Four young Latin Americans are conquering the world of sports....
Nicolás Lapentti is great at tennis, but then it’s in his genes. He’s the nephew of Andrés Gómez, the only Ecuadorean to date to win a Grand Slam Tournament. Lapentti first picked up a racket at the age of six. He made his professional debut at 19 and was ranked sixth in the ATP World Tour at 24. This Guayaquil native has played more Davis Cup matches in representation of Ecuador than anyone else and is the competition’s winningest player. Lapentti also competed in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and again in Athens in 2004. He will soon turn 33, and despite a series of ever-younger rivals, Lapentti says that he gets excited every time he hits the courts. For this tennis idol, retirement is still very far away.
After 14 years as a professional tennis player, where do you think your career is headed?
“I enjoy tennis more now than I did three or four years ago. It’s true that it is increasingly difficult and that I have much younger rivals, but I’ll keep playing as long as I can win. It all depends on my health and motivation.”
You have been part of the glamorous world of elite tennis. Does fame go to your head when you get to that level?
“Fame goes to a lot of athletes’ heads and completely changes them, but I think it’s a matter of education and moral upbringing. I was lucky to have two great parents as advisors. They helped me handle things really well. But I think it is really for other people to judge, not me.” »
What is special about each Grand Slam Tournament?
“Australia is very special to me because that was where I had my first big win. Most Latin American players like Roland Garros the best because it’s played on clay. I’m especially partial to that competition because Paris is my favorite city. Wimbledon is the cathedral of tennis, and the U.S. Open is special because of everything that surrounds it.”
What has been your most important title or match?
“There have been a few important matches in my career. One of them was the quarter finals of the 1999 Australian Open against Karol Kucera. The 2000 Davis Cup win against England at Wimbledon is also something I will never forget. There is something special about each title.”
What is more important for you: a personal victory or the Davis Cup matches that you’ve won while representing your country?
“Playing for my country is very special. It makes me feel stronger and more nervous at the same time. Most of the time, tennis matches are personal, but I don’t see it that way. I always feel like I am representing Ecuador.”
Are you a fan of Nadal or Federer?
“I honestly like both of them. I have a better relationship with Rafa, but the most important thing is that they are both excellent ambassadors of tennis, great players and great people. Their modesty should stand as an example for the rest of us.”
What will you do when you are no longer on the court?
“I’d like to continue to be involved in tennis. I may not dedicate 100 percent of my time to it as a profession, but I’d like to help make tennis more popular in Ecuador. I’m training Diego Hidalgo, a youngster who I think has a great future, and I’d like to do the same for many other players. I would like to dedicate more time to the Nicolás Lapentti Foundation (which does charity work). I’m also part owner of the restaurant Novecento 900 in Miami, and I’d like to diversify my interests in different types of businesses and become involved in projects with my family. I’ve realized that I am a very active person, so I don’t want to end up sitting around”.
“I don’t want to do things that don’t make me feel like I’m growing.”...