Franco Agamenone it was ranked 675 in the international ranking. His bank account did not abound in several figures and a decision had to be made. The difficult world of tennis forces you to think coldly how to continue searching for a dream without mortgaging your life. Logically, the high number of sponsors were elusive and travel planning had to occupy as much engineering work as possible to avoid losing so much money. The good feelings obtained at the end of 2020 and the bet made to move to Lecce, Italy, convinced him to bet on his passion and his profession: being a tennis professional. And he wanted to give himself a new chance. In that sense, he began an endless journey through Egypt and Tunisia. Going to North Africa required a tour of several weeks to pay for the passage.
Nine months have passed and Franco displays a smile from ear to ear in the interview he is conducting with Break Point through a Zoom meeting. He has just returned home from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where champion of a Challenger tournament (the second in three weeks), to take about ten days without official activity (he will only have to train with his trainer) and to be able to recharge the tank before returning to the competition. In a long and relaxed talk, the 28-year-old Italian-Argentine left no topic untouched: the harsh and hectic environment of the Futures, the importance of psychology to get ahead in the worst moments of his career, how his season continues, why not compete under the Argentine flag and much more.
– Before starting the year you were out of the top650, this week you already appeared 445 positions higher. What feelings did the victory in Kiev leave you?
I feel a very great happiness. I think I played a very good game against (Sebastián) Báez and it was the best victory of my career in terms of ranking. Before winning the title in Prague I was playing some Challenger, but without great results. Anyway, it came from least to greatest and I knew it was going to cost me at the beginning because it was a new stage. It was precisely the week in Prague that I was lucky enough to coincide with the preliminary phase of the US Open and I chose the smallest Challenger. I think it was a correct decision because it helped me get into that level and gave me a lot of confidence for what was to come. So, in Kiev I was already better prepared mentally and I did it in a very good way.
– How is your calendar now? Your ranking already allows you to get fully into the Challenger world …
My planning totally changes me. I started playing Futures in Egypt, fighting her and so far I had a spectacular season. I am very close to entering the Australian Open Qualy and that makes me very happy. I still haven’t talked to my coach about how I’m going to continue this year. The only thing defined is that I will train for 10 days and then I have three Challenger in a row, one in Romania and two in Italy. Going to South America is an option, but we will have to see what tournaments there are in Europe and from then on decide what is best for me.
– You talked about your start to the year in the Futures. Obtained two M25s and two M15s, plus various endings. How would you describe them?
I think it is much more difficult to play in those tournaments because of the bad conditions. For example, in Cairo we were in a resort that you couldn’t leave, the slopes were very bad and there was an impressive wind. Lots of unprofessional stuff. In other places there is no place to eat, other tournaments are in a totally open space with just a few courts lying around. Without a doubt, very different from the Challengers, where one feels more content. Basically he feels like a player because there are linesmen, ball boys, change of balls …
– I think it will be very complex to play in that situation …
In the Futures you are playing a tournament in the middle of nowhere and that is why it becomes very difficult to find motivation. It is a stage that must be passed as quickly as possible. I think it is the most complex because then everything changes.
– Did you work with a psychologist?
I have been with a psychoanalyst since 2018: she helped me a lot to get out of the worst moment of my career, when I only played doubles and could not go out on the track for a singles match because it was very hard for me to compete. Really, he was on his last legs. She was helping me, she took me out of that moment and we have been doing a very good job.
– Did retirement cross your mind at some point?
Many times I thought about quitting tennis.
– I imagine that one of those times was when you were suspended for having tested positive in an anti-doping control in 2019.
In 2019 I changed my coach, I was doing very well, I was motivated and the suspension just fell. It was very hard, very hard. I had a hard time and I had to stand for a long time, but it surely helped me to value other things much more.
– And then the pandemic came and it was a start over. How did you support yourself economically without activity?
It must be clarified that one in the Futures usually loses a lot of money, but a lot. After the pandemic I was without a euro and I went to Italy to try to play something: I had two interclub matches and I knew that with that I could hold out for a few months. That’s when I signed up for the Italian championship, whose condition was to represent Italy. So I had to change the flag in the ATP to play that tournament. It was a risky decision to come to live here, but I had the support of my girlfriend, my coach and the club where I play. Luckily I did very well this year. Even so, many times those who are located between 250 and 300 in the ranking do not win silver in the Challengers. I hope that in the future that will change because everything becomes very difficult.
– Indeed, it seems that there is no other option than to intersperse the official competition with interclubs.
That’s how it is. The issue is that you have to resign the tournament of the week. Many times you are called from a club and offered to play eight games, which is two whole months, but it is very difficult because it does not allow you to plan. It is a difficult decision because the priority is the circuit. In my case this year I played two weekends in Germany and then I am lucky that my club in Italy gives me the possibility to coordinate when I can and when I can’t.
Despite the 11,747 kilometers that distance his native Rio Cuarto from Lecce, Agamemnon He does not lose Argentine customs: he eats asado whenever he can and maintains his taste for mate and dulce de leche. Of course, he misses family and friends. Also being able to go to the River court one day and, consequently, “I go on YouTube to see some videos of the fans” so as not to feel so far away. In addition, review motivational phrases from the technical directors Marcelo Bielsa and Marcelo Gallardo to read them and find lessons in their words.
Beyond its growth, the ceiling is not yet reached. In fact, this is just beginning and in a few days he will assemble his luggage again to head to the next contest. His dream is just beginning.