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Here's A Lamb Among Wolves
Franz Lidz
January 09, 1984
The meek are not about to inherit the woolly world of pro tennis, but Jose Higueras is proof that a gentle man can win
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January 09, 1984

Here's A Lamb Among Wolves

The meek are not about to inherit the woolly world of pro tennis, but Jose Higueras is proof that a gentle man can win

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Donna and her dad's German shepherd, Taco, and his malamute, Thadia, met Higueras and Gimenez at the door. The two players—with the two dogs—went back to get their luggage. When they didn't return after 20 minutes, Donna looked outside and saw Taco and Thadia circling the car. Inside with the doors locked and the windows rolled up were the two brave athletes.

"One day Jose didn't have any way to get to the tournament," says Bogert. "So Donna took him out there, and they fell in love. I was sure glad when they got to romancin', because I didn't like the guys she was goin' out with, and I was hopin' she'd find a better feller."

Jose and Donna live in a sprawling Spanish-style house decorated with Tecate tiles and colonial Mexican furniture. Higueras keeps busy giving free tennis lessons to neighbors, tending his vegetable garden and planting citrus trees. His 22-month-old son, Jordi, keeps busy playing with their German shepherd, Mica. "I think it's sad when a little kid grows up and doesn't know what a nest looks like and is afraid of dogs and chickens," says Higueras, apparently forgetting his introduction to Palm Springs. "I never saw anything that makes me feel better than a little bird with a nest."

Higueras says he's sometimes embarrassed by his affluence. He looks sheepishly at his electronically activated garage door. The luxury of the Higueras household is tempered by frugality, however. Bars of soap from hotels around the world stock the bathrooms, and malta is still his preferred libation. "Going back to the town where Jose grew up was a shock," says Donna. "It's like life 200 years ago, even thousands of years ago."

This autumn Higueras drove back through time to the gaunt hills of Diezma to buy the olive farm where his father had worked for 35 years. "I don't expect to make money off it," he said. "I want the farm for sentimental reasons." The trip should have taken eight hours, but Higueras' car broke down twice and had a flat, and he got a ticket for a burned-out headlight. He arrived in Diezma 13 hours later. "This is the worst 13 hours of my life," he moaned. "It never happened to me, so many things worse than this."

When he got to the farm, the owner doubled the price. "Such a rich tennis player can afford to pay more," he said.

"I know that I earn a very good living," Higueras said. "But I have to work very hard for it." They argued over the terms, and Higueras would not give in. A week later the owner offered Higueras the farm at the original price. The poor owner never had a chance with a guy stubborn enough to wait 58 days to lose a tennis match.

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