The “Chinese” Marcelo Ríos was born to play tennis. At the age of nine he grabbed the racket and did not release it anymore. As he hated going to school, after talking to his family, he stopped attending and devoted himself full time to his passion. That attitude added to the innate talent led him to be the first Ibero-American tennis player to reach that position.
In 1990 he left his land to make the leap. He moved to Florida, United States, to train at the academy of Nick Bollettieri, an experienced talent scout, responsible for the beginnings of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier, among others.
In 1993 the “Chinese” obtained his first great achievement. He finished the season as the number 1 tennis player in the world in the junior category, after winning the Milo Cup, The US Open, the Japan Open and the Eddie Herr tournament, as well as the vice-championship in the Sunshine Cup and the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl .
In 1995, at the age of 19, Ríos would achieve his first adult title at the Bologna Tournament. After winning other tournaments and reaching the final of the Santiago ATP, he would end the year as No. 25 in the world. The following year he would have a great performance in the Masters series tournaments, ending the year as number 11 in the world and in 1997, after having outstanding performances in the Australian Grand Slam and the US Open and winning the final of the Monte Carlo Super 9 tournament, would end the season as Top Ten.
His final consecration would be in 1998. On March 29 he won the final of the Key Biscayne tournament against Andre Agassi by sets 7-5, 6-3 and 6-4, making a dream come true that he had cherished since childhood: to become the number 1 tennis player in the world in the ATP ranking. Thus he overthrew Pete Sampras, who had a streak of 102 consecutive weeks as number one and five years ending as season leader.
After all, he would spend four consecutive weeks looking at everyone from the top of the classification, a place that he kept until mid-April (later that same year he would be 15 more days at the top of the ranking, in the month of August).
In the following years, the rebellious injuries, especially to the back, gradually diminished the performance of “Chino”, who decided to withdraw forever from the professional circuit in 2004, when he was only 27 years old, but not before arriving with Chile to the Davis Cup world group, win the Team World Cup with Fernando González and Nicolás Massú, and obtain the Silver medal in the Pan American Games.
Two years later, Ríos would return to the fields to play the exclusive ATP Champions Tour veterans circuit. He would win 8 consecutive tournaments, ending the Senior season as World No. 1 in the category and with a streak of 25 consecutive wins. In this way, the Chilean would become the only player in the history of professional tennis to be No. 1 in the world as a youth, professional and senior.
The “Chino”, after all, in his cycle as a professional would win 18 ATP tournaments, reaching the final in another 13 competitions. In addition, he was the first player in history to win the three Masters on clay in 1999 (Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg), although it should be noted that he is the only player who, having achieved No. 1 in the ATP world ranking, failed win a Grand Slam tournament.