Tennis Prose



Nico Massu Remembers Making Tennis History in 2004

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By Scoop Malinowski

There he was, standing by himself texting on his phone, against the fence of court 14 at the US Open. Barely recognized, Nicolas Massu accomplished something in tennis that even Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have failed to do. Massu won the singles and doubles gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, the first (and still only) two gold medals in the history of his country, Chile.

Those who saw the matches will never forget them. In the doubles final vs Germany, Massu and his partner Fernando Gonzalez were down quadruple match point – gold medal points – against Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler, behind 2-6 in the fourth set tiebreaker. They managed to win that breaker 9-7 and the fourth set 6-4 in what remains as one of the most heroic achievements ever seen on a tennis court.

Then in the singles, Massu won in five sets vs Mardy Fish 63 36 26 63 64. Massu had not won a hard court match all year in 2004 (0 for 8) until the Olympics first rounder vs Gustavo Kuerten 63 57 64.

At the US Open qualifying rounds on August 21, I just had to ask Massu for details and memories of this monumental, historic and thrilling conquest…

Question: You are the only man in history to win the gold medal in singles and doubles at the same Olympics…

Nicolas Massu: “Today is the important day because today is fourteen years ago we won, with Fernando Gonzalez, the first gold medal in the history of Chile and tomorrow is fourteen years ago the second greatest moment of my career (singles gold medal).”

Q: That doubles match was one of the most amazing tennis matches ever played. You and Fernando saved four gold medal points.

Massu: “Yes, four match points in the fourth set. We were down 6-2 and we won five sets.”

Q: How the heck did you guys pull that off?

Massu: “Well, Fernando played before that match, he played for the bronze medal with Taylor Dent. He played I think three hours and a half. He rest for one hour. And then we go to the court with Fernando very tired. We play against the German guys Kiefer and Schuettler, very good players, very talented players. We keep on fighting. We fight a lot. We were down 6-2 but when you are on the court you take time to think about the next point. You don’t think too much about if you’re losing or winning. We fight. We change the score in the fourth set. We break one time in the fifth I think and we won. Myself and Fernando, we play a lot of doubles together in our childhood. We play a different style, we play a singles style. And a lot of teams did not like to play against us.”

Q Down the four match points, how did keep the belief of winning despite feeling fatigued?

Massu: “When you are born like a warrior you try to do the best. Olympics Games is every four years. Olympic final is a dream to be there, to represent your country, the honor, you’re in the final, you have to fight every point. You never know what will happen. In my career I won two or three of my (six ATP singles) titles, I won it that way. My first title in Buenos Aires, I won it that way, I was 62 51 40-15 down in the final with (Agustin) Calleri and I change the match and I win my first title ATP. And also I lost some matches in my career that I was supposed to win and I lost. Tennis is like that. You have to fight for every point. You never know what will happen. So that’s why it’s important to believe – to believe – everything is possible.”

Q: That special week in Athens, Greece must have obviously changed your life?

Massu: “Of course.”

Q: How?

Massu: “I think before that I was top 15, I was no. 12 in the world. After the Olympics Games, after I won, I was no. 9. Top ten. Before, I was a good tennis player. I have good results, final in Madrid Masters Series. I was a little bit known in the tennis world. When you win the Olympics Games, you go into like the sports world. Everything. And I think everywhere I arrived after that, the people know me more for the Olympics more than for my career. For example, people know me, Nicolas Massu, Olympic champion. They don’t think about fifteen years of my career, that I won Buenos Aires, Kitzbuhel. My name is now more with the two things that I make it in the Olympic Games. And it’s normal. It’s the biggest achievement that I have in my life. For me, to represent my country, it’s an honor. Today I’m the Davis Cup captain. I’m very happy because I love my country. And every time I go to the court as Davis Cup captain, player, I do my best.”

Q: When you went to the Olympics that year, did you have a premonition that you might win two Olympic gold medals?

Massu: “I was playing good. The year before I was playing my best tennis. I was doing better on hard courts than clay. I finish 2003 12th in the world. So I was trying to be top ten. But I put too much pressure on myself to be top ten. I lost matches to be top ten. I remember one match in Rome to make semis and if I won that match I make top ten. I play not real good. And three or four matches that I lost because I was thinking all the time to be top ten. Because it was a dream when I was young. It was strange. When I went to the Olympics Games I was playing good that year on clay and I won Kitzbuhel, I make very good results. I was maybe the no. 1 or 2 in that year in clay courts. Winning matches, second after Nadal or Volandri, I don’t remember.”

“But I was not playing well on hard courts. I didn’t win any matches since Australia to the Olympics Games. I lost first round in Australia, Cincinnati, Toronto and all the tournaments (0-8 on HC). I couldn’t understand that. When I arrive there I said, Well, I’m close to top ten. I think I have chance but there are other players that have better chances than me of course. But I arrived there to fight for a medal. Either bronze, silver or gold, try to find one. And then first round I beat Guga (63 57 64).I play really well. Really well. And then I start to build confidence. And then I start to play doubles with Fernando. You know, tennis is just like that. You start to get confidence. Then I arrive in quarterfinal in singles and doubles and I get more confidence. Then when you are in finals of Olympics Games you think that you have a chance to win of course. I played really well. More so, in that moment I have unbelievable physical trainings I made a lot of effort and I play so many hours that I was prepared for that.

Q: How long did it take for you to recover after those Olympics because you were on the court for so many hours for long physical matches in singles and doubles?

Massu: “…


Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Massu later this week, you don’t want to miss what Nico says about the reaction and respect certain other players gave him after the Olympics…


  • Hartt · September 17, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Have to admit I was not familiar with this story. It’s very interesting and I look forward to part 2.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Massu’s heroics in the Olympics have been largely forgotten and unsung. It really was one of the most incredibly rare accomplishments in tennis history, no one else has done it and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it in the next 100 years. Massu is a tennis legend and in my opinion deserves to be nominated for the Hall of Fame ballot soon.



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