The absences of Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista have caused the Spanish tennis team in these Olympic Games Distribute the chevrons to different faces. This is where it appears Pablo Carreño (Asturias, 1991), the main candidate of the Navy in the individual men’s box. With just 30 years old, the one from Gijón is finally living that experience that I can’t reach in Rio 2016, despite being already among the thirty best rackets in the world. This time he arrives as world No. 11, with a warm title in Hamburg under his arm and with more enthusiasm than ever. Break Point He was able to speak with the Asturian and this is what he told us.
In three weeks you have played on grass, clay and hard court. The dance between surfaces has no secrets for you.
Man, it is not ideal, but the calendar has been given like this. We finished Wimbledon very early and the Olympics were less than a month away, so we decided to play a tournament earlier to gain pace and confidence. There was the option of going to Newport on grass, which was not very viable, or playing Hamburg on clay. Luckily things worked out well, I played several games and also won the tournament. Now it’s time to adapt to the hard court, I have had a few days, but we are going with the greatest possible illusion.
Really, how many changes must be made to go from one surface to another?
It depends on the surface and depends on each player. For example, to switch to grass I need a lot of time to adapt, it is completely different and I have never felt very comfortable, perhaps because I played very few games in my life, that’s why it costs me much more. On the other hand, going to clay or hard court is not so difficult for me. The biggest risk is in the physical section, because the supports, the mobility and the effects of the ball change are different, but they have been here for many years, so you get used to it.
Would you have signed fall early at Wimbledon and then win Hamburg?
Winning a tournament is always something very nice, it was also my first ATP 500, but losing in the first round of Wimbledon is something that I felt very bad. I’m still looking to score a victory there and this year I think I was better prepared than ever, but I had a very tough debut against Querrey. You could lose that game, so then I had to quickly focus on the next thing. Winning Hamburg has been something very great and we must give it the value it deserves, I have played four very good games there, going from less to more and finishing with a very high performance in the final.
Here in Tokyo you start as the sixth seed of the men’s draw, is it crazy to think of the medal?
There are very good players who are not seeded and it can complicate your life. We already know what tennis is like, you have to be there in every game, it is a week of competition where you have to give your best every day, not everything can be based on the ranking, you have to earn it. We will surely see some surprises, it is an open tournament where if you reach the semifinals and fight for medals. I think you can dream of a medal, let’s fight it.
Tennys Sandgren in the first round, how do you rate the match?
It is a tough first round, a baseline player with whom there will surely be long points and that will be positive to gain temperature and adapt to the conditions. Being a new competition it may make me a little more tense than normal, so I like that it is not a game where things are decided in two shots, hopefully that helps me get a little more in rhythm. You also have to acclimatize to the heat, the temperatures are extremely high. It will be a difficult game, but I hope to show that I am the favorite.
At 30 years old, I understand that it was a priority to qualify for these Olympics.
We had already marked it like that last year, it was a priority objective. To be in the Olympic Games is to fulfill a dream, in Rio 2016 I couldn’t play because I was 29th in the world and I was the sixth best Spaniard, so now I feel it as something very beautiful and very special. This year, by not having to defend 100% of the points, I practically had the classification assured, at least three Spaniards had to pass me in the ranking, so with that peace of mind, all I thought was about arriving here as well prepared as possible. .
We have 90 casualties between the two teams, has the roots been lost by living the Olympics?
Everyone is excited to be here, but we are in a totally different Olympic Games due to COVID and the restrictions. They are very long trips from Europe to Japan and, later, it is time to return to the United States, where the tour continues. It is normal that for many the calendar was too upsetting, or that they are not convinced to come, that they were injured or that, unfortunately, they have tested positive at the last minute. There are many variables to interpret all those casualties.
The one who will not fail this appointment is Novak Djokovic. How do you win?
Man, if I put myself in his shoes, coming from winning three Grand Slams and with the possibility of winning the Olympics and UsOpen, I would also try to win everything. It would be something unique that only he has achieved, a record for history. Right now it is superior to the rest of the circuit, but a little oversight or an excess of relaxation can harm you, you will have to be attentive to each game. Obviously he is the favorite, but he will have to prove it again as he has been doing in recent tournaments.
Looking at the conditions of the court, which player profile do you think could benefit?
The track is different from the ATP tournament played here in Tokyo. I know it because in 2019 I purposely came to play it to have a little contact. Now it is a little slower, the ball bounces more and takes effect. As there is heat and humidity then it picks up speed, but it can be played quite well in the background, it is not a surface where the ball slides too much. The one who benefits the most is Djokovic, because he is the one who is better, but surely Medvedev or Tsitsipas also helps them to do things well.
They are your first Olympic Games, what has caught your attention in these first days?
It has caught my attention, it is a new experience, I was eager to know this environment. The truth is that something spectacular, everything here is different, that’s why they are done every four years. The only bad thing is that, due to the restrictions, since we landed it took us about five hours to get to the Villa, otherwise everything was fine. Seeing the environment with all the athletes is spectacular, an experience that must be lived yes or yes. We (the men’s tennis team) are spread over four rooms, a bit tight but we get along well, always in a good mood.
Do they give you a lot of war with protocols and PCRs?
They do a saliva test every morning when we wake up, we give it to the captain and he hands it to the delegate. Then the typical: you have to wear a mask, use gels and maintain a safe distance from the rest of the athletes and the organization. The saddest thing is the absence of public, that makes everything a little more decaffeinated, but you have to accept it and try to enjoy it to the fullest.
Have you had any encounters with athletes from other disciplines?
I met the hockey team in the gym, I also know the women’s water polo team a lot because I coincided with them in my time at CAR and many are my age. Yesterday we were with the basketball team, which is much more media-oriented, and we asked the Gasol brothers how they did to fit in these small beds, if they are too small for us (laughs). I am like a little child watching everyone.
You will also play doubles with Davidovich, a couple that you want to see.
We know that doubles is not our specialty, we do not dedicate ourselves to it, so the objective is to go out and have fun and win as many matches as possible. Why are we not going to surprise? I get along very well with Alex, he is a young boy with a lot of energy, sometimes you even have to control him, he runs out of energy. He gives us a lot of life in the Villa, we had a great time with him, he is a charming guy and also has a very aggressive and very showy style. I hope that after this we can continue playing a tournament together.
The million dollar question: win a Grand Slam or an Olympic medal?
Right now I am keeping the Olympic medal, which is why I am here (laughs). When the UsOpen comes I will tell you that a Grand Slam. In the end it is like choosing between mom and dad, it is very difficult to choose. Perhaps in other sports where they do not compete as many weeks as we do, the Olympic Games represent something unique, the maximum. In tennis there are the Grand Slams which, by history, are also very important. But hey, winning a medal is still winning a medal, a lot of people see you and it is still even more than a Grand Slam.
Finally, what does it mean to you to represent Spain?
I am very patriotic, I love representing my country and seeing that the Spanish win in any modality. Besides, I have always watched the Olympics. on television, all sports, I have always encouraged ours. Being here is the best, I imagine that like me there will be many people, so I will try to give it my all, leave the pavilion high up and enjoy this unrepeatable experience.