For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
Two years ago, Tommy Robredo, a cocky 20-year-old, seemed like he would soon become the next Spanish entrant into the Top 10. While he has improved—he reached a career-high No. 15 this year—he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. He’s a solid all-courter with speed and flair, but his serve is weak. –Stephen Tignor / June 2004
It may not make a list of the most memorable moments of 2018, but those who saw it won’t soon forget it: 36-year-old Tommy Robredo breaking down in tears after winning an ATP Challenger event in Lisbon. It was a far cry from his days in the Top 10, or from his win over Roger Federer at the 2013 US Open. But Robredo’s first title in five years was still an inspiration to his fellow players.
“When you say someone should stop or quit playing, think twice,” Jamie Murray said after seeing Robredo’s reaction. “Only we know how much we love this sport, and how much we love competing.”
Robredo is no longer the cocky 20-year-old who, before Rafael Nadal arrived, looked set to be the next Spanish superstar. But while he never turned into a Nadal, Robredo has matured into one of the sport’s legendary competitors and exemplary professionals. Part of that evolution is the perspective he learned from his friend Santi Silvas.
After a traffic accident left Silvas paraplegic, his dream was to organize a tournament in Spain for wheelchair players. In 2008, though, Silvas died before his goal could be realized. That’s where Robredo stepped in.
“From the contacts and notes that Santi left, I was able to create the Tommy Robredo Foundation, and make his dream come true,” Robredo said.
The inaugural Santi Silva Open took place in Barcelona in 2009, and the event has become a fixture on the ITF Pro Circuit. In 2011 and 2013, Robredo’s tournament received $15,000 grants from the ATP’s ACES for Charity fund. At the same time, his foundation has expanded to provide activities and therapy in a range of adapted sports, from tennis for the blind to motorized-wheelchair tennis for those with reduced mobility.
“Our aim is to welcome players with any kind of disability, Robredo said. “We help young people in trouble.”
As for Robredo, he’s hoping to return to the Top 100 “as soon as possible.” Inspired by those he sees at his tournament each year, he’s continuing to inspire those around him on tour.