Filippo Volandri has many loves in life: Robbie Williams, thrillers, accounting, Stefan Edberg and, of course, tennis. But he didn’t choose his first love, Italy chose it for him: il calcio - football. A catenaccio...

Filippo Volandri has many loves in life: Robbie Williams, thrillers, accounting, Stefan Edberg and, of course, tennis. But he didn’t choose his first love, Italy chose it for him: il calcio - football. A catenaccio interview...

 

When did your passion for football start?

Since I was a kid, I've always been passionate about sport in general, and football in particular. In Italy, football is very popular. In fact, for us, it's the first sport we play when we're kids, and I was no exception to the rule. Today, when my tennis activities allow, I play matches with my friends, or with my colleagues.

Did you have to choose between tennis and football?

No. In fact, I had an uncle who was a basketball champion! The truth is that I almost chose basketball!

What can you find in football and not in tennis?

Football is a really great sport. The team, of course, is an aspect that is lacking in tennis, except in competitions such as the BNP Paribas’ Davis Cup. There we can experience the “dressing-room” feeling a little more. There’s also the doubles, but I must admit that I’m not a big fan of it, but it is nice to have someone by your side fighting with you.

And vice-versa?

What I like about tennis is that in this sport, you are the master of your fate and of your results. Nobody can send you on the bench, and if you're the best or the strongest, 99 per cent of the time you will win.

Would you like the atmosphere in tennis stadium to be a little bit hotter, like football stadiums?

When we play at home - for me, at the Foro Italico in Rome - and in some tournaments Challengers in Italy, it's really nice to feel the support of the crowd. The enthusiasm of the audience, during the warm up, it's quite something. Afterwards, once the match is underway, it’s obvious that the courts have to remain quiet and that there couldn't be any singing or ultras.

Do you support a particular team in football?

I support AC Milan and Livorno of course, my hometown club. I've always followed Milan; I had the chance to see them win a lot in Italy and in Europe. The departures of Thiago Silva and Zlatan to Paris Saint-Germain will leave scars. They are two incredible champions, and their absence will leave a big hole on the pitch. Hopefully we will manage to compensate for these deficits and manage, with Allegri's game, to have a successful season. But I am not delusional: we are really far from the great Champions League teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United. It’s the crisis, and it took away a lot of important players for us. Of course the Italian league is weakened and will be less dramatic. But it remains a major league, fascinating, and I would never swap it for Ligue 1 or any other.

Many football players like tennis. Do you know some of them?

Yes, I have the pleasure to know some of them. I'm friends with Panucci, Aquilani, Totti, Matri, and a few others. I have a good relationship with them; they are all very friendly athletes. In some exhibition matches, I played with football players - some were actually doing really well.

Some athletes complain about the excessive media coverage of footballers. What about you?

I think it is normal that in Italy, footballers enjoy a greater popularity and attract more sympathy than other athletes. Personally, I'm not jealous. At the peak of my career in the summer of 2007, I also got to the attention of the media, trust me! My best memory remains my victory over Federer in Rome (6-2 6-4 in the third round, Editor's note) in May 2007. Today, when I think about this match, I still get chills.   Interview by Lucas Duvernet-Coppola