The Red-Hot Chilean

It goes without saying, that, Marcelo Rios was one of the flashiest tennis players on the ATP circuit.  That’s the truth – the whole truth. Because, any truth that needs proof is only half true? Not really, especially in Rios’ case – any which way you look at it.

Simple reason. Rios was in the right state of mind. Not that he wasn’t earlier.  but, the power with which he got the better of Britain’s great hope, Greg Rusedski, to lift the ATP Tour Champions Cup, underscored his urgency – a funny thing about life.  As Somerset Maugham once said: “If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”

Rios was, indeed, an apotheosis of that outlook.  He’s a new star in his own right, not a pretender, but a contender, for a great-to-be title with its fulsome tag – a permanent place in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Rios simmered with a sensual appeal – an appeal which was all his own.  He looked every inch a tennis Haiwatha – a medieval swordsman, with a long, jet-black ponytail, replete with the hoop earring of a relentless pirate, or scarlet buccaneer. Yet, notwithstanding his magnetic persona, Rios was his own man.  He’s outstandingly individualist – a celebrity without heroes.

For a man who took off, sans hype, on the international circuit, Rios came a long way. A long way without pretensions.  He may never have watched the greats in action.  Watch them he did only on the court.  Ask Michael Chang, Pete Sampras et al.  Rios, they would testify, was a destructive player – a destroyer on his day.

Rios was a player with a mission – too hot to handle. He ‘hovered’ his opponents with his icy stare.  He’s quite tough – as only tough can be.  In the words of his tennis guru, the redoubtable Nick Bollettieri, he’s still to come of age, in the real sense of the word.  Says Bollettieri: “If Rios learned a little more about people, he’d learn a lot about tennis.  [But] his whole mentality is so quick, and in tennis that’s an asset to a point. It all goes from his brain through his arm before he even knows what’s happening… He’s to understand that learnings to win starts off the court, with learning to learn.”

Maybe, Rios had just reached that level of achievement – something that separates the men from the boys. He’d, in the process, jumped the curve, as it were. Or, maybe, he paraphrased Napolean Hill: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” As simple as that. Or, is it complexity grossly simplified?  Not really.  Because, Rios was focussed to the future. Not the past, because the past is not anybody’s potential.

Born in Santiago, Rios looked like Edgar Rice Burroughs’s famous hero, Tarzan. But, he was not Tarzan.  Far from it. He’s a typical Chilean lad – as enthusiastic as enthusiasm can be.  Maybe, in his mindset, he belonged to the tropics – a man with the oriental mysticism.  He’s reserved – even reticent.  He’s not open. Tennis, maybe, has opened him up.

That Rios, like all awfully gifted players, wanted to be a tennis star since age 10, was passé.  At 16, he was making waves. It was a time when he took a major decision – a decision that changed his life. He just couldn’t be a normal guy – a guy next door. So, when he opted for a full-time career, in tennis, much against his parents’ wishes. So, he had to prove that he’s something special. A tennis star in his own right.

It summed up Rios – a star in his own right – who climbed the ladder in tennis placings, with his ripping forehand, and a host of brilliant all-round shots on court.  Just look at how he managed his coup.  In 1995, he jumped almost 100 places.  From #107 to #25.  In 1997, he got within a striking distance of getting into the top 10.  He just did it – in a jiffy.  Soon enough, he zoomed to # 3, from # 7. That’s nothing short of a wondrous achievement.


– Photo, Courtesy: AMERICATEVE


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