The former world number one is very motivated in this trial period with the great jewel of Asian tennis, 17 years old. He admits to having taken a liking to his future pupil, who has nothing to envy, he says, to the leaders of the circuit. And he even reveals that he wakes up at night thinking about how he can improve his game.
Marcelo Ríos is very enthusiastic . Exactly a month ago, he surprised the world when he told El Deportivo that he had received a big offer to become a coach on the circuit. The offer came from the Chinese Great Promise Juncheng Shang, a player who is already in the top 350 in the world, at just 17 years old, and who already in 2021 had managed to be the best junior tennis player on the planet. In his country, he begins to be a celebrity and the eyes of the tour are fixed on him.
At the end of July, they started training together, and the young talent, left-handed like Chino, is starting to show progress. The Chilean points out that they are still in a period of trial and knowledge , while concluding an economic agreement. However, whatever this situation, the native of Vitacura transmits his motivation in the face of this unprecedented opportunity.
“We started on Friday the 22nd, we had six days to train. It was more like a test to decide if we were going to continue or not. They offered me a financial settlement and Jeff (Schwartz), my agent, is negotiating with them. But it occurred to me that since he was going to face five challengers, I told him to play four and rest after the first two; then we trained for a week and I accompanied him to the others for free and that he only paid me for the tickets, ”says the left-hander.
The idea made a great impression on the environment of the emerging Asian figure, according to the former world number one. “What they are most grateful for is that I don’t charge. Tell ’em I don’t want money, you can’t see that” he says, and predicts that he has already set a goal for this week for his eventual pupil, who will play the Lexington Challenger: “I told him that if he made it to the semi-finals, I would go see him.”
“I had to make the contract with him on Monday, but I said no, because I want to go see these two challengers with him and know what it’s like to be there before I make a decision” , details. Although throughout this conversation, Chino, like few times, will be absolutely captivated by the talent of his young disciple, who has him as his greatest idol.
The duo practiced at the Nick Bollettieri (now IMG) courts in Bradenton, and coach Marcelo focused on three aspects of Jerry’s game, as he is known in the United States. “During these six days, I only changed three things, because I’m afraid of making a lot of changes and getting caught” , explain before listing what these variants were. “He has a very good left-handed forehand which is very heavy but very flat, a bit like mine. So, I tried to put this right hand that itches more, like Nadal’s. We formed it one day and the dude he grabbed her by the blow. I also don’t want him to think about doing it every time he hits him, but he did it and fucked up how good it went.”
The second modification he made was related to the return, an aspect that Ríos knew how to exploit in his career, becoming one of the best in the circuit in this area. “He always plays the same way, he has all the shots, but he doesn’t know when to use them. On the way back he backs up and from the ad side I told him to stand on the line and take a step like me and hit him there. So he can hit the other guy’s backhand, and he didn’t know how to do that. He learned it in a day and does it perfectly” strong points.
Finally, the last variant has been applied in the service. “His serve, technically, is the same as mine, but he threw the ball very low. Now he pulls her higher and grabs her. I also told him that the break is not a break if he can’t win his serve afterwards.
Shang applied these tips to perfection in practice. He trained with Britain’s Daniel Evans, currently 40 in the world and 22 last season, and beat him without major problems. “He beat Evans quietly and got ahead of him. On Friday he played with the junior world number one and beat him 6-1, 6-1. Everyone was happy” said the Chinese.
Forbidden to shoot a match
The training week was divided into three hours a day of tennis and afternoon physicals. On the pitch, Marcelo Ríos lays down his rules and he does it very clearly. “I taught him that he had to train the way he was going to play. I’d rather train 20 good minutes than four bad hours. When I see it halfway bird, I tell him to stop and he tells me no, that he will pull himself together. I said it this way: let him think that every workout is a game, because imagine that he’s already scored 6-1, 6-1 against the junior world number one, and when they play in a tournament, the other is going to be glad they took the Chucha in a workout. If I had beaten him 7-6, the other would go thinking ‘that’s it’, but if you beat him 6-1, he will have to think about doing something else in order not to lose 6-0″. laid.
These intense days of practice have also given way to anecdotes, which of course does not hesitate to tell the first Ibero-American number one on the planet. “The asshole understands quickly. what yes, I think it’s too good, because the Chinese are like that for a cultural thing. Maybe he’s very polite, although maybe the least I have is being polite,” he says, and the graphic with an example: “When the ball hits the net, he says ‘sorry, sorry‘, as if it were a pity. Or he doesn’t dare to hit a ball either. So I told him ‘ dude , put it on his face”. In fact, I hit him with a ball. The ball hit the net and I stayed to hit it and it didn’t move and it hit him in the chest. But he got the message. “That’s what’s going to happen to you in a game, it’s part of the game and there’s nothing wrong with that. Finally, after saying sorry. Sometimes you have no choice but to throw the ball hard at the body,’ I explained to him.
“I also told him: “I see you throw a match, I get up and I leave”. And he laughs and I answer him ‘what are you you laugh, dude’. I tell him ‘don’t you are move, last chance I give you”. I told him again ‘I you do go to Egypt and strike a match there, you will never see me again” . But he understands and everything is fine. I have to do it more dog on the court, not disrespectful either. I tell him that in tennis he does not come to make friends, that it is a fight, a war that must be won. You can gamble up to 40, if you do it right. In other words, you have 23 years of career left. The grace is that, when you retire, you say to yourself ‘I gave everything I could’, because you never know what can happen. “Give it your all, take your coat off and I’ll help you.” But from eggs I caught her affection” admits the Chilean, in his very particular style.
The personal relationship is getting closer and there have been some pretty funny situations in this formative period. “I have a dark sense of humor and he understands my sizes, he laughs and answers me. He won’t let me talk to him in English, he asks me to talk to him in Spanish because he wants to learn Spanish. So I talk to him in Chilean. I tell him “go to Chucha ‘, and there he shits” , he says between two laughs. Then he celebrates an aspect of his disciple that catches his eye: “Unlike most, he doesn’t pick up the phone when he’s resting in training.”
On the other hand, he says that the tennis player’s father, a former Chinese footballer who went down in history for being the first to play in Spain, and the mother, a table tennis champion, were extremely respectful of his work. “He is an only child, his father is not joking at all, he is not like Tsitsipas’ father… He brings me water, pliers. Mom, same thing. They are a love” stands.
One click first
Yes, during the conversation, Ríos is sincere and as rarely does not skimp on the praise of his possible pupil. “He reminds me a lot of me, he’s very similar in the way he is. Never in my life have I been so impressed to see someone play. I had seen him play with Shapovalov, he caught my attention, but I didn’t really pick it up. Besides, he is 17 years old and has never had a full-time coach and has never made a pre-season. He’s 300 years old from what he’s seen. Imagine if I manage to train him or they manage to train him, the potential he has is unbelievable” he argues.
Indeed, if the agreement is finalized, the left-hander sets objectives, where the figures will not necessarily be important at the start. “I told him that if I’m with him, I don’t care what he does in the first year. He is 17 and at 19 he is among the 20, I am happy, but he needs a year to learn, to know how to play… I want him to learn. Likewise, his ranking is a liar, as he hits a crack and it rises quickly, ”he underlines. And adds: “Technically he’s very good, but tactically he still has a long way to go. The good news is he’s a quick learner and I wouldn’t be impressed if he dude go ahead and complete 150 now and not next year.”
“Physically, he is also lacking, because he is very small. I still don’t see him play five sets, but what he plays, he plays very well. He needs a good pre-season. I have nothing to reproach him for and that I am super critical” , precise. Of course, he only has one recommendation: “He’s a great boy, he’s pure balls and he’s fine. I tell him not to copy my hello bad, but I want him to be a dog in the field and say “I’m here and they don’t come with hello ‘”.
He also does not hesitate to compare Jerry Shang to the tennis greats. “He has a better backhand than Alcaraz, he also has a better forehand, because he is heavier. He serves better, but today Alcaraz is a combination of things, because mentally he is very strong and has other characteristics. He also moves amazingly and has that Djokovic stretch, in which He reaches everything with his hands and without much effort. But I don’t like it, because he abuses his facility too much, beyond the fact that it works well for him, ”he confides.
Ríos is a man of convictions in tennis. In this aspect there was a key signal that indicates that the path of the two will remain united in a more lasting bond. “These things work when there’s a click and here it was a click on the first try. Here is a click that Altiro understood. I told him “I’ll tell you things as they are”. I said yes to everything, but not because I was number one in the world, I’m right about everything; I can make mistakes, so I told him not to say yes to everything”.
The enthusiasm of the 46-year-old former tennis player has been such that he is determined to see what aspects of the player to improve and which today kept him very busy mentally. “At night, I wake up about five times to go to the bathroom and I start thinking about how I can improve it. I start looking for ideas and stay there for a long time. It took me hard and I would like time to pass quickly to see how far it goes, ”he reveals, with the same enthusiasm they had when he distributed his talent on the circuit. You know you are in front of a great opportunity.
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