Nicolás Massú, whose mother is Jewish, was born on
October 10, 1979, in Viña Del Mar, Chile. He earned his nickname, Vampiro (Spanish for vampire), for his intensity on the tennis court.
He began his professonal tennis career in 1997. His
first full-year on the ATP tour was 2000 when he was a finalist in a
tournament in Orlando and competed in three of the four Grand Slam events
(French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open).
Nicolás also competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
In the men’s tennis singles competition in Sydney, he defeated Slava
Dosedel of the Czech Republic in the first round (6-2, 7-6), but was
eliminated in the second round by Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain (4-6,
6-7). Massú then played in the doubles competition with Chileans were
eliminated in the first round after losing to Korea (3-6, 4-6).
In 2001, he competed in the Australian Open, French
Open, and Wimbledon. In 2002, he won the first singles title of his
Massú had an oustanding year in 2003, and his performance
at the Tennis Masters tournament catapulted the player to the top 20.
He won his third career singles title -- and second of the year -- at
the Palermo Open in late September, and is currently the top-ranked
male Jewish player in the world, holding the No. 14 spot as of August
Massú won gold in both the singles and doubles event
at the 2004 Athens Games. Nicolás was overwhelmed that he had won two
gold medals: “I was so happy because this is my best memory in
my sport career. If I look back in 10 more years, I look back on this,
I’m gonna be so happy. Now I can die happy.” In the 2004 Athens
games, Massú teamed up with his countryman Fernando Gonzalez in the
doubles event. After an easy first round victory, the Chilean team faced
Argentines Martin Rodriguez and Gaston Etlis and defeated them 6-3,
7-6 (2) in the second round. Then, the Chilean team pulled off one of
the biggest upsets of the competition in the quarterfinals by defeating
the top ranked team in the Olympics, Bob and Mike Bryan of the U.S. in
two sets (7-5, 6-4). They played Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic (Croatia)
in the semi-finals on August 19 and defeated them 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. Gonzalez
and Massú beat Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the
Olympic gold match 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4.
Massú was ecstatic to win gold: “Well, to be
here and to compete for the medal and get the gold is unbelievable.
Of course, it’s the happiest day of my life as an athlete. To play tennis
all week, to win a medal, to enter into the history of our country.
I think it’s a dream for anyone.” The Olympic doubles was the first
major title Nicolás has ever won, as well as the first gold medal by
any Chilean in Olympic history.
In the singles event, Massú was ranked 10th overall
and stunned the tournament by winning the gold medal. He faced former
world no.1, Gustavo Kuerten in the first round, on August 16. Massú
beat him 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 and was drawn to play Vincent Spadea (23 in the
world) in the second round. After a very tough first set, Nicolás coasted
in the second and beat the talented American 7-6 (3), 6-2. The Chilean
ace played Igor Andreev (ranked 55 in the world) in the third round
and beat him 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in an epic battle. The quarterfinal draw
threw up Carlos Moya, ranked fourth in the world and a favorite for
gold. The Chilean upset Moya 6-2, 7-5 in a dazzling display of skill.
Nicolás beat American upstart Taylor Dent in the semi’s 7-5, 6-1. Massú
completed an amazing gold medal double by defeating Mardy Fish (ranked
36 in the world) of the U.S. 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Chilean won
Chile’s second gold medal in less then 24 hours. Nicolás looked fatigued
through much of the match, as he had played more then one match on most
days and played a five set doubles final the day before. However, he
mustered a memorable performance in both the fourth and fifth sets,
just as he seemed to be on the proverbial ropes.
Though Massú’s ranking of 131st was too low to qualify him for a 2008 Olympic seat, he was one of 12 athletes awarded special places by the International Tennis Federation to participate in the singles competition in Beijing.
Introduced to tennis when he was 5 by his grandfather, he became a competitive junior tennis player and entered the professional circuit in 1997, at the age of 18. Raised Jewish, Massú competed in the Maccabi Games in Israel in 2001.
Massu has six career titles and won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Sources: Jews In
Sports; The Forward (August 8, 2008), Wikipedia