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Noah Rubin’s “Behind The Racquet” • With • Nicolas Massu | Tennis 10sBalls

Editor’s note: 10sBalls thanks Noah Rubin for giving us permission to repost these great stories.

#LegendaryBTR- “At age 4, I watched the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and said I wanted to win a gold medal. I played soccer and tennis. My grandfather put tennis on me and I decided to dedicate myself to the sport. I started to play well. At age 15, I earned my first ATP point. I was called to play the Davis Cup and the next year, I made my debut. My fellow countryman Marcelo Rios was number one in the world at age 22 so my country had high expectations for me. I was playing my last year in the junior circuit and felt pressure from 17 million people in Chile. I like it when I feel pressure.

By age 19, I was already in the Top 100 after only one year on tour. I was very young to be having good results. These results made me believe that I could do something big in tennis. But every year is different and you start to ask how good you are or where you are going to be in the future. Could I be so good that people think about me? Questions pass through your mind and you need to manage them. Whoever matures first achieves the best results. I managed many things well. I started to believe in my work and my coaches created a good tournament schedule for me.

At age 20, I carried the flag in the Opening Ceremony at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. At 24, I won both gold medals in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. I captured the first two gold medals in the history of my country. I am the only male player to win gold in both singles and doubles in the modern Olympic Games. It was a dream come true. Unbelievable. Now people always recognize me in Chile. The rest of my career is on the second page because of the Olympic Games.

I retired at age 33. I wanted to break into the Top 10. I peaked at world number nine. I wanted to win the Olympic gold medal. I won two. However, there were some dreams that were not possible. I did not win a Grand Slam. The Davis Cup was really huge for me but I did not win a Davis Cup trophy for my country. Weeks after my retirement, I became the Davis Cup captain for Chile. I was one of the youngest captains in the world and coached many of my peers. As an athlete, you reach some things in your life but other things you never reach. I look back and tell myself I did my best. I gave 100% to my career and this is what happened.

At 33, I was still young and full of energy. My peers could not live far from tennis and wanted to keep working. I chose to stay in the tennis world as a coach because tennis is the best thing I could do from a young age. I always knew I wanted to be a coach and Davis Cup captain. When you are young, you want to be the best in the world. Now I want to be the best coach in the world. I am 41 years old and still have a lot to learn. I have worked with Dominic Thiem for two years. We have made unbelievable progress in a short time. Since I joined his team, he won the US Open and made the finals of Roland Garros, Australian Open and two ATP Finals. He is currently ranked number three in the world.

I am very motivated and focused. I like the impression of being with the top guy. Dominic has the power, the talent, the shots and the strokes. He is an unbelievable person as well. We have a good relationship on and off the court and he has a great support system in his family. Dominic has a lot of people who support him so he only needs to focus on tennis. We try to make everything easier for him. When you are a tennis player, everything is focused on you. When you retire and become a coach, you need to leave the first part of your life and enter the next chapter where the most important person is the player.

It is most important to be happy and enjoy the game. Dominic enjoys the way he is playing. I always believed we could have great results. Many people believe he can fight for unbelievable things in the future. We are working on it. 

My mother’s side are Hungarian Jews and my father’s side are Palestinian Catholics. Forty years ago, they got married and were one of the first couples with such different religious backgrounds. Love is amazing. I am very happy I see both sides because I learn a lot.

My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. At age 10, they tried to teach me about what happened to them at Auschwitz. I was very young… what could I say? They have so much pain. I cannot believe what they went through and I hope this never happens again in the history of humanity.

In the most difficult moments as a tennis player, I thought of my grandparents. I would ask myself, “How could you not put your best foot forward? They went through something big and very painful. You need to learn about this and remember this.” That is why I am always positive and give my best effort. I will try to keep this mentality for many years. I hope I can use the experience of my family to gain strength.

Nicolas Massu (@massunico)

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