Mexico, the so-called white sport is even considered by a majority as an elitist activity, therefore, closed. There are also voices that consider it boring, or inconsequential. But those current perceptions contrast with what his history has been.
During the inauguration ceremony of the Mexican Tennis Hall of Fame, the journalist Eduardo Varela emphasized the national team that participated in the 1962 Davis Cup, as well as the sporting merit it achieved in that edition: playing the final against Australia. He remembered the names of Francisco Contreras, Mario Llamas, Rafael Osuna and Antonio Palafox, whom he brought from the past to the present so as not to forget precisely that they were tennis players who positioned our country as a serious competitor in international tournaments.
The anecdote from 1962 came up from the investiture of the late ‘Pelón’ Osuna as one of the first members to enter the Hall of Fame. Along with Yola Ramírez and Raúl Ramírez, his name is key to telling the development of Mexican tennis. Under that context, Varela mentioned the documentary Heroes of Chapultepec, by the director Mauricio Sariñana, as a reference to keep your memory fresh with achievements that sometimes fall into the trunk of memories.
Said documentary rescues the greatest moment of glory that Mexican tennis had in the men’s category. At the same time that tennis players like Yola Ramírez and Rosa María Reyes gained worldwide fame in the women’s branch, Francisco Contreras, Mario Llamas, Rafael Osuna and Antonio Palafox did it during the 1962 Davis Cup.
They reached the final against Australia having knocked out Sweden and India, two contenders to be finalists. Against all odds, and literally against all odds due to the adversities that there were to travel to the Asian country due to the Sino-Indian War, Mexico disputed the highest tennis title in the world by teams. It was lost against the Australians, however, the feat of sneaking into the antechamber of glory was more than worth it.
Those four tennis players who trained at the Chapultepec Sports Club and who had to resort to the emergency help of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Octavio Paz, then Mexico’s ambassador to India, today are sacred monsters in the historical annals of world tennis. However, their land owes them a debt to be prophets.
To delve deeper into what motivated us to address that episode in a documentary, we talked in Spoiler with Mauricio Sariñana, director of Heroes of Chapultepec, that can be seen in Claro Video.
Interview with Mauricio Sarinana
How did the idea of doing Heroes of Chapultepec?
It arises through the passion I have for cinema and my current taste for tennis. We were looking for stories that portrayed our sports heroes and we have forgotten them. It was thus that we found as a theme the anecdote of that Mexican team that participated in the Davis Cup. It seemed important to me to talk about them to rediscover the great athletes we have had.
Did you already know what happened in 1962 and these tennis players or did you find out as soon as you found the story?
It was a story that I learned recently because they were telling me little by little. I had the opportunity to meet Pancho Contreras, who was the initiator of this chapter of Mexican tennis. Let us remember that he was the captain of that team. It was also very valuable to approach him because he passed away a couple of months ago.
You took the risk of making a documentary about tennis where audiovisual content on soccer and boxing predominates.
Yes, totally. We have more success stories in Mexico, but I think we are a country that values its sports heroes very little. It was just that feeling that moved us to tell this story, to rescue it from time. We are at a good time to look back and value those who have written great stories of Mexican sports.
Immersing yourself in this work, what did you discover or rediscover about tennis?
From the outset, the first thing that struck me was knowing that we were a world power. In fact, the first Latin American team to reach a Davis Cup final was the Mexican team. We were also discovering other and other tennis players apart from our protagonists. I am talking about tennis players that must be reviewed to understand why power went away and why it ceased to be so.
Do movies and tennis get along? There are hardly any movies on the subject.
Few movies exist. Fortunately, more tennis-related titles have come out in recent times, but they are still few. In our case we had the notion that tennis and documentary is not a combination that attracts people very much, however it is a tool to tell our past from sports heroes that we have had and many times we do not know.