The secret of the Lapenttis' success

Letter from quito, ecuador

Images of an overjoyed Giovanni Lapentti raising his racket in victory covered the front pages and television screens in Ecuador following the tiny Andean nation's Davis Cup victory over Great Britain at Wimbledon earlier last Sunday. But it was the spectacle of hero-worshipping fans overwhelming their new champion as he returned home that will linger in the minds of most people.

Images of an overjoyed Giovanni Lapentti raising his racket in victory covered the front pages and television screens in Ecuador following the tiny Andean nation's Davis Cup victory over Great Britain at Wimbledon earlier last Sunday. But it was the spectacle of hero-worshipping fans overwhelming their new champion as he returned home that will linger in the minds of most people.

Interest levels in tennis have surged here following the victory which took Ecuador back to the World Group of the Davis Cup after 15 years' absence and the Lapentti brothers, Giovanni and Nicolas, have earned themselves major celebrity status. At a recent charity function, the shirt Giovanni wore when beating Arvind Parmar at Wimbledon was auctioned off for $4,000 (£2,685).

Giovanni, at 17 years of age the younger of the two, was ranked only 959th in the world, compared to his 23-year-old brother's ranking of No 18. That their triumph came on grass, and not on clay, the most commonly found South American playing surface, made the success all the more remarkable. There is only one grass court in the whole of Ecuador, and Giovanni had only a month's experience of playingon grass before his victory atWimbledon.

Hundreds of fans swarmed outside the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador's principal seaport, to welcome home the Wimbledon winners. At the same time, on all the principal avenues of Guayaquil, Quito and far beyond, cars were forming convoys and honking their horns in celebration.

At a packed press conference at the airport, Giovanni told reporters how, when he was two sets down to Arvind Parmar, he "suddenly felt lit up by something indescribable" and began to play with a patience and cool-headed mentality, that he had never before experienced.

"I still cannot believe it. I keep seeing mental images of that game and I cannot define what went through my head. I completed my dream of playing with Nico in the Davis Cup. To start out with atriumph is very important. What I am feeling is indescribable," he said.

Raul Viver, the captain of the Ecuadorian team, said that the victory at Wimbledon was a dream come true. "I have found the ideal doubles team to play Davis Cup: the Lapentti brothers are the present and the future of Ecuadorian tennis," he said. The mayor of Guayaquil, Leon Febres Cordero, said the Lapentti brothers were an example to youth and "have let the world know that Ecuador is a land of champions".

In the aftermath of the victory, Giovanni has spoken of how the enormity of his achievement in beating Parmar is only just beginning to sink in. "The emotion and happiness I feel, which I share with the whole country, is immense," he said. "What I feel is really indescribable... the most moving thing that has happened to me in my whole life is to play for my country and defend it as I did."

As youngsters, the Lapentti brothers began playing tennis in the grounds of the Guayaquil Club, where their father played basketball. Their first great coach was Andres Gomez, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 1984 and winner of the 1990 French Open, where he defeated Andre Agassi. At 40, he still is a formidable player on the senior circuit, but is considered a clay-court specialist.

Yet the Lapenttis' victory at Wimbledon cannot be considered a complete fluke. As well as Gomez, Ecuadorian tennis has produced other great champions, notably Pancho "Sneaky" Segura in the 1950s.

Victor Hugo Araujo, a leading Ecuadorian sports writer, says that the potential shown by the Lapenttis confirms that individual sport in his country is far stronger than team games. He cites Jefferson Perez, the Olympic gold medal winning runner, and a host of others South American champions in everything from swimming to chess to prove his point. The secret? Long-term planning and investment in young athletes from an early age, the sort of priorities recently recommended by TimHenman to turn around Britain'sélitist game.

Ecuador is also consumed by football fever as the national side prepares for vital World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Argentina, but as Giovanni Lapentti declared with satisfaction: "Football is the No 1 sport of Ecuador, with the biggest following. But it is tennis, athletics, and swimming that have scored the most victories for our country."

"Some people are comparing it to Andres Gomez winning Roland Garros in 1990", said Nicolas Lapentti. "It was a very long weekend, and it's tough to watch your little brother being down 0-2 [in sets] in the decisive match. It's completely different from watching a team-mate. After I lost to Tim Henman, I told Giovanni that he was in a situation that a lot of players want to be in and that he should just enjoy it. After the match he said that he'd seen how disappointed I was after losing, and he wanted to win the fifth match for me."

They are sentiments which are not likely to be forgotten by his fellow countrymen in Ecuador for a long time.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little