Milan is among the most important cities in Thiago Agustin Tirante’s career. He played his first major final right in the shadow of the Duomo: four years ago he reached the final of the Bonfiglio Trophy, one of the most important Under 18 tournaments. Now the 22-year-old from La Plata is back in Milan for the ‘ASPRIA Tennis Cup – BCS Trophy (€73,000, clay), which could give him the decisive impetus to reach the ATP top-100, an important step towards achieving the dreams of a former child who – as we shall see – he was practically born on a tennis court. Number 132 in the ATP (his best ranking) and fourth seeded, he beat – one after the other – two Azzurri who train at the same facility, the MXP Tennis Academy, Mattia Bellucci and Federico Iannaccone. Against the Molise he had no problems, a 6-3 6-0 gained in just over an hour. “I knew Iannaccone, I had done some junior and ITF tournaments with him, but I hadn’t seen him for a while – Tirante recounts – I knew that, if I played well, it would be for him hard to do things his way. It was an excellent game, in which I improved game after game”. Despite having little experience in the major circuit, Tirante is convinced that he is ready to make the leap in quality. “I think I’m very close to the ATP circuit, both in terms of ranking and level of play. I can compete at the highest level, as I already proved in Paris by passing the qualifiers and beating a top-30 like Van de Zandschulp. If I keep improving day by day, in the short term I think I can play ATP tournaments. But I won’t just participate, I also want to win as many games as possible”.
LITTLE MONEY BUT ZERO DEBTS
Born in 2001, Tirante was practically born on a tennis court. And to think that no one in the family was passionate about it. Only the aunts Vanesa and Valeria, who from players had become teachers. “At a certain point there was the possibility of buying a tennis club with two private courts and my grandfather bought it – says Tirante, alluding to the “Tenis La Cumbre” of La Plata – < i>but he did it as an investment, not because he liked tennis. My aunts took the opportunity to give us some lessons. Just think, they inaugurated it on April 1, 2001 and I was born nine days later. The club has a living area, with a kitchen, so my parents went to live there. The backyard of my house were the two tennis courts, so I was at the club all day and my aunts put my first racket in my hand when I was nine months old. When I was five, I played my first tournament and lost to Tomas Etcheverry, also from La Plata. I lost 6-0 6-0 and left the field crying…”. But his passion grew, so he continued until he chose to focus on tennis because – like a good Argentine – up to the age of 10 he also played football (he is a fan of River Plate). “At the age of 12, I played my first international tournaments in South America, then I started making myself known in the second year of Under 14, when I came to Europe and played some events, reaching the final four times. And then I competed in the Davis Cup Junior. This is how my career began”. In his childhood years, however, Argentina was the victim of one of the economic crises that cyclically affect the country. His growth, therefore, was complicated. Sacrifices, renunciations, economic difficulties, also because Thiago comes from a humble family. Mamma Marine cleans a hospital in the morning, while in the afternoon she works in a pharmacy. Papa Gonzalo divides his time between a floor polishing company and a driving school. “It was actually hard i> – he says – I often went to tournaments with my grandparents because I couldn’t pay a coach. When the coaches from Buenos Aires came to the academy for winter training, I couldn’t pay what they asked for. Many struggles, but also a lot of desire. It happened that my parents went without food to buy me tennis shoes. I’ve never had sponsors: I preferred not to sign, because then it’s difficult to repay what you’ve been loaned with interest. If I had no other options left I would have, but somehow I managed to keep going. My grandfather, my aunt, my parents gave me money to go to tournaments. Maybe we went by car and not by plane: it took 10-12 hours, but at least we got there. In this way I learned to manage the money, then at a certain point everything became easier because I didn’t have any debt to pay”.
DEL POTRO AND NALBANDIAN’S BROTHER
Number 1 junior in 2019, on the occasion he was awarded by the big shots of the Argentine federation. There is a photo of him with an award-plate together with Guillermo Coria, Franco Squillari and Mariano Zabaleta, exponents of the legendary “Legiòn”. “I grew up watching them on TV, but I soon identified with Del Potro – says the platense – I’ve always admired him more than anyone else, partly for his similar way of playing to mine, but also for injuries: as a kid I often got hurt and therefore I went through passages similar to yours, between stops and rehabilitations. He is my idol, I respect him a lot and for me he is an example. Those were spectacular years for Argentina: today it is difficult to find another Legiòn, but now there are many young players between the 200 and 600 ATP numbers with a great desire to compete and a great hunger. Let’s hope it happens again”. Speaking of “Legiòn”, Tirante is trained by Javier Nalbandian, older brother of the legendary David. “I also train with the former player Daniel Pastura, the two take turns traveling. Nalbandian is in Milan, then next week he returns to Argentina and Miguel will arrive – says Tirante – the contact was born thanks to Eduardo Infantino, with whom I have a splendid relationship. When I stopped working with my aunt and I was without a coach, I had to go and play some tournaments in the United States. Eduardo told me that Javier Nalbandian was there, inviting me to look for him. So I did two tournaments with him, I liked his way of working and his experience. At that moment I needed someone who had experience and was recognized for what he had done. The following year we started working together and a journey that we are very satisfied with has begun”. But the best is yet to come. Thiago will only be happy when he gives back to his parents what they did for him.