Terrorist attacks leave Spanish tennis players shaken (article)
Terrorist attacks leave Spanish tennis players shaken
March 12, 2004
By Paul Levine SportsTicker Contributing Writer
INDIAN WELLS, California (Ticker) - The world's top players came to this sleepy desert community for 10 days of tennis, but the headlines have been made off the court.
With qualifying continuing on the men's side and none of the women's seeds in action yet, the main topic the last days has been the clearing of Greg Rusedski on charges of steroid use and tennis' attempted crackdown on banned substances.
"I got news for you, guys are scared to death to drink out of Gatorade," said former champion Andre Agassi, the sixth seed. "I'm scared to take anything. I can't afford at this stage in my career to make mistakes accidentally."
Fear of another kind swept through the Spanish contingent Thursday.
Ten explosions through trains and stations along a commuter line outside Madrid at the height of the morning rush hour, killing nearly 200 and wounding more than 1,400. The blasts came on the eve of Sunday's general elections.
The government initially blamed Basque separatists, although an arcane group with ties to al-Qaida claimed responsibility.
Spanish star Alex Corretja would not comment and compatriot Maria Lorenzo Sanchez said, "I was crying my eyes out the whole morning."
"I think it's crazy, it happens all the time," added 11th seed Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion.
Martinez first learned of the bombings on the internet while looking for results of Real Madrid's soccer match in the European Cup.
"I called my parents and everybody was OK," said Martinez, who resides in San Diego. "My brother, Roberto, lives in Madrid and he's OK. My sister-in-law, sister and kids live near one of the train stations there."
Martinez recalled a supermarket bombing in her native Barcelona a few years ago that killed more than two dozen.
"It's big, it's a lot of people," she said of Thursday's attacks. "This is almost 200 dead and 1,000 people are already hurt."
Asked about living in uncertain conditions, Martinez replied, "It's unbelievable, but what are you going to do? Do you not go to work? It was just like 9/11 here. If you were living in a high building, are you going to move? If you happened to be on the train, you're an unlucky one. But you just have to go on with your life."
Feliciano Lopez, who resides in Madrid, called the latest attacks unprecedented.
"It's the worst thing you can do in the world," he said. "We can live together in peace, but they don't want to. Everybody is going to be nervous. Now all is not going to be quiet anymore. It could happen next week in Barcelona."
As a result of the tragedy, the Spanish players will wear black ribbons when they take the court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
"I practice with Maria and she said we're thinking about doing this and that. I went to the locker room and they had ribbons ready, so we're gonna play with that," Martinez said. "In Spain, when somebody dies, the athletes put on a black armband to show our sadness."
Magui Serna, the 17th seed, has a brother who lives in Madrid. She learned that he and friends were safe, but news of the bombings left her numb.
"I was paralyzed," Serna said. "It was sick, sick, sick. They are not human. It's so hard to watch because there seems to be more wounded every hour."
Second seed Juan Carlos Ferroro was forced to withdraw Thursday due to a case of chicken pox.
"Sometimes things happen and you can't do anything about it," said the reigning French Open champion. "I am disappointed because I was looking forward to playing here."
Ferrero will be replaced in the field by lucky loser Jeff Salzenstein of the United States.