“I want to know what went through Guga’s head after winning Roland Garros” – interview with Joao Fonseca
An excellent sign for a 17-year-old tennis player who is making the transition to professionalism: that Roger Federer is betting on him.
Brazilian Joao Fonseca walks inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York with a smile and a small trophy in his hands as the US Open junior champion. He is wearing his On’s pink-and-black uniform. The brand which Roger Federer is an influential owner. The Swiss company signed Iga Swiatek and Ben Shelton. It also took a gamble on the young South American.
Joao Fonseca cannot wait to meet Federer, whom he sees as an idol. Also his compatriot Gustavo Kuerten, a role model to him. He wants to know what he felt in 1997 in Paris, Kuerten won his first Grand Slam at the age of 20: “I want to know what went through his head”.
“Surely I have a lot to learn from the valuable things that Guga could tell me”, Joao Fonseca tells CLAY in this interview, speaking a correct Spanish. He dominates very good the English, in addition of his native Portuguese. Polyglot skills that tennis and life have given him.
– You wear the Swiss brand On, of which Roger Federer owns a percentage.
– Yes, I am sponsored, I started this year.
– And how does it make you feel that a legend like Federer has bet on you?
– Roger is my idol since I started this sport because of how talented he is and how easy he plays. It’s an honor to wear his brand, and it would be an honor to meet him as well. I’ve had no contact with him yet. Already the On people I talk to have told me that I will certainly meet him.
– Which other player is your idol?
– Of the younger players I like Carlos Alcaraz very much. And Alexander Zverev as well. People say that our tennis is very similar, I really like to see him play. Obviously Guga (Kuerten) too, who is an idol for me and all Brazilians.
– When you meet Guga, what will you tell him?
– I would ask him how he dealed with the situation after winning a Grand Slam. I’m sure he has very valuable things to tell me that I can learn from. I want to know what went through his head after he won his first Roland Garros so young. And he was still very young when he won his third.
– There is a very strong generation of Latin American tennis players in transition from juniors to professionals. There is you, the Bolivian Juan Carlos Prado, the Mexican Rodrigo Pacheco, the Peruvian Lucciana Pérez Alarcón. How do you see the future of tennis in the region with all this young force that is coming?
– I am very happy that South America is so present. In professionals there are always several Argentines in the top 100, Thiago Seyboth Wild also got in now. I believe that in the future we will be even stronger.
– And the fact that Brazilian sport has been so successful in the past thanks to Kuerten and Ayrton Senna, does that mean pressure or inspiration for a guy as promising as you?
– I think it’s more inspiration. I learned very young to play with a crowd. And I realized that I like that pressure. I like to hear the “c’mon Joao”. And the times that people have been against me, most of the times I did face the situation well. It is more difficult, but I think I have also seen my rivals overcome by that factor. There I have an advantage because I have more experience, I started competing at a very young age. So, in general, pressure of any kind helps me.
– What a great match you won to become US Open junior champion and number one in the ranking (4-6, 6-4, 6-3 against North American Learner Tien). Sporting drama and a lot of atmosphere in the stands full of Brazilians cheering you on.
– It made me very happy. I am grateful to the people who have worked for me, my family, my coaches who are my other family. I have to keep working hard, because I want more.
– You can see that you know how to feed off the energy that the public gives you and that seems to have been an important factor in that final.
– I learned at a very young age to relate well with the fans. Whatever they give me, they make me stronger and many times that helps me to turn games around. If they support you or if they are with your rival, that’s where mental factors come in. I always use that to my advantage.
– What are your short-term plans?
-I think it’s time to close my career as a junior. Now I’m thinking about professionalism. I’ve already won a Grand Slam and I’m number one as a junior, so I’m past that stage. I think that in professional tournaments, being young and having no pressure will make me play very loose. I will be able to show my game.