In a country with so few victories, Juan Pablo Varillas is a World Cup qualification. It is celebrated like this, that size is the euphoria. In a country where football takes almost all the spotlight, Juanpi and his tennis is a long tie that today enjoys his pass to a Grand Slam. He tried it once, twice… seven times and it was given: The Peruvian qualified for his first main draw of a Major. He will play Roland Garros among the greats.
Rods is today the symbol of Peruvian tennis – let’s not talk about resurgence yet because there is much to be done – that has new faces, which make us stop longing for the ‘always better’ past. Today we continue to admire Jaime Yzaga -whom the under-30s may not have seen play-, Lucho Horna -and his great victory in doubles at Roland Garros 2007 and what he did in the Davis Cup-. But now Varillas has a space in that tennis showcase. At the age of 20, he took charge of being the first national racket in 2016 -after the retirement of Duilo Beretta-, at 26 he took the post of the greats with presences in the Grand Slams. It was difficult for him to be the one who pulled the chain of Peruvian tennis, but he realized that the responsibility was great and today he is the leader enjoyed by the Peruvian team, which in the Davis Cup will seek to get into the Finals of the tournament against Chile.
Qualifying for a Grand Slam “is a raffle”, Duilio Beretta, who was Varillas’ coach three years ago, told us. And Juan Pablo was able to avoid Roland Garros on his third attempt in Paris. Playing on French clay is the dream of every tennis player who grows up on this surface and Juanpa has achieved it. He will add 25 points to the ranking, which also helps him with his goal of reaching the Top 100. The raffle is due to the fact that he was able to choose a Challenger with more accessible rivals on paper, and if he won he could add 90 points. But Varillas looks up.
If there is something that should be highlighted about Varillas, it is the calm with which he assumes each challenge. “Point to point”, they call it in tennis. Less than a year ago he was the last Peruvian to qualify for the Olympic Games and in Tokyo 2020 he played at a high level against Diego Schwartzman, who warned that the Peruvian would soon be playing major ATP tournaments. Today Juan Pablo is in the main draw at Roland Garros. Since Luis Horna at the 2008 US Open, a Peruvian has not entered the 128 of a Major.
Although Juan Pablo is a producer of Peruvian tennis, it must be said that he had to leave the country -he confessed that he barely spends eight weeks in Peru- to reach the level he has. Argentina – a tennis country – is their concentration and training center. That’s where his coach Diego Junqueira comes from, who accompanies him in each tournament -we saw him together in Tokyo- and this Friday he was in the stands on court 11 at Roland Garros. That is nothing more than investment and projection, something that in Peru is still difficult to understand: sports (and education) is the best investment, in the long term perhaps, but the best. In 2019 he worked with Duilio Beretta and in 2020 he had a bad experience with Argentine Pablo Fuentes.
Juan Pablo Varillas is one of the exceptions to the great problem facing Peruvian sport. Going professional is a big step and many opt for the safe thing, that of taking a university career. Juanpi did the opposite, he left the classroom – he retired from his career without his family knowing – and decided to take up the racket and dedicate himself to tennis. There are bets that are won over time, and profits are measured in joys like this Friday.
In 2019 there was a break in his career with his first Challenger victories -he has 4 in his career-, but the start of the pandemic delayed his growth. However, Varillas has been able to maintain his regularity until he was on the doorstep of the Top 100. Today, we have no reason to feel proud, he changed us at dawn. The day. The month.