Until last week, there were probably few tennis fans who had heard the surname Cerundolo, or knew that it belonged to two players on the ATP Tour: brothers Juan Manuel Cerundolo, 19, and Francisco Cerundolo, 22. But this week the Cordoba Open was the best possible stage for the sons of renowned Argentine coach, Alejandro, to introduce themselves to the world.
Neither player has reached the Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but the Cerundolo name is now etched in the tennis world’s collective memory. Francisco, thanks to a wild card and Juan Manuel, having come through qualifying, became the first Argentine brothers to appear together in the main draw of an ATP Tour tournament in the past 30 years (since Carlos and Alejandro Gattiker in Quito and Kitzbuhel, 1981).
Although this feat was praiseworthy in itself, it’s not the end of the story. The youngest member of the Cerundolo clan would not be content just reaching an ATP Tour main draw for the first time. Juan Manuel completed a dream week in which he picked up win after win until he had racked up eight in a row – enough to pick up the trophy. He became the fifth-lowest ranked champion since 1990, and the player with the lowest ranking to win a title since Pablo Andujar in Marrakech in 2018.
“I still can’t believe what I did. It’s really crazy!” said the Argentine #NextGenATP player. Throughout the week, the familiar chant of “Vamos, Juanma!” could be heard regularly from the stands in Cordoba. His father, Alejandro Cerundolo, cheered his son on with a significant dose of intensity and reason, while his mother Maria Luz kept the passion more to herself.
Before either of their sons picked up an ATP Tour trophy, they were already proud parents, brimming with joy just seeing Francisco and Juan Manuel compete together at an ATP 250 tournament. Watching their youngest son break so many records and clear so many hurdles during the week was an intense experience for them.
Patriarch Alejandro, known by everyone as ‘El Toto’, was a professional tennis player himself and came close to being among the Top 300 in the world early in the 1980s. A coach and an educator, his pride was evident in Cordoba. “Juan should be at least in the Top 50, if we’re being objective,” he told ATPTour.com. “The question I always had was how quickly he could do it. He was always precocious, a special kid. Every time it looks like he gets a little bit behind, he does crazy things like this that are a little confounding.”
However, Juan Manuel’s mother, a sports psychologist, is never surprised by her son’s cool personality on court. “He’s always been like that on court. He’s very calm, not very expressive. Sometimes his coaches would like him to be a little more extroverted, to shout a little, but just because he’s like that it doesn’t mean he’s not very strong mentally. Quite the opposite. Mental strength is not found in what you say outwardly. It’s on the inside, and he knows how to find it.”
The 19-year-old’s success has come very early for a player who just attained his highest ranking of No. 181 in the world. But it was Francisco, currently ranked higher at No. 137, was the first to bring the family name to light on the ATP Challenger Tour. In fact, he had arrived in Cordoba after reaching the final in Concepcion a week earlier, and had picked up the trophy in Campinas in his last tournament in November last year.
Apart from all their recent success, do the brothers share any on-court similarities? “Our styles are completely different,” said Juan Manuel laughing. “He’s aggressive, he hits the ball very hard, and I’m more of a counter-attacker, left-handed, defensive.”
One thing is for sure: From now on, nobody will confuse the Cerundolo brothers.