Spain's Tennis Talent

Fernando Verdasco’s Rise to Success


Fernando Verdasco at the Davis Cup
Fernando Verdasco celebrates one of his many Davis Cup victories
It was another great Sony Ericsson tennis tournament in Miami with the usual suspects, including Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, but this year SocialMiami had the privilege to meet a new star on the scene, Spanish sensation Fernando Verdasco.

Verdasco has received a lot of attention of late because of his quick rise into the top 10 and unique style on and off the court. The stylish 25 year old has a great game but also great looks and a charismatic personality that seems to attract more female fans than the normal tennis star. After seeing all the excitement around the young Spaniard, SocialMiami was fortunate to find out what’s behind the buzz.

It all started when Verdasco was one year old and his grandfather would seat him in front of the television and turn on the tennis to stop his crying; a smile appeared every time he watched tennis on TV. He loved running around the tennis court and listening to the sound of the ball when older people would play. In fact, whenever he was taken away from the court, he started crying.

Fernando Verdasco
When the dream began: two years old with a tennis racquet

Fernando Verdasco at the Davis Cup
Fernando Verdasco exults after his winning shot delivers Spain the Davis Cup Championship

At age two, he could already pick up a racquet and hit the ball over the net, while the rest of the kids his age were only interested in playing soccer or watching TV. Instead of watching cartoons with his friends, he would watch matches of Agassi and McEnroe.

Verdasco started taking lessons at age four. When he was 10, he was enrolled in a tennis academy near his home and early stages of his potential were realized. By age 15, the Spanish federation gave him a scholarship and he moved to Barcelona where he won the Spanish championship under 16 and began to win many tournaments.

From the dream of a child to present day reality, Verdasco is currently the eighth-ranked player in the world, the second best player in Spain and one of the primary contenders for Rafa Nadal’s throne as the top player in the world. A fellow Spaniard of Nadal, Verdasco showed his power under pressure during the Davis Cup where he delivered a win in the final match to make Spain the world champions.

Since the huge win at the Davis Cup, Verdasco has continued to roll on the crest of a wave that led him to the quarterfinals of Indian Wells and Miami and the semi-finals of the Australian Open where he faced Nadal in a record-breaking five set match.

His historic semifinal match against Nadal at the Australian Open occured after he defeated Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Andy Murray and he was a mere two points away from beating the eventual champion, Rafa Nadal, in a five set thriller which was the longest match in the history of the Australian Open. Verdasco’s reputation was clearly on the rise. (View highlights of this historic Australian Open match.)

Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco at the Australia Open
Nadal embraces Fernando Verdasco after their record-breaking Australia Open duel

After the Davis Cup win and the historic match at the Australian Open, people are saying Verdasco is a legitimate threat to Nadal’s reign as the number-one ranked player in the world. One thing is for sure, this head-to-head match-up of these Spanish conquistadors who fight like bulls is a fan favorite that has attracted new spectators to the sport.

Spanish fans have a hard time picking between the low-key Nadal or the spirited Verdasco, and many refuse to take sides. Alejandro Sanz, the most award-winning Spanish musician in history, came out to the Miami tournament to support both of his friends, along with other Spanish celebrities including Shakira and Paulina Rubio.

While Nadal and Verdasco have a lot in common, more people have compared Verdasco to Andre Agassi, which is no surprise since Agassi is a mentor of his. Verdasco’s been working in Las Vegas with Agassi and his team including Darren Cahill (Agassi’s former coach) and Gil Reyes (Agassi’s fitness coach). Verdasco spent December and January with this dream team preparing for a big year.

“Agassi was my idol when I was young,” said Verdasco. “Now, you have your idol telling you what to do, telling you what he thinks is better for you. It helps a lot.”

During Agassi’s reign, he was in the top 10 for a long time due to great conditioning and a big heart. Verdasco shares that same spirit of determination and fitness regimen, which will probably keep him in the spotlight for a long time as well. Both Agassi and Verdasco are sponsored by Adidas and are big targets for sponsors because of their good looks and unforgettable personalities.

Gil Reyes, Fernando Verdasco, Andre Agassi
Fernando Verdasco flanked by fitness trainer Gil Reyes and Andre Agassi

Fernando Verdasco, Rafael Nadal
Nadal and Fernando Verdasco support organizations and sports for the physically challenged

“He is one of the most dynamic players in the world and has a personality that people remember,” said Ryan Wolfington, director of USTA Nevada. “Most importantly, he is a leader on and off the court. He has dedicated a lot of time to working with underprivileged kids to help them use tennis to learn about life and to rise above their circumstances.”

Verdasco’s training with Agassi, Cahill and Reyes paid off big as he quickly reached the top 10. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to work with all these unbelievable people,” explained Verdasco. “They helped me physically and technically. They help me a lot.”

Verdasco spent the entire month of December and the beginning of this year with Agassi and his team getting ready for the tennis season.

“Being away from my family during Christmas was really hard for me. I have always been with them during the holidays. Over the years I didn't play the first week of the year, because if I play these tournaments in Chennai or Adelaide, I cannot be with my family for Christmas and New Year's.”

Verdasco is known on the tour as a family man. While he is not married, he is devoted to his family who has traveled with him around the world from a young age. His parents, little sisters, aunts, uncles and close friends provide a support system that has enabled him to stay grounded as his career has taken off.

When asked whether he is eager to displace Rafa Nadal as the number-one player in the world, Verdasco responded, “Rafa is an amazing player and I respect him very much. For me, I want to give 100 percent in every moment of every match. I just want to do things right and try to win every match every day.”

Related websites
· See photos of Fernando Verdasco in Miami.
· Video of Verdasco and Octagon Team Tennis
· The historic Verdasco vs Nadal Australian Open match
· Verdasco's official website, www.FernandoVerdasco.com