Genaro Olivieri grew up admiring Rafael Nadal. The Mallorcan's willpower, work ethic and dedication, which led him to be one of the best in history, are qualities that the Argentine tries to emulate every day. Perhaps for that reason – or perhaps for a wink of fate – it was on the brick dust of Roland Garros, the same on which his idol built an unparalleled reign, where the Buenos Aires native had his triumphal baptism in the most important circuit of men's tennis. This Tuesday he beat in five sets the local Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, one of the great promises of French tennis and 233rd in the ranking, and got into the second round of the French Grand Slam.
It was the first ATP tournament win for Olivieri, who is playing his first tournament at that level. And it was a prize for a true "worker" of tennis, who, after a promising career as a junior, found it difficult to make a place in professionalism, but who for a couple of seasons has been clearly growing.
"How crazy what I lived. What I felt on the court was incredible," he said, emotionally, after the victory. "It's a dream I'm starting to fulfill. This is still going on and I don't want to wake up."
Born in Bragado 24 years ago, Olivieri, ranked 231st, is part of that talented new generation of players led by Francisco Cerúndolo, 23rd in the world. Genaro started playing tennis after a doctor advised his parents to take him to sports to combat his high cholesterol. He soon stood out among the boys in his category and very quickly earned the badge of "great Argentine promise".
In those early years, his fascination with Nadal was born. He liked Spanish so much that he even copied the looks to go out on the court.
"I dressed like him. It was difficult because in Argentina you couldn't get the long pants I wore. Then I bought a Nike pants a larger size, which was longer and made some roll so that I did not fall and I could play comfortably. All to be more like Nadal. He had muscular too. And then when he started playing with short sleeves, I switched to short sleeves. He was my idol and always will be. There is no explanation for what the skinny one got. It's impressive," he said a few days ago in a chat with the BATennis.com site.
And, laughing, he added: "I was sad when I found out I wasn't going to play in Paris this year. How crazy it would have been to face him here, a crazy thing! I would have played the whole game crying."
Olivieri was one of the best juniors of his litter. He won three titles (all in 2015) and reached the eighth step of the ITF world rankings in June 2016, the year in which he played all four Grand Slams and signed his best performance with the quarters of Roland Garros.
Olivieri played the junior tournament at Roland Garros in 2016 and reached the quarterfinals. Photo Getty Images
He was also an ATP advancer. He got his first point in August 2014 at the Future de La Rioja. To measure their precocity, Fran Cerúndolo and Tomás Etcheverry -two who today are already entrenched among the best in the ranking- did so two years later. And when Genaro got into the first 1,000 of the classification, in December 2016, the porteño was 1,930° and the platense, 1,756°.
His good performances caught the attention of Daniel Orsanic, then Director of Development of the AAT and Argentine Davis Cup captain, who took him as a sparring to the series that the albiceleste team, with Juan Martín Del Potro at the head, won Italy for the quarterfinals, on its way to the unforgettable consecration.
During that duel in Pesaro, he told Clarín that he was very excited to make the leap to professionalism. "The most important moment of the race starts, the strawberry of the dessert. But I'm not afraid, because I've been preparing for that all my life," he said. But the transition cost him more than he expected.
He progressed, but at a slower pace than the other boys in his age group (Will the difference in size have influenced? Olivieri is barely 1.70 meters tall). Only in 2019 did he manage to add his first titles in the (former) Future circuit. In his eighth final, he won an M15 in Buenos Aires in July, when he was 649th in the rankings. And in November, as the 481st, he celebrated in an M25 in Naples.
In April 2021 he suffered a very hard blow: his father, Carlos Olivieri, renowned Argentine pelotari and the greatest promoter of his career, died. Genaro thought about quitting tennis, but he got up and in 2022 he took a big leap.
Olivieri and his joy for his first title on the Challenger Tour. Photo Instagram @genaolivieri4
In November he finally conquered his first Challenger, in Montevideo, with a very hard victory in the final against Etcheverry, who was already 85th, and days later he appeared in the 190th step of the ranking, his best position until today. Victory in the debut in Paris secured him 191st place and one more win – he will clash with Andrea Vavassori (148th) in the second round – would allow him to break his own ceiling and get closer to the top 100 goal he set for this year.
"My dad supported me anyway, from psychologically to financially, in the end I even knew about tennis... He pushed me a lot, he wanted me to play more than me. He was my running and life partner. When he passed away I didn't want to play again, I had no motivation, but I came back and when I entered the court I had a sacred fire. Because I think from somewhere he's watching me and enjoying me," she said.
Olivieri – who last February won his third ITF title in Tucumán – had returned to enjoy on a court, but had a pending account: the ATP circuit. He had played last year the qualys of Wimbledon and the US Open and in January that of Australia, without being able to overcome them. Also the one in Houston, last April, again without luck. But he arrived in Paris confident, won all three matches of the previous phase – he gave up a single set, in the third round against Adrian Andreev – and fulfilled the dream of getting into the main draw of the French Major.
He did not settle and on Tuesday celebrated his first triumph at the highest level of professional tennis in the brick dust of Bois de Boulogne. There, where his idol Nadal bathed in glory 14 times and with the strength that his father sends him from heaven, Genaro Olivieri took a huge step in his career. But the dream at Roland Garros has just begun and he doesn't want to wake up.