Marcelo Rios Influence at 2019 US Open

The last time Marcelo Rios played at the  US Open was in 2002 (a loss in the third round to Jiri Novak 63 63 retired) but his legend is not forgotten in New York and many current pro players competing in this year’s edition of the US Open have fond memories of Rios and admit the Chilean champion’s play style and rebellious attitude had an impact and influence on their careers.

Yoshihito Nishioka, the 23 year old five-foot-seven inch lefthander from Japan, who recently beat Kei Nishikori in Cincinnati, learned about Rios upon a recommendation from a former coach. “I love Marcelo RIos. He’s very talented on the court,” said Nishioka, currently ranked 59 in the world. “When I was younger, I watched Marcelo Rios When I went to the United States, I was training all the time at Nick Bolletieri’s academy (in Bradenton, FL) and he told me I have to watch more videos of Rios. He is around the same height as me and he got to World No. 1, so I think I can make it. I can run more than him too.”

Stefan Kozlov, the 21 year old former Wimbledon junior finalist and Orange Bowl champion, who lost in the first round of this year’s US Open qualifying tournament, said Rios was an inspiring figure during his childhood tennis days. “I remember watching him and thinking that I could be no. 1 one day like him, since we are similar height. Also I loved his personality.”

I met Fabio Fognini on Thursday night at a meet and greet at his New York City hotel The Benjamin and showed the Italian bad boy a photo of Rios and asked for his thoughts and the 11th ranked responded with a smile, “Ah, Marcelo Rios, I love him.” Fognini is one of the bad boys of the ATP today, having been admonished for such behaviors as calling a female US Open chair umpire a “cocksucker” and “whore” two years ago, and also remarking on court this year at Wimbledon that “a bomb should explode here.” 

The appeal of Rios was not limited to only male players. Several top WTA stars including Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova have publicly praised the pony-tailed marvel. 

“I had a poster in my bedroom of Mal Washington, Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. It’s very weird but that’s who I liked,” revealed Kuznetsova, who has won the US Open (2004) and Roland Garros (2009) singles titles.

Sharapova also shared a cherished childhood memory that involved Rios. “When I was really young, when I was living in Bradenton I remember we drove like four hours to Miami Open. My father and I wanted to watch Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marcelo Rios. I loved watching Marcelo play, especially the late night matches and all the Latin fans – it was close to midnight –  and they were still going strong. It was a great atmosphere at Rios’s matches.”

The 2006 US Open winner Sharapova and Rios trained at Bollettieri’s Academy for a few years but never shared a court together. “I never practiced with him. I was quite young when he was there. He was too good for me. But I did take a picture with him. I still have it. My dad loved to watch Rios. He loved to hear stories about Rios from my former coach (Michael Joyce)  who trained with Marcelo and knew him pretty well.”
Would you like to know one of Michael Joyce’s infamous Rios tales? Here is just one of many… “We were playing doubles together against Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyet in New Haven. We both won our singles matches earlier that day and so we weren’t playing 100%. He was going through the motions. Sometimes he could play unbelievable tennis. Sometimes he played like he didn’t want to be out there. We were down a set and 4-5 in the second. He was serving down love-40. Triple match point. His first serve was a fault. Then he hits the second serve as hard as he can and it’s an ace. I walk back to the service line and then he says, ‘Now we win.’ I swear to God, then the guy hit like a winner on every ball. We won the second set tiebreaker 7-1 and won the third set 6-0. I tell that story a lot and nobody would believe it but it really happened.”

The greatest player of all time also has a special place in his heart for Marcelo Rios.  “I was a big admirer of Marcelo,” said Roger Federer. “I thought he was one of the best players with the best talent around. He was one of my favorite players at that time, being around 1998. Him and Pete Sampras back then were my favorite players. Happy for him that he got to be no. 1 in the world. Not happy that he never won a Grand Slam. But I was fortunate to play him a few times and practice with him a few times. I have good memories of Marcelo.”

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  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Marcelo Rios, long gone but not forgotten.

  • Bobby · September 11, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Nishioka falls real short as a Rios student. He is not adventurous or daring enough with his shots. No crazy angles, taking the ball early, or great drop shpts or drop volleys.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 11, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Bobby I agree, Nishioka plays also smart conservative tennis like a blend of Rios and Chang. Would be interesting if Nishioka hired Rios as a part time or tryout coach.

  • Andrew Miller · September 11, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Rios, reduced to videos for training. At least that’s preserved by Bolletieri so that his game becomes part of fabric of player games today. Thought Berretini showed some Rios. Maybe Berretini will be a Scoop special.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 11, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    I didn’t see much or Rios in Berrettini, the one player I do see in him is … Temuraz Gabashvili, with the height and long arms and long legs and similar strokes, similar athleticism. Of course Berrettini is much better. First time I saw Berrettini was two years ago at US OPen qualies, lost to Tsitsipas 76 in the third at night. Gabashvili was a great junior, no. 1 or 2 in the world in 14s. Decent pro career, top 50 range, coached by Canas.

  • Bobby · September 13, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    Yeah Nishioka has the leftiness and same physical body as Rios. Just needs Rios to give him the risk taking mindset, maybe reveal the technical side of the jumping drop shots, extreme angles with pace. BTW Chang vs Rios matches were instant classics.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 14, 2019 at 6:53 am

    Nishioka vs Rios would have been magic. Have you seen much of Nishioka Bobby? He’s an artist with some grind too.

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