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Chasing Djokovic and “relieved” to meet the money – interview with Tomás Etcheverry

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LONDON – A Grand Slam quarterfinal brings recognition, experience and ranking points. A run to the top eight of a major changes the career of any tennis player. As it happened to Tomás Martín Etcheverry at Roland Garros.

And they also reward with a lot of money. The Argentine won in Europe by far the juiciest check of his career: more than USD 430.000 before taxes. “It’s a relief to start earning that money, because you’re paying off the debts you have and then it gives you a little more freedom. It’s a feeling I’m not used to. We’re always on the bare minimum,” he told CLAY during the interview at Wimbledon.

The #31 in the ATP rankings wants to look ahead. To that race with his friend Francisco Cerúndolo to be number one in Argentina; to the Davis Cup tie againts Lithuania in Buenos Aires for not being relegated; and to the points that are still between him and Novak Djokovic, a very famous story in the social media of tennis.

Interview with Tomás Etcheverry

– You said that the Roland Garros campaign was going to change your life. Two months after those quarterfinals, how do you see it in perspective?

– It gave me a lot of confidence in myself. I know I can play with the big players. But it’s already a past tournament and I have to look ahead and keep winning in the big events. At Wimbledon I only reached the second round, but you know how the grass is like that and there are times when you feel amazing, and other times you can’t move well, can’t hit a ball. I have to add more experience on the surface. I was going to play Queens, but I chose to go home after Paris to rest a bit and be with my family. I was coming off a very exhausting four-month tour.

– Do people already stop you on the street to say hello?

– (laughs) No, nooo. Maybe in La Plata yes, but not all over the world. Still something missing for that.

– How much did the Roland Garros prize money ment for you? It’s USD 400.000, by far the biggest paycheck for a player who spent some years out of the top 200.

– A lot. And is even more significant for the South Americans. It is very complicated, because we never get help from anything, it is difficult to get sponsors and those who do get sponsors are lucky. It is a relief to start earning that money, because you are paying the debts you have and then it gives you a little more freedom. It is a feeling I am not used to. We are always with the minimum.

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– Are you enjoying the race with your friend Francisco Cerúndolo for being the number one in Argentina?

– He is a great friend of mine, we grew up together, so having this privilege of competing for that and moving in these high rankings is something we dreamed of since we were kids. The competition is not against him, not at all, but with myself. I will try to get as high as I can and the focus has to be there. What Fran does motivates me. When I see him achieving what he is achieving, it makes me happy because he deserves it, because I know how hard we have worked since we were kids. And that motivates me because I know I can do it too. And there are many others who have been winning. Look at Seba Baez, Pedro Cachin. Fede Coria has been injured, but he continues to explode. Not to mention Diego (Schwartzman), who is not in his best moment, but he is still doing well.

– What do Argentine tennis players have in their DNA? They are always there fighting, new names are always appearing in the Challengers. Several with great stories of effort.

– Good question. We have always produced players without economic help, which is so important. So the fact that it costs us so much, also strengthens us. We are very tough players, who will not give up any ball. That pays in the long run. There are many players who are getting into the game thanks to the help of Horacio de la Peña and Dove Men+Care, who organized a lot of tournaments. More will appear and it will change the situation not only for Argentina, but also for South America.

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– Cachin told us that it is impossible to beat Novak Djokovic, that he went to the Wimbledon Center Court to have fun and enjoy himself. That was his method to play well. You faced Djokovic in Rome, how do you see it?

– It depends on each one how he wants to take the pressure off. I think Pedro did that to get rid of pressure. Everyone faces it differently. When I faced him, there was only one opponent in front of me. Obviously it was Djokovic, but for me it was just another one. Pedro also had it on grass, where we don’t feel as comfortable as on clay. Each one prepares it in his own way.

– Do you still keep track of the points with Djokovic?

– Yes, from time to time, yes, yes, obviously.

Etcheverry keeps track of the points that separates himself from Novak Djokovic // T. ETCHEVERRY

– And with Andy Murray you had a close encounter in Madrid, where you trainned together. What did you talk about?

– We talked a lot. After I lost to him in the first round of Indian Wells he came to talk to me. He talked to me about my level, my tennis, he gave me a couple of things to improve and work on. He is a gentleman, a great person and it also helped me to train because we shared things. With a guy like him it is a privilege.

– You could play for Argentina in Davis Cup due to injury in February. This time you will have a new opportunity, but in a stage where Argentina is not used to be. In September, Lithuania will play in Buenos Aires. You have to avoid relegation.

– I have never played Davis Cup, so wherever I play it will be a joy. In February we played a very tough opponent. Finland was very difficult away. These are things that happen in this tournament and we have to look forward to the next one. If it is in the finals or in instances to keep the category… I think that wherever it is, representing Argentina is a privilege that must be done in the best way.

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