“I wanted to play!”
With a smile of astonishment, that was the first thing to come out of Francisco Cerundolo’s mouth on court having made it to the semi-finals of the Miami Open presented by Itau following the retirement of Jannik Skinner.
His spontaneity comes as no surprise; at 23 years of age, Cerundolo is having the best week of his career on his debut at an ATP Masters 1000, but he has been knocking on the door of the upper echelons of the ATP Tour for some time.
In Miami, Cerundolo has become the first player to reach the singles semi-finals on his Masters 1000 debut since Jerzy Janowicz did so in Paris in 2012, But he made it clear that he is here to stay and that his desire to compete, improve and perform well both on and off court, have led him to this incredible moment.
“Fran ended the match slightly annoyed because he wanted to keep playing, to keep competing… he really wants to be here and he is showing that in all of his matches,” his young, 30-year-old coach Kevin Konfederak tells ATPTour.com.
Meanwhile, at home, his parents Maria Luz and Alejandro are glued to the television for every match and try to arrange their lives around their son’s brilliant performances. The family also includes his sister ‘Coni’, who is in South Africa playing in the Hockey Junior World Cup for Argentina.
Of course, after his parents, his tennis-playing brother Juan Manuel Cerundolo, who also had a good week in Miami by reaching the third round, is probably Francisco’s number one fan.
Were you expecting ‘Fran’ to burst onto the scene like this? “He deserved a week like this… He looked like he could do it coming in, his tennis was already there, he just needed a bit of luck. Last year they froze his ranking, he was on the verge of the Top 100 and he lost confidence. But now he’s showing the level he has and always has had,” Juan Manuel explained.
“This is crazy, we talked about it when we were younger; we have been together through every stage of his career and I’ll always want the greatest of success for him and it makes me happy to have shared this week with him, although it’s a shame that I lost first and we couldn’t play each other,” Juan Manuel said laughing.
In fact, Francisco asked his younger brother for advice before facing Frances Tiafoe. “I’m happy that he was able to keep winning two more matches and he’s in the semis and I think he can go even further,” he said.
For the eldest of the Cerundolo brothers, tennis is far from being the only thing on his mind; academics and books have always been a priority in his life and, the way he sees it, study is very compatible with high-performance sport.
After finishing his secondary studies in Buenos Aires, Cerundolo even did a semester of economics in the United States, at the University of South Carolina in 2018. He then decided that he wanted to try his luck on the ATP Tour, but a few years ago the elder Cerundolo brother started to study an online degree in management, economics and finance at the University of Palermo, with the agreement of the ATP.
Clearly, he is capable of combining the two activities, tennis and academic studies. For example, in 2020, a week when he sat three exams, he won an ATP Challenger event in Split, Croatia, moving him into the Top 200. “In Miami, I haven’t had much time to study really,” he admits this time. “But it’s something that I want to keep doing and I hope to be able to graduate and get my university degree.”
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Now, Francisco has earned himself a place on the brink of the Top 50 tennis players in the world by joining the list of Argentines in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters 1000 this century, which includes David Nalbandian (2006), Juan Monaco (2012) and Juan Martin del Potro (2009 and 2018).
“Today, I’m sure we’ll go to a great place for dinner with the team and then I’ll go and watch the Zverev – Ruud match with popcorn… I don’t care who wins, I’ve seen them both thousands of times on TV,” he says laughing. Feeling confident, playing the best tennis of his life and enjoying the moment, this is the life of Francisco Cerundolo.
Did You Know?
Francisco Cerundolo is the lowest-ranked Miami Open singles semi-finalist in the history of the tournament (1985-2019, 2021-22). The previous lowest was No. 74 Sebastien Grosjean in 1999.