Biofile: The Nicolas Massu Interview
By Scoop Malinowski
Friday, October 30, 2009
Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu
It's not blood lust or a taste for all night outings that motivate him, but a trace of Transylvanian tradition that comes to tennis in the form of Nicolas Massu, nicknamed "Vampiro" for his affinity for vampires.
The winner of six career ATP singles titles including Buenos Aires, Amersfoort, Palermo, Kitzbuhel, Athens and Costa do Sauipe, Massu reached career high ATP singles ranking of No. 9 in 2004.
Massu became a Chilean national hero when he swept gold medals in singles and doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Massu and Gonzalez captured Chile’s first gold medal in the 108-year history of the modern Olympic Games with a 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 triumph over Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler in a taxing five-set match that ended at 2:30 a.m.. In a memorable climax to that match, the Chileans engaged in an emotional embrace and crashed to the court together.
Gonzalez and Massu had cause for celebration. The pair fought off four match points trailing 2-6 in the fourth-set tiebreak then rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the decisive set by winning five of the final six games to seize one of their nation’s greatest sports victories in a three hour, 43-minute that offered tense, tenacious — and at times tremendous — tennis.
Massu concluded that match collapsing on the court in Gonzalez’s arms in an emotional embrace and returned the next day to make another five-set stand and beat American Mardy Fish to strike gold in singles.
In a stunning span of 24 hours in Athens, Massu captured consecutive gold medals for his country, roaring back to earn a 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Fish and the respect of all who watched as he completed an astounding sweep of both singles and doubles gold medals.
"What he achieved back in Athens winning singles and doubles, it's never going to happen again, you know," World No. 1 Roger Federer said.
Scoop Malinowski, whose Olympic experience was confined to teenage backyard boxing matches that saw him play the roles of both former U.S. Olympic boxers Michael and Leon Spinks (unlike Leon, Scoop has retained his front teeth despite his affinity for the sweet science), caught up with Massu recently for this Biofile interview.
6-feet, 177 pounds.
October 10, 1977 in Vina del Mar, Chile.
"Rocky the movie [smiles]."
"When I start when I was younger — Boris Becker and Muster. Those were my two."
"I like to play soccer. To be with my friends, go out with my friends."
Favorite TV Show:
"The Simpsons is my favorite."
"Spanish music, Ricky Martin."
Early Tennis Memory:
"The first time that I passed the top 100 in 1999. After winning Challenger in Santiago in November '99. Was doing good in Challengers, I won three Challengers. Then when I won my first ATP tournament in Buenos Aires (2002), I saved match points (in final against Calleri)."
"All are different. Sometimes you're nervous, sometimes not. Sometimes you are more confident, sometimes without confidence. Normally, a little bit nervous but not too much. Just depends on when I go out on the court to play."
Favorite Breakfast Cereal:
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
"'Chevrolet convertible, black. '96, I have it in '99."
Greatest Sports Moment
: "Now I think August 2004, champion of Olympics in singles and doubles. And also carried my countries flag at 2000 Olympics (when Marcelo Rios did not show up).""
Most Painful Moment:
"I think when we lost some important Davis Cup — Zimbabwe, India, Slovakia, Russia, Israel, Croatia. (Massu's overall Davis Cup record is 29-17 including 17-4 on clay.)"
Funny Tennis Memory:
"Just not in singles, when I play doubles I have a lot of good memories."
Closest Tennis Friends:
"Marcelo Rios and Fernando Gonzalez, some Argentine and some Spanish players."
Funniest Players Encountered:
"Fernando Vicente. He's funny and a good person."
"Federer, Nadal, Hewitt, Agassi, Ferrero."
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Favorite Athletes To Watch:
"I think Mike Tyson when he was young. Because I think he was a good competitor. And he was the best in the world. He had a lot of confidence. Michael Jordan. I read one time a book of him, I like it. My favorite soccer team is Everton from Vina del Mar. (Tennis?) I don't have any one now. You don't have idols when you play because you play against all these guys. I don't have idols."
People Qualities Most Admired:
"Good, friendly people. Good person. And respect, you know?"