Daniel Altmaier is the first lucky loser to reach the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals since his opponent in the last eight, Borna Coric, in 2017. The German may have needed a slice of fortune to acquire his spot in the main draw in the Spanish capital, but his dream ATP Masters 1000 run can be seen as just reward for his years of hard work battling back from shoulder and hip problems.
As an 18-year-old in mid-2017, Altmaier climbed as high as No. 210 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after reaching his first ATP Tour quarter-final in Antalya. Yet an injury-plagued 2018, during which he competed in just three professional tournaments, disrupted his progress. It was not until late 2020 that he reached that mark again, en route to his career-high of No. 53 in May 2022.
“I really got to know my body,” Altmaier told ATPTour.com last year when asked if any positives had come out of his difficult journey back. “I really put a lot of effort into doing my research and understanding the change of the body. For example, if your calf is hurting, where is the potential? Is your ankle wrong or is it coming from the hip?
“I really started to understand those changes and I really wanted to know what was happening. Now, I think I feel much better about understanding my body.”
An unforgettable moment for @daniel_altmaier 🤩@MutuaMadridOpen | #MMOpen pic.twitter.com/mBvopbsuWG
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 2, 2023
All that time off the court gave Altmaier more time at home to enjoy one of his favourite hobbies: fishing. An activity he mostly undertakes with his father, Altmaier cites the experience of waiting for a catch as a nice contrast to his life on the tennis court. That does not mean it is any less intense, however.
“I think most people probably think that you just go fishing and wait until something happens,” said Altmaier. “I think our fishing is different because it has a little bit of strategy. It depends on the weather and how active the fish is.
“I would say it’s kind of like professional fishing because my dad really is obsessed with those things and knows exactly about the temperature, the weather conditions, how high the water is in rivers, for example. All those things make a big difference. I find that really interesting and it’s totally something else to what we do in tennis. It’s something fantastic.”
So has he ever taken advantage of the global nature of the ATP Tour to discover other fishing spots around the world?
“I fish mostly at home with my dad, because we can fish trout,” said Altmaier. “In the ocean in Mexico or maybe somewhere in the United States [would be good], though, fishing for tuna or something like this. It would be exciting one day but so far I haven’t done it. There are a lot of countries, so let’s see.”
The fact Altmaier has stayed healthy for the past two years may have reduced his time relaxing by the river at home, but it has allowed the 24-year-old to establish himself more securely at the top of the game. Since returning to the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in November 2021, the German has spent only seven weeks outside that group.
His run this week in Madrid, where he defeated countrymen Oscar Otte and Yannick Hanfmann before dropping just three games against home favourite Jaume Munar, has lifted Altmaier 31 spots to No. 61 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. It is a more-than-useful springboard for the rest of his 2023 season, especially considering his belief that he can do damage on all surfaces.
“Maybe I have the most experience on clay,” said Altmaier, who defeated Matteo Berrettini on the way to the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2020. “Definitely the most matches if you see my stats probably, but I do enjoy every part of the circuit because I think my game suits any surface. I really want to take advantage of this as well. I maybe have more experience on clay, but I wouldn’t pick one favourite surface.”