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Nicolás Jarry on fears: “If you hide them, they end up being part of you”

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PARIS – Some interviews should be done next to a couch: quite a paradox in the case of Chilean Nicolas Jarry, because he is living the best moment of his career. Or maybe not so much: Jarry’s great present exists because at some point he found himself in the middle of a major storm. And he sought the couch.

“I had to open up, I had to learn about myself, I had to go through hard times. That’s what made me the strong player I am today,” said the 27-year-old Chilean during an interview with CLAY in Paris.

Jarry is coming off his best performance at Roland Garros in a Grand Slam tournament, the last 16, a week after he lifted his second title of the season in Geneva.

“I’m leaving Paris having made it to the second week, competing in this central stadium which is very special, very big. I did it in a good way, I leave with the experience of having left everything behind,” said a satisfied man to whom tennis is now giving back the smile it took from him in 2020, when he spent 11 months without playing because of doping that was found to be involuntary: contamination with ligandrol and stanozolol in the Brazilian laboratory that produced the supplements.

– Would you defined yourself as cerebral?
– Well, both… I am very emotional and sensitive, but also cerebral. I try to help all my emotions with my rational side.

– When the doping thing happened, I imagine that both aspects played a role, that it was both: cerebral and emotional. It must have been a very complicated thing to handle.
– Yes, yes, I had to open up, I had to learn about myself, I had to go through hard times. That’s what made me the strong person I am today.

– What did you learn, did you do it alone, were you helped?
– I learned to open up, to know myself. To have more perspective on things. Sometimes life throws difficult things at you and you have to accept them, they are part of it. Everyone can be hit by something difficult, and this was mine.

– Were you surprised about yourself, was there more inside you than you knew and knew about yourself?
– Ufffff… (thinks a long time) No…. I think we all know what we have inside us, our desires, our fears. The thing is that one is so good at hiding them, that after hiding them for so long, those lies end up being part of you. And it’s work to reverse them, but everybody knows when you do something right, when you don’t do it or when you excuse yourself for some reason.

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– You are part of a tennis dynasty in Chile, the Fillol family. Does that create pressure or joy for you?
– Both. You want to do things well, you have all the history that weighs on you unconsciously, but you have to know that everyone is different, everyone has their own path, their own problems to solve and you have to focus fully on that. The story of the past was someone else’s. You can take it badly. You can take it in a bad way, but you can also take it in a good way, trying to help you on your way.

– Do you have a daily tennis relationship with your grandfather Jaime, do you talk to him about every match?
– No, no. With my grandfather sometimes we comment, but I have my own team.

– So it’s not a situation where after every match he texts you praising something or asking to correct something.
– No, no. It doesn’t come to that. It’s true that he tries to be as involved as possible, but he has all his things, he works, he’s busy.

– Would you be a tennis player if he hadn’t existed?
– No, no chance. In the end, since I was a kid I travelled with him, my mum played. It is difficult for a painter or an architect from a family of architects not to become an architect. You’re so involved in the world that it’s impossible that if you hadn’t had those parents, you wouldn’t be the person you are.

– Did you never fantasise about another sport?
– No, I always played tennis. I’m not much of a fantasiser, I’m very much a worker.

– In Chile today you are a very important figure. Chile, from a sporting point of view, is a very demanding country. You are in everyone’s sights, I come back to the word pressure. How do you handle it?
– In the same way as we said at the beginning. With my work, with the focus on my qualities, on what I want to improve, on what I have to learn, on not giving importance to that.

– Nadal wants to play again, can he?
– It’s impossible to put down a player as successful as he is, with so many achievements, so many obstacles he has overcome. He is one of those people who, when he sets his mind to something, he achieves it.

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– You have not been able to face any of the members of the “big three”, Nadal, Djokovic, Federer.
– That’s a frustration, I would have loved it.

– You still have the chance to play with Djokovic.
– In the end you want to play with the best, to play with the best. That’s why I’m playing, to have the chance to compete with them, besides being a nice milestone that will remain in the memories.

– Wimbledon is the next big challenge, how do you feel there?
– I’ve played, I like it, I’m having a good time, I won my first Grand Slam match there. I hope I continue to do well. For the previous grass tour the idea is to play everything, I really want to get on grass, last year I had to skip it. The plan is to play the three weeks before Wimbledon: in Stuttgart, Halle and Eastbourne.

– In recent days, spectators at Roland Garros commented that, because of your size, reach and power, your game is similar to that of Juan Martin del Potro. Do you see it that way?
– I don’t compare myself to other tall players. I try to know myself, see my strengths and improve my game. Compared to Juan Martin, he plays much flatter than me, especially on the forehand, we are a little bit different. I would love to become like him, to have the titles he has. I’m going to keep focused on my work to keep climbing the ladder.

– In the 80’s it became very fashionable in tennis, especially in the United States, the concept of being “in the zone”. It implies playing very well, yes, but above all that the shots and the game flow easily, naturally, almost without thinking about it. Have you felt “in the zone” these last few weeks?
– I personally believe that the zone is sought after and one can enter that zone precisely when one is positive and does the routines and does not focus on the result. If you keep your head calm and give it your all. If you don’t give it all, you have a little bit of remorse inside and you can’t be calm. But if you get that acceptance, that good energy, you’re in the zone. Then winning or losing is just a result.

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