Gianluca Mager gave himself one last chance

Only a year ago, Gianluca Mager chose to end his career. After months of inactivity, he has given himself one last chance: a father of two children and freshly married, he is trying to relaunch himself where he played his first Challenger final.

It is not far-fetched to say that Gianluca Mager has a score to settle with the ASPRIA Tennis Cup – BCS Trophy (€74,825, clay) . Reason? In his career he has played seven finals on the Challenger circuit and won six… losing only the first, six years ago, right in Milan. At the time he was n.341 ATP, he started from the qualifiers and won seven matches before losing to Laslo Djere. Since then many things have happened, some wonderful (the best ranking at n.62 ATP and above all the birth of his two children, Vittoria and Gregorio, in addition to the very recent marriage to Valentine), but also others less good. And so who knows, maybe the ASPRIA Harbour Club could represent a turning point like it was six years ago. The start was one of the best, since he beat a tough opponent like Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez, former n.1 junior and already n. 409 ATP. “ He had to loosen up a bit in the first set, but he is a really good player – says Mager – he impressed me, very composed and always charged up on every point. Is he only 19 years old? Yes, I really think he will get there ”. For his part, the Italian was good at giving the winning blow after a phase in which he seemed a bit physically tired. “ True, between the beginning of the second and the beginning of the third I felt it a bit. He had more than me, but I was good at concentrating on my service games and speeding them up. In this way I had more strength to fight and do something more in the return games ”. No sooner said than done: the break in the eighth game allowed him to seal the final score of 6-1 3-6 6-3. Today Gianluca is number 304 ATP, but not everyone knows that last summer he had made the decision to stop . After the elimination in San Marino he had ceased activity, resuming only in January. When we asked him if the reason was a physical problem, he told us about the last twelve months. “ The last few years have been complicated from a mental and tennis point of view. In July I stopped and had no intention of starting again. I didn’t touch a racket for several weeks, then I played Serie A1 with Park Genova and I did a very good winter preparation, deciding to give myself another chance. I started 2024 by winning a Challenger (in Punta del Este, ed.). I didn’t expect it, then the following months went through ups and downs but now I’m motivated, in a great mood ”.


When we ask him the main reason why he walked away from tennis, he has no doubts. “ Traveling had made me a little nauseous. By nature I have always loved spending time at home, but the two years of Covid had really tired me. Furthermore, two children were born, things change and the desire was less and less ”. In this sense, his wife Valentine Confalonieri, a former top-level tennis player, was very important in making the right choices (first the stop and then the return). “ I am very lucky to have her as my partner. When I talk to her about my problems it’s like talking to a coach. She understands me very well, then knowing me she knows how to tell me the right things. Last summer, for example, she was the first to advise me to stop the activity. Now I’ve given myself another chance and I’m thinking in the short term. The important thing is that I am calm: last year playing tennis became difficult, while today it is decidedly better ”. One of the key words of the New Mager is: “fun”. In an interview a few months ago, he said that having fun was what he needed. Is he succeeding? ” I’m trying. Some weeks I succeed, others I struggle more. Here in Milan, even though the weather hasn’t been the best, I’m in a good mood. I go in alternating phases, regardless of the result, there are weeks in which I am more predisposed and others in which playing weighs on me a little more .” One thing is certain: his tennis is worth much more than the current ranking. Catching a Mager in good shape, at Challenger level, is bad news for anyone.


Also contributing to the current serenity is the economic stability achieved over the years, after he was inevitably forced to make sacrifices at the beginning of his career. “ Luckily I never thought about money and earnings during a match. It happened when bowls were stopped, especially when making certain choices. Maybe I had to go on a four-week trip to South America, and going there with the coach would have cost me double. On the pitch I can isolate myself and think only about the match .” The next one will see him on the pitch against the talented Chun-Hsin Tseng, a pace player, perhaps better suited to hard courts. “ Did I really beat him once? Right, five years ago in Japan… But he was very young, ” jokes Mager, who then immediately becomes serious. “ By my nature, I don’t think too much about the opponent. Many times the game depends on me, the characteristics of others matter little. It depends a lot on how I am, on how much physical and mental energy I can pour onto the field .” Father Gianluca’s hope is that he can rediscover that magic of four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, when he reached a sensational final in the local ATP 500. “ Covid broke out shortly after, think what a mockery if it had happened two weeks earlier! ”He jokes again. His response when we ask him for a photograph of those days best describes the mentality – and the effort – of those who start from the bottom. Despite the super victories over Ruud and Thiem, he chooses… “ The moment I beat Attila Balazs in the semi-final. In an instant I saw all the sacrifices of a lifetime repaid, because that success gave me the certainty of entering the ATP top-100. I will remember it forever. It was a moment of deep emotion, because I thought about the past and all the difficulties I had .” Yes, entry into the top-100, the Holy Grail for every aspiring professional. For Mager it was really too important, even more so than the successes against two super champions. Being able to do it a second time, even more so after having practically stopped, would be even more beautiful.