In November, some of the best tennis players of the modern era gathered in Santiago for a special testimonial match. The beneficiary? None other than Olympic double gold-medallist Nicolás Massú, also known affectionately as El Vampiro, “The Vampire.”
More than 10,000 spectators turned out for the event in Santiago’s Movistar Arena to witness the Chilean sports star bid farewell to the game and call an end to a career spanning 16 years, six titles and 32 Davis Cup wins.
A testament to Massú’s standing in the game, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world respectively — paid their respects to the Chilean player by treating those in attendance to a close-call match in which the Serbian player ultimately triumphed 7-6, 6-4.
Also in attendance was Argentine David Nalbandian. The former world No.3 played against Massú in what was to be yet another showcase display of top-flight tennis from two heavyweights of the sport.
Speaking before the game, Massú revealed his emotions as he prepared to retire from a sport that has been central to his life since he was a young boy.
“I can’t believe it. On my farewell night Nadal and Djokovic will be there to help me say goodbye, and someone who was ranked No. 3 in the world, like Nalbandian. I don’t know how I will react,” Massú told press.
In attendance for this emotional farewell was an array of well-known figures including President Sebastián Piñera, soccer legend Marcelo Salas and fellow Chilean tennis great Fernando González. The atmosphere seemed to get to these celebrity figures, too. When, in Massú’s game against Nalbandian, the Chilean player came from behind to win the second set sporting legends and political figures alike were seen to leap to their feet to applaud El Vampiro’s triumph.
Massú has also made headlines recently after the Olympic double gold-medallist was announced as captain of Chile’s Davis Cup team. Alongside González, Massú will hope to steer the next generation of tennis players to the kind of success they both achieved in their own careers.