Elegant and charismatic, Juan Monaco has officially announced his retirement. At 33, the Argentine retires at an ugly 196th spot and with nine small titles which don’t reflect his talent and his presence on the courts. Maybe because Monaco was much more than just tennis.
July, 23rd, 2012. Monaco was 28 and at the top of his game when he reached his best-ever ranking after having won the Hamburg tournament (defeating Tommy Haas in the final). The only ATP 500 ever won by the South-American. He then became the world number 10, and was, at last, at the spot he deserved. He never went higher up, despite a year 2012 where he won four of his nine trophies. The good old days.
If Monaco’s career could be summed up in one point and one match, it would surely be these ones. In the third round of the BNP Paribas Indian Wells Open, in March 2015, Juan was facing Thanasi Kokkinakis, and had just lost the first set. At 4-3, with a break point in his favor in the second set, his opponent luckily touches then net but Monaco rushes to the net and answers with a drop shot. Kokkinakis then tries a lob…which is perfectly anticipated by the Argentine, who, this time, answers with a lobbed tweener. Beautiful. Monaco, with both arms in the air, enjoys the moment. Before losing the match without winning a single set. Like a symbol.
A few months later, in August, Monaco went through what’s probably his worst moment on a tennis court. In Kitzbühel, Austria, the one who was then ranked world number 40 had to withdraw from the tournament as early as in the first round, during a match against Robin Haase (6-2, 1-1 in his favor), because of horribly painful wrist. After having shed a few tears, the player addressed his fans on Facebook : « I’ve suffered a lesion for the last three years and have been treating it with infiltrations and a physiotherapy treatment. However, when I hit a forehand today, the pain was different. I must now go back to Argentina, to try to heal this injury. » In other words, he announced that it would take time. Except that he already didn’t have much left…
The last triumph
At least, he was lucky enough to have a last taste of victory. Having been absent of the courts for many long months, Monaco tried his luck in Houston, in April 2016. There, he consecutively defeated Gerald Melzer, Benoit Paire, Sam Querrey and Feliciano López to end up defeating Jack Sock, the title-holder, in the final. At 32, the ex-promising talent won his last title, got back in the top 100, and got a direct ticket to Roland-Garros, a tournament he cherishes.
Speaking of Roland-Garros… Being the ultimate clay player, the most Spanish of al Argentines has however never went further than the fourth round in Paris. However, he’s lived some great moments there. Especially on the court number 2. « The Philippe Chatrier and the Suzanne Lenglen are two big courts and it’s always special to play there, but I also love the court number 2, he once said to Eurosport. We, Argentines, call it La Bombonera because it looks a little bit like Boca Juniors’ stadium in Buenos Aires, which is a very famous football team in Argentina. The stands are very close to the court and you really feel the spectators’ support. » Other than that, Monaco also loves the Plaza Berri, an Italian restaurant located close to the Champs Elysées, and where he goes every year. To the point that he even became close friends with the owners.
Who can love Roland-Garros and not admire Rafael Nadal ? Ok, but the relationship between Monaco and the Spaniard goes way beyond this. As the lefty’s best friend, Monaco shares a very affectionate relationship with him. Having arrived in Spain at 14, Juan started to play with Nadal very early on. Playstation games, walks, dinners together…the two buddies have always spent time together, as early as when they were playing Future tournaments. They even won a doubles tournament together, Monaco’s only one in this category, in Doha, in 2015. The only thing which the newly retired Argentine doesn’t like with the Matador ? Playing against him. Because it’s like playing « against a wall ».
If there’s one thing that Monaco doesn’t enjoy in the tennis world, it’s the constant flights. The 33 year-old has never hid the fact that he had trouble dealing with being away from his family. And the flights weren’t really reassuring as he admitted that he was « a little scared, but it wasn’t like he couldn’t sleep. » Anyway, we can’t see him attend the European tournaments now that he’s retired.
Piquito, Pico Junior, and finally, Pico. These are the four letters which form what has been Juan Monaco’s nickname since his younger age. A nickname which comes from his father’s friends, as they also called his dad the same thing. Supporters quickly grew the habit of using the term to cheer on their hero.
The football fan
Did you know ? On Juan Monaco’s left ankle, there is a tattoo showing Estudiantes de La Plata’s logo. That’s how much this man loves the club. The Argentine has even confessed it : if he only had one object to save, it would be his Estudiantes shirt. « I see myself like one of the club’s ambassadors abroad, and offering shirts is a good way to promote it. « I’ve managed to convert Nadal, Murray, Fabio Fognini, who loves Juan Sebastián Verón because he played for Inter, Gaël Monfils, John Isner, Marcos Baghdatis… », we even learned on FIFA’s website. It’s because Monaco started going to the stadium at eleven, with his father, and he even thought about having a career in football. « I’m a good midfielder, but on a big pitch, I’m more of a central back !, says the one who sometimes organizes matches at the BNP Paribas Indian Wells Open. My passion is football, and tennis is a job which I deeply enjoy. » Nothing to add.
The American football fan
Globally speaking, Monaco just loves sports. Including American football. The proof ? John Isner, another one of his friends, has already posted a picture of him wearing a Panthers’ shirt. John’s fault, according to him, as he used to prefer the Pittsburgh Steelers. « I really love American football. » He’ll have plenty of time to watch some games now.