Juan Pablo Varillas faced Hubert Hurkacz for the third round of Roland Garros
When we talk about Peruvian tennis, there are names that we inevitably evoke: Lucho Horna, Jaime Yzaga, Pablo Arraya, Alejandro Olmedo, among others. All over 40 years of age. However, Juan Pablo Varillas, at the age of 27, came to give this main draw a refreshment with good performances. This Friday he passed the third round of Roland Garros and qualified for the round of 16, where he will face Novak Djokovic, one of his idols.
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This is what he said in an interview with El Comercio a few years ago. “Rafael Nadal does not give up a point even in training. I try to copy his way, his attitude, to strengthen my mind. He is my go-to for attitude, but Roger Federer is… ‘His Majesty of him’. I also have Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray up top,” he said.
‘Juanpi’ knew tennis since he was little, when his parents enrolled him every summer on useful vacations. Although he had a short stint in soccer, his 1.85 m height made him opt for the white sport. He began his participation in the circuit in 2013, at the age of 17, participating in challengers and futures, where he was gaining experience.
Juan Pablo Varillas triumphs at Roland Garros
Since he left the youth circuit, he always managed to improve his ranking. In 2016 he finished in position 600 of the ATP ranking, in 2017 in 400, in 2018 he reached position 320, in 2019 he was ranked 161, until this year he entered the top 100 and continues to improve.
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Varillas recognized to El Comercio how hard it is to be a tennis player in Peru. “I am lucky that my parents always supported me and little by little I am giving back to them for what they did for me. Here it is not a popular sport, it is so to speak a bit exclusive. If you are not a member of a club, you do not practice it, since there are no public courts. And for that you need money. At the beginning it costs a lot”.
That is precisely what the journalist Luis Carlos Arias Schreiber highlights about ‘Juanpi’. “The first thing is his persistence, discipline and the effort he has had to survive more than eight years in the circuit of challengers and futures, which are minor international tennis tournaments, with prize pools that if you win with the jousting, it is enough to cover travel expenses, food, coach and such. It is a circuit in which many only endure two or three years, but if they do not manage to get out of 300 or 400 positions, they end up leaving tennis. It is something that we must thank Varillas and family, ”he specified to Infobae.
Juan Pablo Varillas had a great takeoff in recent months. REUTERS
He adds that the right-hander turned professional in 2013, and practically until last year he was moving in these circuits of challengers and futures. On club courts with low prize money, playing in front of a few people, away from the spotlight, which is very exhausting and stressful.
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Meanwhile, the sports journalist and director of the Tenis al Máximo portal, Jorge Salinas, points out that this is undoubtedly the most important achievement in Varillas’ career. He had not been reached since Jaime Yzaga, when in the 1994 French Open he defeated Michael Chang, who had been champion of Roland Garros, in the third round. He then fell in the round of 16 with the Swede Magnus Larsson. That same year, Yzaga advanced to the quarterfinals of the US Open, after beating Pete Sampras.
“Juanpi has had a very irregular year this season, but undoubtedly in the last presentations playing five sets there are important points that he has strengthened. One is that he continues to work with his own coaching staff. Many acid comments were wary of what was going to be his presentation in this edition. Many people also said that he had reached his ceiling and told him to change coaches. However, Juan Pablo continued to strengthen himself mentally, to support these matches, ”he points out.
Juan Pablo Varillas achieved a historic victory and advanced to the round of 16 at Roland Garros. (Getty Images)
Arias Schreiber explains that the case of Varillas is something strange in Peruvian athletes because of his ability to improve and strengthen himself from what he has. “We are not talking about an innate talent. Obviously, he has great tennis skills. Anyone who makes it to the top 100 in the world, in whatever activity, is an extraordinary talent. But it’s not like you’re saying that Varillas is an extraordinary tennis talent. You have to tell the truth. Rods is, above all, a case of discipline, ”he points out.
It highlights their desire to work with what they have and constantly improve it, and with all the resource constraints they have had to do so. The journalist makes a comparison with the Chinese Juncheng Shang, whom Varillas faced in the first round of the Parisian tournament.
“His billionaire father appointed Marcelo Ríos as his coach, who was number one in the world. And if you compare the infrastructure behind players within the top ten, Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune or Taylor Fritz, even the Argentines and Chileans, there is no comparison with what Varillas has received. At the age of 18, the Chinese trained with ‘Chino’ Ríos, and at that age, Varillas trained at the Jockey Club. There are huge differences ”, he refers.
In turn, he maintains that Varillas reaches his best moment at 27 years of age. And many wonder why it has exploded so late, and it is because the technique has improved at the ages of 25 and 26 training with the Argentine Diego Junqueira, when normally tennis players worldwide are technically trained between the ages of 10 and 20. He has had the ability to work what he had and improve it.
Juan Pablo Varillas defeated Hubert Hurkacz and will play Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros 2023. (Video: ESPN)
“Now he has a pretty respectable serve for the ATP, very accurate, not that strong, but hard to read. He has a very consistent baseline game, he crosses the balls well. He does not have a lot of variety, but he sustains the rallies, even with players with heavy balls like Hulkacz”, explains Arias Schreiber
Another point that Jorge Salinas highlights is the physical work he has done. “He is 100 points physically. I think that now Juan Pablo has strengthened the emotional part, to believe in him, to believe in his potential, to believe in his coaching staff and to have the support of his family, because his parents are there with him “, held.
Along the same lines, Arias Schreiber indicates that his physical condition is extraordinary. “He has played three five-set matches and has finished better than his rivals, of different ages. All three he has surpassed by far. You saw the others destroyed in the fifth set, and Varillas totally whole”.
“I take this comment, if Lucho Horna could with Roger Federer when he was number 5 in the world, why can’t Juan Pablo against Djokovic. Anything can happen on a tennis court. This is evidenced and we will see what happens. Juan Pablo is not only the standard-bearer and the benchmark for boys who have been playing, but also the promoter of Peruvian tennis, which generates journalistic interest and private business to bet on the new tennis figures,” Salinas said.