Persistence is sometimes the name of the game. At other times, it is the only game.
While there are not as many collectors of autographs in the tennis field, there are some collectors who follow the bouncing white ball and collect signatures of their court heroes and heroines.
Bill Tilden, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Louis Brough, Chris Everet, Maureen Connally and Steffi Graf are certainly names which would add luster to any autograph collection.
But this is a story of a very attractive player. Maybe it’s her looks, maybe it’s her aura of aloofness, but it was Gabriela Sabatini’s autographed photo which I really wanted. But wanting and getting are often two different things.
The saga began by trying to write the young Argentine star directly. One letter went out with no reply, then a second, then a third and then a fourth. All to no avail. Then a fifth letter brought a response from her fan club in Argentina. If I’d send along $25 U.S. dollars, they would send me newsletters about her and also an autographed photo.
Well, $25 seemed a little high for an autographed photo of a player who at that time had never won a major tournament. I personally don’t have a lot of faith in organizations that send out mimeographed letters requesting $25. Sabatini had only won close to $1 million in prize money at the time and this didn’t even count endorsements. So I decided to try alternate routes.
And so the saga continues.
First, I wrote her agent at ProServ, the Washington D.C. firm which managed Gabriela. I asked their help but again received no response. The letter included a self-addressed mailing label, return postage and a check for a couple of dollars for the photo (even though they probably had hundreds of publicity photos of Gabriela lying around).
Second, I wrote the Public Relations Director at Prince Manufacturing, the racquet firm for which Sabatini endorsed. I sent the same enclosures. They returned my check, did not send a photo (even though they use her picture in their ads) and suggested I write Don Dell, the head of ProServ.
Third, Gabriela came to the Los Angeles area to play in a Virginia Slims tournament, so I called and got the name of the tournament director, and sent a letter requesting help (and again sent the address label, check and postage). They responded that she would be signing at a local tennis shop at such-and-such time on such-and-such day. They returned the check but of course didn’t send a photo. When I called the tennis shop, they didn’t know anything about the “signing”.
Fourth, I called the tournament office. They said she might be signing at the club’s pro shop but they didn’t know when. When I called the pro shop, they said they expected her in that afternoon (though they didn’t know when) and the only way I could come to the pro shop to ask for an autograph was to buy a ticket to the tournament which they said was $50. I said no thanks.
Fifth, I wrote her again in care of the Women’s International Tennis Association. This resulted in another letter from her fan club in Argentina. The same identical form letter – except the price was now $30 U.S. dollars.
I wrote Don Dell at ProServ, told him the people at Prince had suggested I write him for help (again sent the address label, check and return postage).
Lo and behold, one day an envelope arrived from ProServ with a signed photo of Gabriela Sabatini and they returned my check.
One more letter was due – a thank you note to Dell – for the time and effort of his people.
Doubtlessly Gabriela is a gracious person who willingly signs an autograph – if you could get to her and you had a photo available. Probably, it would have been a lot cheaper to just purchase the signed photo through her fan club, but as I wrote above, I’m leery of mimeographed letters.
She did finally win the US Open singles & Wimbledon doubles. And after she retired, she was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Still looking for Gabriela? You can find her in the V.I.P. Address Book or online at the V.I.P. Address File Database Lookup – all at www.vipaddress.com. Check it out!