“Psychotherapy has helped me to believe more in myself” – interview with Juan Pablo Varillas
NEW YORK – Seeing a psychologist has helped Peru’s number one to understand that his mind, physique and tennis are fit for the top level of competition, after being relegated to the secondary circuit for five or six years without a single dollar of profit.
“Focusing on quality instead of quantity has been key. Also psychotherapy has helped me to believe more in myself, to feel that I have the ability to compete here, to feel part of this. I have already beaten some top 20 players. I don’t focus on winning matches, that falls under its own weight. I think about leaving everything on the court, playing my game, being aggressive and being calm. The rest comes as a consequence,” Juan Pablo Varillas told CLAY in an interview in New York, where he will play against Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the US Open.
And thanks in large part to his mental health care, Varillas has signed in 2023 the year he always dreamed of. Not only did he achieve the goal of scoring his name in the four major tournaments, with a round of 16 and a match against Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros included, but also his finances give him an unprecedented peace of mind, product of prize money of different caliber, and agreements with several brands that began to support him, such as Renault and ISDIN.
With this new panorama, he plans to invest in an apartment in Lima. Unlike most tennis players, he likes to be on top of managing his money, buying the plane tickets, paying salaries to his team members, and booking the hotels. “I got used to doing that and it has me more conscious in my spending and investments.”
– In New York you will be able to say that in one season you played all the Grand Slams. You waited many years for that.
– I am very happy. To complete all four Grand Slams in one year is a good achievement. 2023 is very positive for me and my career. Maybe since Wimbledon I have not found the consistency I would like, and I had a couple of injuries that pulled me back a little bit. I didn’t want to say anything in London, but just weeks before Wimbledon I strained my quadriceps. I didn’t say anything because it doesn’t benefit me. Now I feel good, I’m healthy, I feel I’m playing very well and more adapted to the hard court. I have more tools for this surface. I am achieving my goals. To be in all the four big tournaments was a goal we had with my team.
– And what have been the most important things that have led you to be in this position?
– I haven’t had many big jumps since I’ve been living in Argentina. Every year I have been improving and moving up in the ranking. I am quite disciplined and constant, that desire I always have to train well, is what has led me to be here, the road has been traveled through small steps. Focusing on quality instead of quantity has been key. I work on the psychological side as well. Psychotherapy has helped me to believe more in myself, to feel that I have the capacity to compete here, to feel part of this. I have already beaten some top 20 players. I already feel part of this, little by little. The key has also been not to focus on winning matches, that falls by its own weight. I try to leave everything on the court, playing my game, being aggressive with my game and being calm with my mind. That’s what I have to do. The rest comes as a consequence.
– Do you already have friends on the circuit and do you share with the top players?
– At Roland Garros I was next to Carlos Alcaraz in the locker room and we got to talk a couple of things. With Musetti there is also a good vibe. With the Germans Hanfann and Altmaier I get along very well. Obviously with the Argentines and Chileans there is a very good vibe, with Nicolás Jarry and Tomás Barrios. Mostly with the Latinos.
– How much did it change your life after reaching the fourth round of Roland Garros and playing at the Phillippe Chatrier with Djokovic? How did you feel when you arrived in Peru afterwards?
– It was a big blow, because I didn’t imagine it. Obviously I knew, I’m not naive, I knew it was going to be a new kind of interest in Peru, but Peru is not a tennis country either. Maybe only people who play tennis, who like tennis, which is not the majority, are going to know who I am. I don’t like that kind of exposure, I am low profile. Some media asked me on which flight I was arriving. I told them that I was coming another day, because I wanted to be quiet at home, with my family and friends. I was not going to be at home for so long, so I wanted to enjoy myself. From November until today I have been spent few days in Lima. At the airport they already asked me for a couple of photos. And I realized that it had more impact than I thought. Then I went to the pharmacy to buy something and in the street ‘Juampi a photo’. It was only four blocks. And then the guy at the pharmacy asked me. And the media later when they found out I was in Lima… it was too much in just a few days. It overwhelmed me. In the end those days that I was supposed to rest were more intense. Then I went to Buenos Aires and I detached myself a lot from that. I’m doing well. I would be lying to you if I told you that I love it, because I am zero media person. It has been a strong change.
– And there are also more social events to which you are invited.
– I do it sometimes. I am very clear about that, sometimes I have to meet with sponsors. I do it exactly as the contract says, I respect that. I comply with the things that have to be done, I am quite responsible with this. But over time I learned to say no too.
– What did you start saying no to?
– There are several media I had to say no to. If I’m in Lima for four days and I’m going to spend four days giving interviews to one side and the other…at some point I have to be with my siblings, my parents, my grandmothers, who I never see. I explain, ‘no thanks, today I need to prioritize my welfare over the other’. It is respectable, everyone handles himself as he wants. I always do it with respect, always.
– You spend too much money on tennis, but finally you got a huge prize money in Paris.
– To think that so many years went by without making a dollar and now, fortunately, the panorama is different. I have a person who helps me, but I also manage the numbers a lot. In that sense I have always been on top of it. I see my money, buy the plane tickets, pay trainers and physios, hotels, everything. I got used to do it and it makes me more aware of my expenses and investments. It works for me. Other tennis players are surprised, but I like the numbers. My old man helps me with that too. I went five, six years without making any money from tennis.
– Do you think about making investments with your money? Do you maybe bet on cryptocurrencies?
– No, not cryptocurrencies, nothing like that yet, but I am looking at buying an apartment in Lima. I work with Alfredo Valverde and Luis Horna at IGMA Sports. It’s been 4 years since I played my first Grand Slam. I am very comfortable, they keep getting me deals and I have a lot of confidence with them. In everything I do, whether it’s business, physical, mental help, I look for better people than professionals. I’m not telling you that they are bad professionals, by the way, they are very good. But the guru in what he does, the one who knows the most in his profession, but who doesn’t give me confidence and who I’d feel he is not with me on that? I’m not interested. I prefer people who push me to be better. If I am better, they are better, because we are a team.