Robert Farah, a Colombian-Lebanese with tennis in his genes
The tennis player, a winner of the men’s doubles at Wimbledon along with his fellow countryman Juan Sebastian Cabal, is the latest in a long line of Lebanese tennis champions.
Robert Farah was born –literally– into the sport of tennis. The Colombian tennis champion, who has just won, along with his compatriot Juan Sebastian Cabal, the men's double tournament at Wimbledon, comes from a family line that has distinguished itself in the history of Lebanese tennis. "I am happy to be associated with Lebanon in this victory at Wimbledon. It is a special moment for me. Yes, I was born and raised in Colombia, but my parents who are pure Lebanese gave me this strong sense of belonging to this country (Lebanon). So, I am more than happy to share this victory with our country of origin. And I hope to go to Lebanon soon.” This is what Robert Farah told L'Orient-Le Jour in a phone interview while he currently rests in Bogota with his family after having added one more title, at Wimbledon this time, to his record.
On July 13, in an epic match of almost five hours (they played for 4:57), and paired with fellow countryman Juan Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah won the men's doubles tournament after a bitter match against the French pair Nicolas Mahut / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3). The players of this tennis marathon failed to break the record for the longest men's doubles final at Wimbledon by a mere four minutes: in 1992, the American pair John McEnroe / Michael Stich won a match that lasted 5:01 . A 32-year-old doubles specialist, the Lebanese-born Colombian has already won fifteen titles, including the Masters 1000 tournament in Rome (2018 and 2019). He has also been a two-times Grand Slam finalist in mixed doubles (Wimbledon 2016, Roland-Garros 2017), and once in men's doubles (Australian Open 2018). He is now preparing to participate in the next US Open.
His grandfather and his great-aunt
When Robert Farah says he is Lebanese, it comes from sincere conviction. His first name and his family name give no doubt about his origins. Officially, his name is Robert Charbel Farah Maksoud, Maksoud being his mother, Eva’s, maiden name. On his paternal side, he comes from the Farah family which holds a distinguished place in the history of Lebanese tennis over the last century, and members of the family have played far and wide, including in South America. Robert's father, Patrick Farah, a tennis instructor and founder of an academy in Cali, introduced him to tennis at the age of three. Patrick is himself the son of the 1950s tennis champion Robert Farah, who the current Wimbledon doubles champion is named after. In addition, his great-aunt Nena Farah was a tennis champion in Lebanon in the 1930s.
The net of tennis has thus interwoven the lives of both the Lebanese and the Colombian branches of the Farah family. However, Maurice Farah (the paternal grand-uncle of the clan’s newest star) managed to escape entanglement, and instead chose medicine; he is a well-known surgeon in Beirut. Patrick Farah –who also spoke to us by phone-, had a lot to say on the subject of his family, especially about his life in Lebanon, where he was born sixty-six years ago, and which he left in 1986. He talks about growing up as the son of a tennis champion. His father initiated him into this sport very early on, and at the age of sixteen he was giving tennis lessons at the Saint-Simon beach for the princely sum of two Lebanese pounds. Later on (from 1980 to 1986), he became a tennis instructor at Mont La Salle College. This is where he met his future wife, Eva Maksoud, then captain of the Lebanese national volleyball team.
During this period, Patrick Farah often used to visit the presidential palace in Baabda in order to train its main resident and then President of State, Amine Gemayel and his family. He married Eva Maksoud in Beirut, where they had their first child, a girl named Romy. In 1986, the family moved to Canada, where Robert was born. His father says: "I put a racket in his hands at the age of three. He really had no other choice.” The young boy first attended the French Lycee in Cali, and then a private school that favored and promoted sports. While studying Finance at the University of California, Robert Farah won four consecutive titles in university tennis championships. Then, his promising career on the professional circuit started. However, his career as a single player ended in 2003 following a serious wrist injury. Farah then decided to play doubles, which is less physically demanding. Today, he is the joint top ranked player according to ATP.
(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 18th of July 2019)