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Interview with Emilio Sanchez Vicario


MotivaGoal had the great honour of interviewing Emilio Sánchez Vicario in Barcelona recently.  The former number one tennis doubles player now runs a successful academy in the outskirts of the city and is also remembered for having captained the Spanish Davis Cup team to victory in 2008 against Argentina.  He managed to win away from home and without Rafa Nadal on the team. 

Recently Emilio helped us analyze the keys for the upcoming Davis Cup Final in Seville, and also talked to us about the recent success of Spanish sport and the importance of values in sportsmen. 

Below you will find the complete interview.

Diego Valdés – MotivaGoal - Tell us a little bit about your impressions for the upcoming Davis Cup in Seville.

Emilio Sánchez Vicario - The Davis Cup is going to be very interesting.  Spain is a big power in tennis.  We´ve won I think in the last ten years four Davis Cups and another final so we are always a very competitive team.  We play with the best generation of Spanish players ever with the leader, Rafa Nadal, at the top, so anybody playing Spain, the problem is for the other team. I think the last twenty-something matches that we´ve played in Spain we´ve won.  We only had before that another ten matches and we only had one loss in 2000 against Brazil, in the time of Guga Kuerten.  That´s the only loss we had in like thirteen matches.  So Spain is very competitive at home, and we play at home, so the problem is for the Argentinians.  

But I think the Argentinians had the chance to prepare very well the tie, because Nalbandian and Del Potro pulled out of many tournaments to practice on clay, and they are very focused on trying to, in some way, ¨arrange¨ the problem that they had when we played in 2008 in their country that we had a big win there with a worse team than them. So I think they are going to come here with a big fighting spirit and it´s going to be a very tough match.    

Argentina is also very competitive in Davis Cup, they have a very good team with Nalbandian, Del Potro, Mónaco, Chela, and they have also a guy for doubles, so it´s going to be a tough one for Spain.  Our two top players, Nadal and Ferrer are playing the week before in the Masters (London), so they will start the preparation for the Davis Cup very late, they will only have four days or five days, so that is an advantage for the Argentinians even if we play at home.

Obviously the public from Spain is going be pushing very much, but even if there will be less people from Argentina, the Argentinian public is always very motivating, and they sing a lot, so it´s going be a very colorful tie and very good for the sport.  

Diego Valdés – MotivaGoal – What about the surface, because you mentioned that Nalbandian and Del Potro are starting to play on clay, so how much of a factor do you think that will play in the actual championship? 

Emilio Sánchez Vicario - Clay is always important because that is where we achieve our best results. We always put very slow clay, with the balls that we like, so that is a big advantage for the Spanish team, but with this tie the Argentinians have more time to prepare, so the difference that we have I think is going to level. It is going to be a very nice tie. Hopefully Spain, even if sometimes have played ties that are very level, always when we play here we succeed.  But this one is going to be a tough one.  I think if someone can challenge us on clay, its Argentina.  I´m sure it will be very nice to watch. 

Diego Valdés – MotivaGoal – What about Rafa Nadal, because obviously he is a big factor for the Spanish team, but you proved in 2008 that the Spanish team could win without him, so how much of a plus does he add to the team? 

Emilio Sánchez Vicario - Rafa Nadal is the best player we’ve had in Spanish tennis ever, so for the Spanish team when he is there and he is in good state and he is focused and motivated he´s a guarantee.  And he´s a guarantee not only that he´s going to  win, but that he is going to  give two hundred per cent, so that for the team is key. If you have someone like him who is losing, as you said before, and he keeps fighting and he keeps thinking, he´s the perfect player for Davis Cup. 

But in Spain, he’s put the level so high that the other players like Ferrer or López or Verdasco they also can do as well as him.  Maybe in some moments they are not as strong or as clever, but they are big fighters.  And the Spanish players like the Argentinians are gladiators, we are tough ones.  So what the people can be sure about is that any player that plays for Spain will give all they have. 

And I think that is what sport is about, if on top of that after you win, perfect, you will have success.  But if someone gives one hundred per cent and the other is better, what can you say?  It is not a problem, because at the end of the day it is only a tennis match.  The world is struggling and there are other very difficult things going on, so I think that is what makes sport great - it gives a good spirit to the people.  And to watch or to be present in a match like that I think it is something that builds spirit and energy for the people to be happier.   

Like when we had this incredible win in Argentina (Davis Cup 2008),  when we came back, you could see the faces of the people, and it was already the beginning of the economic crisis with problems and losing jobs and so on, and the people lived that experience as if they had won it themselves.  And that is what makes sport so big.  Or like when we won the World Cup, it was incredible, everyone was happy, it was a good state, and to create that in sport is amazing, so we will see what happens… 

Diego Valdes – MotivaGoal – What can you tell us about Spanish sports? You mentioned the World Cup, tennis, and it seems like Spain is doing very well all over the map in sports… 

Emilio Sánchez Vicario - I think Spain socially made a big improvement in the last twenty five years.  We always had great sportsmen here, but we didn´t have the organization and the options.  And I think with this improvement in the life in Spain, sport took a big advantage because we took all that talent and gave opportunities to that talent that before it was much more difficult.  Now if you live here (Spain) or in Italy, or in France it doesn´t matter.  We all have the same opportunities and because we are coming from much more difficult times, because in those countries you could live much better before, we started to live better in the last 20 years.  SO the education and the values that most of these athletes have, they come from the times that people didn’t live well here, so they are very ¨hungry¨ they are very disciplined and all work very hard.  We always say that to be a good sportsman you have to be ¨starving¨.  And then you have those extra values that make you go through the difficult moments like we said before.  So this is the generation that at those times in Spain we didn´t live so well, but we have the advantages of living well.  So when we were able to compete at the same level as the others, then the talent came out and then we succeeded because of those other values.   

And this is something that in countries where you live well it is difficult to have in sportsmen.  That´s why normally if you see at the international level, the guys who succeed, like for example in women´s tennis, most of the girls are from Eastern countries, Asian countries, because they have those values.   They came from an education where they didn´t live well and they want to live better, and sport is a vehicle to live better.  Hopefully Spain will keep   producing good sportsmen.  I think this overall crisis is going to help all the countries in this respect.  Because the sports people we have a big opportunity compared with the rest of society in this case, because sports doesn´t have such a big impact from the crisis because it is so elite and hopefully we keep putting players up there.  I think if there is one good thing g about a crisis is that you will be going back in some way to value a lot and appreciate.  The next generation is going to be the first generation, out of the last three or four, which will live worst then the prior ones…That is where all these values are going to come back again and in some way everything is going to be tougher but it will come out with values that are key to succeed.

If you are interested in knowing more about Emilio Sánchez Vicario you can follow his blog at: 

Diego Valdés Rendón
Founder & Executive Editor, MotivaGoal
Miembro de la Asociación Española de Prensa Deportiva
BA, MBA, Master in Sports Management

Twitter: @motivagoal

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