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“I am more beautiful after Roland Garros” – interview with Juan Pablo Varillas

Juan Pablo Varillas
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SANTIAGO, Chile – Winning makes you more beautiful. That’s what Juan Pablo Varillas believes: “After Roland Garros I’m prettier”.

The Peruvian sits down to talk with CLAY without complications about a reality that touches tennis players. If the triumphs bring money and improvements in the ranking, it also makes them irresistible. “It’s attractive when a tennis player does well. It clearly attracts more attention,” says the Peruvian in this interview.

Varillas talks about love relationships, parties and the importance of going out to enjoy the night from time to time, even during tournaments: “It has happened to me that I went out the night before and the next day I played better, looser, flying on the court”, he confesses after winning the Challenger of Santiago.

He reached the round of 16 in Paris in 2023. He was stopped by Novak Djokovic. Since that tournament, his life has changed.

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Interview with Juan Pablo Varillas

– There is a before and after in your career. Playing against Novak Djokovic in the round of 16 at Roland Garros at the Phillippe Chatrier doesn’t happen very often.

– I arrived in Lima with a lot of jetlag, there were a lot of people waiting for me at the airport. People started to stop me in the street, something that had never happened to me before. In tennis, in the clubs of course, but never in the street. I was walking and people were shouting at me from the buildings. My first full press conference in a hotel room. Like a rockstar.

– Too many girls want to be your girlfriend?

– I’m picky about that. Because I travel a lot. I do date girls, obviously. I like girls, I go out for drinks. I don’t have anything serious, and I don’t want it.

– Are tennis players like sailors? A girl in every port?

– Tennis players are crazy. What I did realize, and I sometimes joke about it, is that after Roland Garros I am two points prettier (laughs). I don’t know how much I was before or how much I am now, but I do know that from one to ten I am two points prettier. It’s attractive, obviously when the player is doing well, is successful, he or she will clearly attract more attention. That is normal. Being the only tennis player in Peru who played last year almost all the big tournaments, I do understand that it could be attractive.

Juan Pablo varillas
Juan Pablo Varillas before the interview with CLAY, holding the trophy of the Santiago Challenger // PRENSA DOVE MEN+CARE

– Can you win a tournament by sleeping several days away from the hotel?

– I could not, because my head would not allow me, but I have heard great stories from other people. I’m not going to name them because I don’t want to expose them (laughs). It has happened to me a couple of times that I went out the night before, played the next day and did better. I felt loose, I was flying on the court. Do I have to do this every day? No, no, that’s not the way it is. Not that I’m recommending it.

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– Does it help mentally? You had a fun night and the next day maybe you just think about it and take the pressure off?

– It happened to me a few years ago. I was coming to Santiago after playing Davis Cup against Bolivia. It was very tough: I played all three matches, one was 7-6 in the third against Hugo Dellien. The next day I flew to Santiago because I had to play the challenger. I remember the first two rounds I was completely broken and my coach tells me “go out, tomorrow you have the day off and you just won second round. Go on, enjoy yourself”. So, I went out to dinner with someone… what had to happen happened, I had a great time. The next day I was very relaxed because I enjoyed myself. In the quarterfinals I played very well. Obviously I wasn’t going to have a super crazy night because I was coming from very intense days, but using the night to get my mind off what is just tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis, is very good sometimes.

– Is that something you’ve learned over the years?

– I’m turning 30 next year and with the maturity I’ve gained over time, I feel like every year tennis is smaller and smaller in my life. I have to do other things. I have to live. You have to concentrate, study, work, whatever you want, but up to a certain point. You have to live also because we are young. People say “I saw Varillas in a bar”. I don’t go out much, but I do on vacations. At the disco I’ve never been asked for so many photos in my life.

– And did you like that?

– It was nice that time. I was in line at the disco to get in. To tell you the truth, I don’t know anyone from the nightlife scene, zero. And people recognized me. One guy, slightly drunk, was yelling at the security guy, “That’s Varillas in the queue! You should take him straight to the VIP!” I stood in line for a while and then the manager came out to invite me inside. I had an amazing time, I drank, I was on holidays. I ended up at a gas station eating a hot dog and drinking a Gatorade at 6 in the morning with a random Chilean guy.

– Super hungry. It must have been a good party….

– After dancing we were in a cab, two girls, this guy who I don’t know how he got there. Then we went to a house, everything that was going to happen happened. When everything was over, the guy didn’t want to leave the place. The girls asked me to please take him with me. I had already sobered up, I wanted to go back home. I grabbed this guy and took him with me. We got hungry and he invited me to the only place we could find open. Today, with the smartphone generation, people have become more careful. We athletes suffer more, social networks are very bad in some situations. Today we do everything in a more closed, hidden way. But in the end we are people too.

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– What are the topics that come up the most in the locker room conversations?

– With my friends on the tour I talk about tennis, girls, football and sports. Politics is talked about a lot in Argentina, but I stay a bit on the sidelines.

– There is a lot outside the court that affects tennis: the war in Ukraine, the growing influence of Saudi Arabia on the tour, the case of Alexander Zverev with the German justice…

– Honestly, Saudi Arabia is not talked about at all. I’ve heard a couple of comments about Zverev, but how long has that been going on? We don’t talk about that, honestly. Comments have been thrown out, but there is no conversation. The tennis player is super selfish in that sense, he’s kind of on his own. If I knew a little more about it I could talk about it. I am very careful with that.

Juan pablo Varillas
Juan Pablo Varillas and Novak Djokovic in Roland Garros 2023

– Your goal is to qualify directly to Roland Garros. You have a big challenge there, because besides reaching the main draw, you have lot of points to defend.

– My coach tells me that the tennis year is long and you do the points wherever you can. Last year I did incredible in the South American swing, this year I did terrible; I just became champion of a challenger. It’s not easy to score 180 points, but there are many tournaments to do it. After losing in the first round in Buenos Aires I thought that my goal has to be in Paris, that’s why I said no to Indian Wells and Miami and I’m focusing on the clay. After that, we will see.

– Describe to me what it means to play against Novak Djokovic. Does he steal your soul?

– I played against Rublev and Fritz, who play at an abnormal speed; Djokovic lets you play, that’s what makes you more helpless. If someone beats you with powerful strokes and lots of winners, like Rublev, well, not much what you can do. But Djokovic is a guy who gives you rhythm, he lets you play, but he still beats you. You play everywhere, you lose the point. You play, you lose, you play, you lose…. You lose and keep losing, then you say, damn, what do I have to do. If I feel like I’m there, and I still lose it. But well, he’s Djokovic, he’s the best in history.

– Do you think Nadal will play Roland Garros again?

– I feel that he is going to play it… but, to make a good tournament? Rafa has given surprises returning injuries and everything, because he is an animal, but today I see it difficult.

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