The silent rise of Chile as an emerging power in world tennis
JM González
May 17, 2024

It has been a dream week for Chilean tennis players in Italy. Both Nicolás Jarry (24th) and Alejandro Tabilo (32nd) advanced to the semifinals of the Masters Rome 1000. It is rectification in a difficult moment for one and the emergence on big stages for the other. Pure history for Chilean tennis, which for the first time has two representatives simultaneously in the semifinals of an ATP tournament of this magnitude.

For Jarry, this great performance came at a precise time. It has not been an entirely good year for him in terms of individual results. Since the final he reached in February in Argentina, the Chilean played seven other tournaments until Rome. In five of them he was eliminated in the first round and only in Santiago, his homeland, as in the Madrid Masters did he reach the quarterfinals.

To move into the top four in Rome, Jarry defeated the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas (8th). The victory allowed him to virtually rise – pending official ratification – to 18th place in the ATP ranking, equaling the best position of his career and with which he began this year of ups and downs.

Alejandro Tabilo, for his part, is living a dream that perhaps he still cannot realize. The tennis player born in Canada, of Chilean parents and who went from being only an English speaker to a virtuoso communicator in Spanish, was the one who brought Chile back to the map this week. Not because he was absent, but because of his great feat in the round of 32 under the watchful eye of world tennis.

The Chilean faced and solidly defeated Novak Djokovic (1st), who after the fall stated that he had felt strange during the game. He apologized for the blow to the head he had suffered the day before, when a bottle fell from a fan’s backpack as he left Rome’s Center Court. More or less words, the truth is that for Tabilo it was a special moment, the best victory of his career and confirmation that he was coming at a great time. It was no coincidence that days before Rome he lifted the Challenger Aix-En Provence trophy.

For Chile, the victory against Djokovic was no less special. A memory within a dream present: one of their own defeated a current number one again after 15 years. The last one had been Fernando González, precisely in Rome, in 2009 against Rafael Nadal. The ‘Bombardero de La Reina’ was, perhaps, the last great Chilean tennis player in the eyes of the world. The powerful forehand of the man who became fifth in the ATP ranking is remembered, when at that time he challenged Roger Federer and the best of the moment to great duels. Tabilo’s feat was also an exercise for memory.


The good moment of Jarry and Tabilo once again puts the magnifying glass on Chile. To them we must add Cristian Garin, the third musketeer of the Chileans who put the country back on the tennis map. Today he is in position 100 in the ranking, after a difficult year in terms of injuries and results, although he has shown signs of recovery. In April he managed to reach the semifinals of Estoril and Munich, giving glimpses of the ‘Gago’ that in 2021 reached 17th place in the ranking and which has made him the winner of five ATP titles.

The Chilean team with them looks solid. Captained by the historic Nicolás Massú, double Olympic champion and epic match comebacker, Chile entered the Davis Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. In early February, Chile defeated Peru 3-2 in the qualifying phase to earn a place in the final.

Tabilo was the key man in the series against the Peruvians, despite the fact that the first racket was Jarry. The Canadian-born player came back in his two matches (against Juan Pablo Varillas and the surprise of the duel, Ignacio Buse) and gave the last point to the Chilean team, which had started the second round of singles 1-2 down on the scoreboard.

In the group stage of the Finals, Chile is joined by Germany, the United States and Slovakia in Group C based in Zhuahi, China.

It is Chile’s international present, trying to remember what they had done in 2003 and 2004 as two-time champions of the now-defunct Düsseldorf World Cup. With Jarry and Tabilo, at least for now, why not dream of repeating the great feats of González, Massú or Marcelo Ríos as world number one in 1998, and once again exciting local and South American tennis.

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