In 2019 Salvatore Caruso achieved excellent results and reached the Top 100 after the third round at Roland Garros (defeated by Novak Djokovic). The Italian tennis player also won a Challenger in Barcelona by beating Jozef Kovalik in the final.
He has won 5 ITF Futures singles titles and 4 ITF Futures and one ATP Challenger doubles titles in his career. In a new entry in Behind the Racquet's photo-essay series, Caruso opened up on his tough times growing up: “My family didn’t have a great financial start when I first played tennis.
I had to start from zero. Growing up in a really small town in Sicily was not easy. There wasn’t a very large culture for sports. I began in a really small club with only two courts. When the coaches at my club told my father that I had potential he didn’t believe them.
He thought they were just trying to get us back for our money. Playing tennis in Sicily was so strange that I was even made fun of for it. They would call me ‘Salvo the Strange’ solely because I played a different sport than everyone else.
I was constantly made fun of and it did hurt. I now have amazing friends through tennis, which was worth it. It was never easy for me to go a different path. My family had generations of men who owned this one shop. They sold bedding and underwear in the city of Avola.
It started with my great grandfather, to my grandfather and sadly will probably end with my father. I had a mentality that others could not understand. My mother was a teacher and for her the most important thing was for me to grow as a person first, not a tennis player.
She forced me to finish high school before we made a deal. She told me ‘You can take some time to play tennis, a year or year and a half, but when you’re done or things aren’t going well with supporting yourself you have to find a job’.
We never knew how far I could go in tennis because I didn’t really have a great junior career since I was studying all the time. I was only playing local tournaments and you have to understand that Sicily isn’t really Italy.
It wasn’t the perfect place to grow as a tennis player. I give a lot of credit to my father who helped get me where I am today by believing in my tennis even though it wasn’t the same path as my family. I really wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for either of them.
Today times are changing. My family store, which was doing very well is not doing the same business as it once did. It must be a very tough thing to accept but even if I wasn’t playing tennis I am sure my father knew the store would be soon gone.
We would all like to continue my grandfather’s legacy with the store, who died before I was born from Alzheimers, but tennis is my dream. When you're coming from a small town and accomplish something you feel like everyone is supporting you.
We have 32,000 people, which isn’t as many people as you think. I know almost everything and everyone from my town. Whether I am at the bar or a restaurant I have people coming up and saying, ‘Come on, let's do this.
You can get to the top’. My family and I try to stay as humble as possible. Even after all the matches I have played my mother has only seen me play three times because she cannot handle the pressure. As the Italians say you always have to keep one foot on the floor”.