Tennis Prose



Marcelo Rios Was A Menace To Society

By Scoop Malinowski

This week in Delray Beach covering the Delray Beach Open where McKenzie McDonald, Radu Albot, Juan Martin Del Potro and Steve Johnson are making saves, I obtained some Marcelo Rios memories from a long time tennis insider which illustrates how the Chilean wonder earned the Sports Illustrated magazine cover headline, “the most hated man in tennis.”

Rios, also called “the worst prick I ever met” by tennis great Ilie Nastase, had a very bad habit of speaking to women in an ungentlemanly manner that often provoked angry responses and sometimes near violence. In one incident, Rios said some rude things to a woman at the Barcelona Open which resulted in the boyfriend of the woman running after and chasing Rios and his coach to the safety of the locker room. Imagine what a chaotic scene of a man chasing a world class player and his coach at a professional tennis tournament for making inappropriate verbal advances. But this was how Rios behaved.

This was not the only time Rios made such a mistake of judgement. Another time Rios directed some rude words at the girlfriend of fellow ATP pro Ronald Agenor who took exception to the foul behavior and warned Rios to not do it again. And if Rios didn’t obey the commands, Agenor, a very strong, muscular man, would distribute karma with his fists.

There are many examples of Rios acting like this in the tennis world and at nightclubs and discos.

The most interesting story, and also sad to learn, was that Marcelo’s former coach Luis Lobo, a kind man by nature, was forced to behave in a bad manner like his boss, which contradicted his inherent character. Having to suddenly be a villainous person like his employer Rios, when his true character is as a nice, good, decent person took a serious toll on Lobo, to the point, according to my most reliable source, Lobo needed psychiatric help after he stopped working with Rios.

It’s too bad Rios, the ATP’s top ranked player for six weeks in 1998, didn’t receive the physical humiliation and humbling he really needed. Otherwise, he might have turned out to be a good decent person – and a credit to the sport of tennis for not just his magical court talents and skills but his character, his heart, and his champion soul.

Rios still has time to redeem himself. But such a scenario is about as likely as seeing Rios come back to the ATP and win a Challenger title this year at age 43, a goal he stated he was working to achieve.


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