Editor’s Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 14 April 2019.
Cristian Garin stared down five match points against second seed Jeremy Chardy in their second-round match at the 2019 Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship. Four days later, the Chilean lifted his first ATP Tour title in Houston.
Garin was ranked outside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings just 24 months ago, but he has since won three additional tour-level titles and climbed as high as No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. He became the first Chilean in 10 years (Fernando Gonzalez, 2009 Vina Del Mar) to win an ATP Tour singles title. Garin spoke to ATPTour.com after his Houston victory to reflect on his maiden moment.
You’re the first ATP Tour singles champion from Chile in 10 years. How does it feel?
It feels amazing. I can’t believe it yet because it’s been a long way for me to get here. I was really upset after losing in the Sao Paulo final, but now I’m in another final less than two months later. I was really nervous, but think I handled it well and am just so happy now.
You saved five match points against Jeremy Chardy in the second round. How much confidence did that give you going into today’s match?
It gave me a lot of confidence. I work hard every day and the hard work is paying off. I love tennis and have a great team behind me that’s helping me every day.
You won the Roland Garros junior title and won an ATP Tour main draw match (in Vina del Mar) in 2013. It would be six years before you’d win another ATP Tour match. How would you describe the journey from then to where you are today?
It was tough because I made many changes, maybe some bad changes. I lost many times and had some problems with ex-coaches. I moved to Spain and maybe it wasn’t a good decision for me. But in the past year, I’m making good things happen and working hard every day, so I’m seeing the results now.
What made you become passionate about tennis and what inspired you to become a pro?
My parents love tennis. Tennis is a very expensive sport, but they always tried to give me the best with it. They always wanted me to play and supported me with it.
How did Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu inspire you?
I have great memories of both of them. I went to Vina del Mar to watch them both play many times and now consider Nicolas to be a friend. He talks to my coach every day and I know he’s really proud of me now.
Did you feel any pressure to live up to what they did?
In the beginning, yes. People like to talk a lot in Chile. They were both in the Top 10 and incredible players, so sometimes the pressure was too much. But I’m enjoying my game and my tennis now, so I’ve forgotten about that and just focus on myself.
All of your ATP Tour wins have come on clay, but you also qualified for Wimbledon and have had Challenger success on hard courts. Once we’re off the clay, do you expect this momentum to continue?
Of course. I love to play on grass and like to play on hard courts. Clay is my favourite surface, but I’m going to try and play more on other surfaces now that I’ll have a higher ATP Ranking.
What else do you hope to accomplish in 2019?
I’m not sure what to think because I didn’t expect to win an ATP Tour title after Sao Paulo. Now that I’ve won, I want to just go back home for a few days and work again. I want to learn how to play on hard courts and play on grass a lot, so I just want to be in as many tournaments as I can.