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  Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Tricky customer Bahrami shines
Mansour Bahrami
Ever the entertainer: Bahrami in a typical pose
By BBC Sport Online's Alex Perry at Roland Garros

Late on Friday, after the men's semi-finals, only a few die-hard fans remained at Roland Garros' centre court to watch Conchita Martinez and Jelena Dokic reach the women's doubles final.

But across the Place des Mousquetaires on court one, the stadium was packed as the climax of the legends trophy was played out.

For the record, John McEnroe and Henri Leconte were 6-3 6-7 6-3 victors over Mansour Bahrami and Gene Mayer.

But, in the crowd's eyes, there was only one winner.

Not McEnroe, winner of seven Grand Slam titles and one of the most prodigiously talented players of his or any other generation.

Not Leconte, the darling of the French fans for so long and consummate entertainer with his wit and flair.

The man who stole the show, despite ending up on the losing side, was Bahrami.

It's a name that is probably unfamiliar to all but the most ardent tennis fans. But it could all have been very different.

Halted

Bahrami taught himself tennis while working as a ballboy in his native Tehran.

He is said to have started with a racquet made from a dustbin lid and a wooden handle.

But as he was beginning to make in-roads, his progress was halted as the Iranian regime banned competitive sports in the late 1970s.

Mansour Bahrami
Bahrami is a fine player beneath the tricks
All tennis courts were closed and Bahrami was forced to engineer a move to Paris in 1981.

However, work and travel restrictions still made it tough for him to get established on the tour.

It was not until Bahrami received French citizenship that he was able to concentrate fully on tennis, but by this stage he had turned 30 and his best days in singles were already behind him.

He did manage to win five titles in doubles, but it was the launch of the seniors tour that gave Bahrami a new lease of life.

For Bahrami is a supreme entertainer, and an absolute genius when it comes to trick shots - shots behind the back or between the legs are routine for this master.

Forced to smile

His sleight of hand is incredible, and playing poker against him is probably very unwise.

After a couple of games without a trick, someone in the crowd shouts out, "Why are you being so serious, Mansour?"

Bahrami cannot resist, and pretends to miss a smash, only to somehow flick the ball over the net on his follow through.

Even McEnroe, who plays the game with only slightly less seriousness than in his heyday, is forced to smile as Bahrami flicks a ball eight feet in the air and catches it in his pocket.

Leconte was always a great entertainer in his days on the court, but here he barely gets a look in.

And while Bahrami goes through his routine with such touch and skill, you can't help but wonder what might have been had his career not been interrupted.

Happily for the crowds, Bahrami is doing his best to make up for lost time.

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See also:

07 Jun 01 | French Open
07 Jun 01 | French Open
06 Jun 01 | French Open
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