Francisco Cerúndolo, the leader of the new generation of Argentine tennis: “I’m ready to be number 1 in the country”

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Gray clouds hid the sun and a few drops still fell on the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis around 12 Francis Cerundolo he stepped on the brick dust of the Buenos Aires club and got ready to train to prepare for his debut in the Argentina Open 2023which will be this Tuesday, not before 3pm, against the German Yannick Hanfmannfrom the classification.

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Under the overcast sky of an unstable day, the 24-year-old from Buenos Aires debuted as number one in Argentina. Is that this Monday appeared in the 30th step of the ranking, two above diego schwartzmann, and became the highest-ranked national tennis player in the ATP for the first time in his career. A milestone that meant a lot to him.

“It’s never been me in anything…”, he commented between laughs in a chat with clarion. “Not tennis at all, I mean. I’ve never been the best in any of the minor categories or in junior. This is why being number one in Argentina is something very beautiful and I am very happy to have achieved it. I had never set a goal for it, she admitted she. But about a year ago I started seeing myself very close, so it was one of the goals for this season, because I’ve been looking for it for a long time. It’s a great pride.”

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-Is it a result that you endured the title you won in Bastad or is it something completely different?

-They are other sensations. The title was something that generated a lot of euphoria at the time. It was very nice and we celebrated a lot. This was calmer because I saw it was there. It wasn’t 1, but it was 2. Although it’s a more pleasant feeling to see you on top of all Argentines. That means: ‘That’s it, I’ve already done it’.

Francisco jumped up the ranks and finished 30th thanks to his win against Federico Delbonis in his debut in Córdoba. But also thanks to his brother Juan Manuelwho gave him a hand by eliminating Schwartzman in the round of 16 and sending the small at 32nd position.

“When we saw the draw and he won in the first round, I told him: ‘If I don’t win against Fede, beat Diego, who remains the same. If I win and you lose, nothing happens. We continue in the race. We laughed and joked a bit. I thanked him afterwards. She was very happy. It’s also an award for the family and everyone who accompanies me,” she recalled.

-Last year you said that after your explosion in Miami (he reached the semifinals and said goodbye to Casper Ruud), it was difficult for you to adapt to the new exposure. Being the new leader of Argentine tennis can generate a bigger explosion. Are you ready for what could come?

-Yes, totally. Miami was a great first step, a great introduction to the world of tennis and the world at large. It was all new. But after that I played the best tournaments in the world and against the best. I was having all those experiences and today I am in another place. I’m ready to be number 1 in Argentina. I think it caught me at a good moment, not as sudden as it happened last year.

Cerúndolo and the sensational celebration after the victory in Córdoba against Delbonis, which secured him 30th place in the standings.  Press Photo Córdoba Open

Cerúndolo and the sensational celebration after the victory in Córdoba against Delbonis, which secured him 30th place in the standings. Press Photo Córdoba Open

-It’s been almost a year since you consolidated yourself in the top 30 or 40 in the standings. Do you feel comfortable in that place?

-Yes, very comfortable. When Roland Garros 2022 was over and I was 40 or 50, I said to my coaches: ‘I feel strange. I feel the ranking overwhelms me. I don’t know if I feel level’. right after I played Wimbledon (Note: Fell in his debut against Rafael Nadalbut stole a set), won my title (in Bastad, with a straight set win against Sebastian Baez) and I think he totally changed the head chip. He was very crazy because, from one day to the next, I started saying: “Now I feel part of it, I feel up to it and everyone respects me”. I played all the games with rivals from the top 35 or 40, because I didn’t have any luck in the draws and they were difficult games. And from all this I began to get used to it. Today I feel like I’m in the top 30 or top 40. I don’t feel overwhelmed like I did in the beginning.

-The title was the break?

It was a mix of everything. A bit like the match with Nadal at Wimbledon, in which I felt I could play in the big stadiums against the big players. The following week came the headline. It all came together and that generated trust, which was what I needed to be up there.

-A year ago, when you were preparing to debut in this tournament, you were outside the top 100. You have advanced a lot in the last twelve months and not only in the standings. Where do you see the greatest evolution?

It was a year of pure growth. Every month I improved in the standings and had good tournaments. It’s strange, because in tennis you’re more used to losing than winning. And having such a good year, at such a high level, is not easy. I think it was a mix of everything. I settled in a lot mentally, I started thinking that I could beat whoever was higher up and I trusted myself a lot more. I have also improved my game a lot. My backhand, my serve… I’m done. Before everyone said my right hand was good and now I think I’m solid in all respects. And physically I became strong enough. I gave no lead on that side. It was a complete combination.

Cerúndolo had a good start to the season. Although he finished first with two defeats in united cupmade a Australian Open very positive. In Melbourne he won his first matches in the main draw of a Grand Slam and reached the third round, before saying goodbye to the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

He later traveled to Finland to play the Qualifiers of the Davis Cup against which Argentina lost 3 to 1. She won her first singles against Otto Virtanen, but an overload in the left hamstring did not allow him to play the second. That annoyance also conditioned him in Córdoba, where he retired in the quarterfinals against Frederick Coriawhen he fell 6-3 and 3-0.

“The leg is fine, but we’re still in the recovery phase,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation, because you’re not hurt, but you’re not perfect either. So you’re scared. You don’t know how long to push yourself, because you say: “I’m not good but I’m not bad and if I push myself I can break and that’s where I have to stop”. It’s complicated. You have to know how to wear it, know that there is always the risk of getting hurt. This is why I try to manage it in the best possible way and to know what my limit is. I hope soon I can play without those thoughts in my head.“.

And he closed: “I started 2023 well. I won my first matches in a Grand Slam and my first match in Davis Cup. It’s something beautiful, it gives me confidence. It helps me to face the year well. I hope I can be physically fit to compete and not speculate. I want to close this brick dust tour well. And then try to keep climbing the leaderboard and keep Argentina’s number 1 as much as possible. And enjoy it while you have it.”

From Alcaraz to Djokovic

Francisco Cerúndolo is the fifth seed and one of the big attractions of the Buenos Aires tournament, which he has as a favorite Carlos Alcarazsecond in the standings and leader of the new generation that is, little but steadily, conquering the tennis elite and seems increasingly willing to take the scepter and oust the old guard.

The Spaniard, who was crowned in the US Open and became at the age of 19 the youngest number one in history, is leading the way. And for the Argentine, seeing all that Juan Carlos Ferrero’s pupil is achieving is a great motivation.

It’s a good moment for tennis, because you don’t see it as impossible. Until a few years ago you could see Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, maybe Del Potro… You could see four, five or six established players, who it was impossible to eliminate and beat in a Grand Slam or in important tournaments. Now there is a very big change in the circuit, with Alcaraz, with Tsitsipas, with Ruud… Many are my age,” he condemned.

The new generation broke into the top positions of the rating -analysed-. In the big tournaments a lot of finalists start appearing, occasional champions like Carlos or Daniil Medvedev. The era of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic is coming to an end -even if Djokovic still has a few years ahead- and it’s a good possibility, a motivation for all of us to see that anyone can win any tournament. It’s all good.”

-Do you see that Djokovic will remain among the best for a while yet?

-Yes, for me he is the one who is playing better today. The best tennis player, the number 1 and the champion of the last Grand Slam. He’s impressive because, with everything he’s already won, he still wants to play and win. I respect that a lot. And I think it’s good for tennis that it continues at that level, that it continues to demand from us. If we want to beat him, we have to keep working to improve. At 35 he has conquered Australia with great comfort and this makes us understand that there is still a long way to go.

Source: Clarin

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