Francisco Cerundolo lives five blocks from the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club. If he wanted to, he could walk there every day, and he often does in order to avoid the traffic. The same is true of his parents Alejandro and Maria Luz, whose roof he shares alongside his siblings Juan Manuel Cerundolo and Constanza.
It has always been that way for the Cerundolo family, which lives and breathes tennis. The eldest of the Cerundolo siblings has never known any different. Francisco is now the highest-ranked Argentine in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings at No. 33.
The Cerundolo family simply lives for tennis. For them, life without racquets and balls is unimaginable.
“Our house is a locker room,” Alejandro Cerundolo told ATPTour.com. “We talk about sport, tennis, all day. As parents, we never pushed them to be athletes, or forced them to be good. We brought them up with a sporting foundation and each of them went their own way. Today that makes us very proud.”
The 64-year-old Alejandro is a former pro who nearly cracked the world’s Top 300, and he has been a coach and mentor to many Argentines.
The lady of the house, Maria Luz, plays a fundamental role. She is also a tennis player, a qualified psychologist with post-graduate studies in sports psychology, and she travels around the world with her children whenever she can. Two tennis players and an international hockey star, they each have their own personality, and Mother Cerundolo is charged with keeping their feet on the ground and bringing harmony to their home.
The Cerundolo parents always prevented their children from leaving school to spend more time practising.
“It wasn’t easy, Fran was the most resistant. But now they understand why — they are intelligent kids… Juanma was always the keenest on tennis, on training. And Fran, as well as now being in the Top , a few years ago he did a semester in the USA, at the University of South Carolina. Now he’s just a few [credits] short of a degree in Economics and Finance,” Alejandro explained of Francisco, who studies remotely at the University of Palermo, which has an agreement with the ATP Tour.
Francisco said: “I always went to school and trained many hours less than everyone… and that gave me an advantage over my opponents at 14, 15 years old. Nobody had picked me out as someone who could make it and be good.
“I was ‘bad’, but when I finished school at 18, I could start training. I grew taller and always maintained my approach to tennis: I wasn’t going to run and play in the air, that didn’t work for me, I played by hitting it hard and flat. But the most important thing was believing in myself.”
First-Time Winner Spotlight: Francisco Cerundolo
Francisco’s progression was more leisurely than his brother Juan Manuel’s. The younger Cerundolo always excelled from a very young age, winning the Junior Orange Bowl in the Under-12s, and even broke onto the Tour by winning the Cordoba Open at just 19.
“When we were little, I would go all over the club with Juanma, down the corridors, playing tennis all day, especially in the summer, in the pool, drinking milkshakes, but always spending a lot of time on the tennis courts,” Francisco said. “We always followed the same path, each in our own category, but he would win and I would lose, and I was always knocked out of the tournament first.
“As the years have gone by, tennis has changed in my life, and I learned to travel, to play tournaments, and going away and coming home to Argentina always gave me an energy boost.”
Was there any point where he believed he might be living the life he has now? “When you get to the ‘top’ and you’re rubbing elbows with the best, you always remember the things you went through, every stage. Now it’s a dream life, luxuries, fans, huge stadiums, but I’ve always had my feet on the ground and I haven’t changed. Luckily I always believed my moment would arrive and finally it did,” said Francisco, who last year won the Bastad title to join Juan Manuel as the first Argentine brothers to win ATP Tour singles titles.
“When he won the tournament in Cordoba in 2021, and I made the next final in Buenos Aires, both at the same time, it was amazing for both of us… That’s when I think we were convinced we were ready for the Tour,” Francisco said.
According to Francisco, his younger brother taught him to be “more professional”.
“He always wanted to do everything perfectly, ever since he was very small, and I learned a lot, from nutrition to how to train better,” Francisco said. “When I was young I found it difficult, I was pretty lazy and I learned to be disciplined from him. Now I see it in my daily work.
Juan Manuel added: “The best thing about Fran, as a person and a player, is how simple and relaxed he is… As much as he’s No. 33 in the world, he is still the same and he doesn’t have the airs or graces of a star, and that allows him to keep improving. It’s like a mirror for me: I was always more structured and he showed me how to enjoy myself and not stress in certain moments.
“The best moment together was at the ATP Masters 1000 in Miami, I am certain… He made the semi-finals and I got to the third round. At a tournament of that magnitude, it was incredible the matches we both won, and also that we were on the U.S. swing together. And it finished in amazing fashion.”
As if it were written in the stars, Francisco became Argentina’s No. 1 player on 13 February thanks to the fact that his brother Juan Manuel beat Diego Schwartzman in the second round of the Cordoba Open. “We’d spoken about it and I told him I’d help him,” Juan Manuel recalled with a smile. Schwartzman had nothing but praise for the brothers.
“I’m a few years older than them but it’s great that players are still coming through and, above all, that they’re two brothers,” Schwartzman said. “I would be lying if I told you I was glad he overtook me, as much as we have a great relationship. But because I’m competitive, now I’m going to want to overtake him again.
”I can show you thousands of conversations with Juanma. About racquets, strings, game patterns, anything you can think of… and in Cordoba he beat me and that meant Fran overtook me. But that’s tennis, and they are doing things right to get to where they are and to have a really bright future ahead.”
Do the Cerundolos set joint goals?
“It’s what we always dream of, being together on Tour. We hope we can do that at the end of the year, because that would mean me being in the Top 100 and hopefully in the coming years we’ll both continue to climb,” Juan Manuel said.
Francisco said: “I think Juanma is doing great. Last year, he had lots of injuries. He loves sport, tennis, and he couldn’t play, but he did well. I think he was stronger, hitting it well, and since coming back he’s won four Challengers. Hopefully he will be back on Tour again soon.”
The Cerundolo Brothers continue to rise. They have their ups and downs, but they are always pushing one another, and their family are alongside them every step of the way.
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