Fernando Gonzalez: "I Feel At Home Here"
by Matt Fitzgerald
Fernando Gonzalez is playing his final tournament.
On Wednesday evening, Fernando Gonzalez will open night-session action at the Sony Ericsson Open against Nicolas Mahut. The Chilean is competing at his final event, having announced his decision to retire in February.
SonyEricssonOpen.com sat down with the three-time Olympic medalist, discussing his reason to finish his career in Miami and what he’ll miss most about playing tennis professionally.
How special has been to play this event over the course of your career with the number of Latin American fans who turn out from all over the world?
It’s been huge, because I came to this tournament many times when I was a teenager, as a fan. Then I had a chance to play here many times as a player, and there was a lot of people from Chile and Latin America here. I feel at home here.
In your first appearance in Miami 10 years ago, you reached the round of 16, taking out Carlos Moya and Pete Sampras. Reflect on that run for us…
I was very excited, because it was the first time I was going to play at the tournament. I had the chance to play against my idol Pete Sampras, and to beat him was really big for my career.
What made you decide to call it a career at this tournament as opposed to other events?
This event is very special for me with all the Latin American people here. I saw this tournament as a fan many times. And also all my colleagues are here, so I think it’s the right place and time to finish my career.
You’ve really been the face of tennis in Chile, along with Nicolas Massu. Moving forward, what impact do you hope to have on future tennis generations in your country?
I hope that it’s going to be big, as we need to have more people playing tennis in Chile. I think they need more motivation in many of the cities. It’s a big responsibility for me and Nicolas to do something to improve that.
What are you going to miss most about playing on the ATP World Tour?
I’m going to miss the competition and preparing for something very important, both physically and mentally. I’ll also miss the locker room, being in different places with many of the same guys.
Out of all the matches you’ve played, which one is the most memorable?
The semi-final of the Australian Open against Tommy Haas. I played the best tennis of my life.
… what was it about that match that brought out your best tennis?
I don’t know if I can tell you because I couldn’t play that way again. But I remember that everything was connected. I didn’t have to think too much. And I played like I always wished I would.
If you had to give advice to some younger tennis players who want to emulate your signature forehand, what would you tell them?
Have no fear, practice a lot and try to use all of your body. When you hit the ball, you don’t only use your arm, but use your entire body.