Mansour Bahrami is a former professional tennis player. He is Iranian with dual French nationality since 1989. While only moderately successful on the ATP Tour, his showmanship has made him a long-standing and popular figure in invitational tournaments.
It’s an astonishing story – and tennis fans the world over will know Mansour Bahrami as the magical maverick who can serve while holding six tennis balls in his hand, a man who can catch tennis balls in his shorts pocket while playing an improbable winning shot – and as someone who can smash volleys which then spin crazily back across the net…
Fast forward to the 1970s, when Bahrami was welcomed by the Iranian Tennis Federation, given some racquets, and allowed to play the sport he was so passionate about. He went on to join the Davis Cup team and became one of the country’s best players. But adversity struck again: the Iranian Revolution started in 1977, and tennis, believed to be a form of American capitalism, was barred.
“There were some years I was just frustrated because I couldn’t travel, I couldn’t play, but those days are past and I’m looking ahead.”
For Bahrami, tennis was more than a game: it brought him joy, hope, and fulfilled his passion. He decided he could not stay in Iran if it meant not playing, so he left for Paris.
In 1981, Bahrami was given a wildcard into pre-qualifying at the French Open. He ran through six matches to reach the main draw. He then defeated a top French player in his first main-draw match, giving him the media recognition that assisted him in eventually renewing his visa.
While Bahrami was unable to play or travel during what would have been the prime of his career, his twenties, he doesn’t look back on the events with regret.
Today, Bahrami is entertaining crowds, taking the court with tennis legends such as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, and most importantly, playing the sport he loves. He used to imagine waving to a fully packed arena and smiling. Now he’s doing that—and everyone is smiling back.