Marcelo Arevalo has been titled the Most Successful Tennis Player Ever from El Salvador. From playing socially at a beach club to becoming a Quarterfinalist at a Grandslam, his love for the sport has grown. Marcelo reached a career-high ATP singles ranking of 139 and 45 in doubles. He plays solely on the doubles tour now and is currently 52 in the world. If you would like to follow his results click here and if you are interested in following his journey on social media click here. Marcelo enjoyed reminiscing on his career and the challenges of finding sponsorships he had in the beginning. Make sure to read the whole interview to find out what Marcelo is playing for and what the biggest challenge for an ATP Top 50 Doubles player is.
- When did you start playing tennis?
I entered the tennis world when I was 6 years old. My family was members at a beach club in Sonsonate and we would go every weekend. My parents would play socially with their friends and they eventually bought me a racquet. My older brother played and is 4 years older than me. I looked up to him as an example and he ended up on the ATP tour also.
- What was your junior career like? Did you stay in El Salvador to train?
Tennis is not a popular sport in El Salvador. We knew at some point that 1 day a week was not enough for us to train. When we started playing national tournaments they would take us to the capital city for better training. We would go 2 days a week to the capital to train but the roads to get to the city were not paved so it was tough to travel there. They put a lot of effort into getting us there. A few years later we moved to the capital city and I practiced more days a week. It was never easy because there weren’t any public courts. I got up to #8 in the world in juniors so it all worked out.
- Can you talk about your college recruiting process?
I reached an ATP Singles ranking of 450 after my first year of pro tennis right after juniors. I remember at the end of that year which was 2009 I received a lot of interest from colleges. I remember some of the schools were Tulsa, Pepperdine, UGA, Louisville, and a few others in Florida. I could not afford to be on tour anymore so I decided to go to college and went to the University of Tulsa for 2 years. My college experience was amazing and I learned a lot from them. I planned to go for a few years and try and find sponsors for my pro career while playing college tennis.
- How tough of a decision was it to leave college early to go pro?
College tennis helped me improve as a player and become a better person but I always knew I wanted to go pro. It was a hard decision to make because I enjoyed my college experience but I knew my goal was to always play professionally. My teammates understood that I was that guy who wanted to play professional tennis. I saw college tennis as a bridge to achieve my goals. I used the system to play as many matches as possible and become a better athlete. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you even though it may be tough.
- What were some initial challenges you faced on tour right after college?
I twisted my ankle in the Pan American Games right after I left college. I was out for 6 months due to the injury and second-guessed my decision to leave college. I could have done another semester at Tulsa. After 3-4 months, I played lightly again. 6 months later I played my first tournament after injury and made the finals of the future. It motivated me to come back from injury.
- Did you receive any financial support from sponsors or your federation?
I got very lucky to find sponsors. All of the sponsors that I had right after college were people from outside of my country. They trusted me and they were private people, not a company. One of my sponsors found me a house in the U.S so I can save on hotel costs. He hosted my coach and I and we had a good relationship with him so he decided to continue helping me. You have to be lucky to find sponsors that are willing to contribute to your dream. I was able to pay a coach and live in South Florida to train.
- Can you remember your first ATP singles Point you received?
I remember that I was playing futures in Mexico when I was 16 years old. I kept losing in qualifying and got my chance at the main draw when I got a wild card for a future for $10k futures in El Salvador. I got a good draw and beat a guy from Argentina. That was the moment that I started believing I can become someone in the professional tennis world.
- How difficult is it to play both singles and doubles every tournament?
It is tough physically, some days you have to play singles in the morning and doubles in the afternoon. If you keep winning you do that each day. It was challenging but I always wanted to play both because I enjoyed them. It is crazy because I won 3 challengers in singles over my career and won doubles in those same tournaments also. I felt like doubles helped me in singles and contributed to my confidence. It cleaned my game up and got me ready for the next singles match.
- When did you decide that you were going to prioritize doubles?
I decided to only play doubles during the middle of 2019. My dream as a kid was to play at the biggest tournaments and to do that I had to stick to doubles. In doubles, I had the ranking to play the biggest tournaments. I also had a back injury that helped me decide to play just doubles.
- Are you a more natural singles or doubles player?
I think I am a more natural singles player. I am still learning doubles and adjusting my game to doubles. I do believe singles helps doubles and doubles helps singles. I need to continue to learn more about doubles to move up in ranking.
- Do you notice a difference in recovery now that you are playing primarily doubles?
Being a singles player causes more stress on your body. The matches are more physical because you cover more court and play longer. It is normal to have a 3-4 hour match whereas in doubles it is normal to have a match that is 1.5-2 hours.
- Can you talk about the margins in doubles and the opportunities to come back?
You have fewer opportunities to come back from a break or a set down in doubles compared to singles. Most of the time if you get broken in doubles you are in trouble. With the no-ad format, you can go from game point to breakpoint real quick. That is why we play so many super tiebreakers because a team can lose focus for 2 games and the set would be over.
- What is your opinion on 10 point tiebreaks vs full 3rd sets?
I like the 10 point tiebreak because they are exciting. There is a lot of pressure and fun. It is something that the sport needs. When you see doubles match on the tour that is about to go to a super tiebreak all of the players will flood the court to watch. One or two points can decide a title. You can get lucky though but it is a part of the game. Every point is super important in doubles.
- If you could rank having a good team around you, scheduling, and performance in the order of importance, what would be your order?
I would rank performance being the most important because if you have a good schedule and team around you it does not matter if you do not win. Second, I would have a good team around me and then have a good schedule.
- When did you start traveling with a team?
Over the last 2 years, I was able to travel with a team. I started working with 2 different coaches about 2 years ago. Before that, I would travel with my dad. He would organize practices and be there for me.
- What is something that you look for in a coach?
I wanted to feel like I could connect with a coach. I do not care about having a super coach or the most expensive coach. I want someone that I could feel comfortable with and spend the whole day with them without any issues. We laugh a lot and enjoy the moment.
- How have your challenges on tour changed over the years?
In the beginning, the challenges revolve around money. Once you start improving your ranking you can get out of the futures level and start to earn more income. Once you do that you can start building your team. I was always traveling alone and I did not like that. I started performing better once I had a team with me. My biggest challenge today is being away from my family. Besides that, I am pretty happy. Now that I am a father it is tough because I feel like I am missing an important part of my kid’s life, but I am playing for him and my family.
- What has been your most memorable moment so far on tour?
Being able to reach the Quarterfinals of the 2020 Australian Open was very memorable.
- If you could tell me one thing that makes you a good tennis player, what would it be?
I am very passionate about the sport, I go out there and give 101% my all every time I play. I think that sets me apart from some players.
- If you could thank the sport of tennis for everything it has given you, what would you say?
The sport has given me everything. It has allowed me to support my family so I will always be grateful to the sport. I do not think I will ever leave the sport over my lifetime.
- What do you see yourself doing once you retire?
I hope to play another 10 more years. I am 30 right now and I do not see myself doing anything else. When the time comes and I have to retire I see myself back in El Salvador giving back to the sport and motivating kids to play tennis. I want to help kids go to college or play professionally.
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