From volleyball under the net to pioneering the sportswear brand. Giordano Maioli of Piacenza He knew how to handle a bat with talent, but he also knew how to handle a bat with talent, as well as contracts and sponsorships. The 78-year-old was the Italian Junior Champion for two consecutive years and in 1966 won the absolute Italian tennis championship. In doubles he was a four-time Italian champion. He has won the title twice, including mixed doubles. In his career, he won six college medals and played 19 times in the Davis Cup. In 1972 he was a non-player captain for the national team. He has been doing business with the brand since 1977 “Australian”, who later became CEO. The company, which is based between Milan and Gorgonzola (many Piacentines work there), is now led by sons Lorenzo and Andrea, 39 and 36. We met him for a fun chat At the club “Nino Bixio” in Piacenza.
- Maioli, we must necessarily start by saying goodbye to Roger Federer on the field. Who is this sport for?
It was just “tennis”. It cannot be said that he was the strongest, because in this case, the results, the numbers, are important. But he was the best and most impressive, colleagues say. Rod Laver, the only one to win two Grand Slams, considers it a huge honor compared to Federer.
- Federer, Nadal, Djokovic: Of the three modern holy “monsters” who is your favourite?
Swiss sure, you never get tired of watching it. In the past, there were other very good players to watch, but they weren’t as strong and successful as he is. I first met him in Milan: he was 16, long-haired, quick-tempered, a completely different kind than today. Then he “made peace” and became a gentleman on the field. Also psychologically trained.
- How much has tennis changed since you played today?
The position of the player is the same, but the technical side has changed dramatically. Starting with the tool. Then there is preparation and professionalism. Once there were 50 very good players, today there are 300. The level has gone up a lot, the competition is fiercer, it’s hard to emerge. The talents in my life alone were enough, now you have to work on them a lot, otherwise you will not be able to do it. The Three Beasts is a talented, but hard-working phenomenon and super-athlete: Federer and Nadal are 1.86 tall and Djokovic 1.88. In my day 1.80 players were quite high, the average was 1.75. It is the evolution of the species, even the sport adapts.
- Which player was Maioli?
A mid-range player, say between number 30 and 40 in the world. Regular, born on the ground, knew how to adapt to the grass and speed. As well as on wood!
- Was she also playing on the parquet?
There was an event, the “King of Sweden Cup”, which was also played on the PalaLido Parque in Milan. The ball ran very fast, and today that would be impossible.
- A sports chief practicing individual sport is under pressure.
Individual sports don’t give you excuses. The advantage is that if you deserve it, you win. In team sport, there are several factors: the coach, the club … Let’s think of Djokovic at the US Open last year, when he failed in the Grand Slam: he does not play for money, he was frustrated with the defeat. Feel everything magnified, including fear. When you have the audience clapping for each other and whistling at you, it’s hard. It is not true that playing with 500 people or 5 thousand is the same thing. When you have a lot of audience, you feel it and suffer from it. Just as the applause of 10,000 fans is different from 100.
- Maioli and tennis, when love cast?
I started playing late, but it was love at first sight. My father loved tennis, when I was thirteen I gave the first shots to Vitorino. Two years later I went to Nino Bixio. It was an elite sport: four stadiums across town, split between these two clubs, and nothing else. I was fortunate enough to get into a sport that suited me.
- Is it a popular sport today?
Tennis schools are recruiting a lot more than in the past, with hundreds of kids enrolling in them. The Milan Tennis Club has 600 children, and they serve many teachers and playgrounds. Many have quit, some are progressing, and some are trying to become a player. In my opinion, some very early choose to devote themselves full time to dreaming big. Talent and mentality are needed, to be a professional you must have a “special head”.
- Did you feel the most intense in the blue jersey at the Davis Cup?
I’m just saying this: When Davis was shown on the field and the Mameli anthem was played, I was sweating. It is a strong feeling that you feel in your skin. An emotion that unfortunately can also hurt: when you lose you feel more defeated, just as you do when you win, you enjoy more.
- Former Davis friends Banatta, Bertolucci, Barazzotti and Zugarelli are back on top of the wave thanks to the documentary Sky on Davis…
It’s great, I lived that legendary epic of Italian tennis on the edge, they are my friends. Before the victory in Davis, the shooters were played in Pescara: Barazzotti won the singles, and Oklippo and I won the double. I remember well the controversy over the participation in Chile and the engagement with Petrangelli. If he wasn’t there they wouldn’t have gone to play in Chile, he was good at spending the final and avoiding the boycott.
- He stopped playing early, at 24, and found a job…
I stopped being a full-time tennis player at that age, but I still made tournaments. Oddly enough, as a non-professional, I played better and had successes, because I was mentally freer. I won the Italian title in doubles with Petrangelli and mixed with Lea Pericoli. I had seven years of hands-on experience, then at 29 I became a non-playing Davis Cup captain. At that moment, two companies, one for rackets and one for sportswear, wanted me to work in the commercial segment. The first ran for a year, the second was not over yet: it was “L’Alpina Maglierie sportive” with the “Australian” brand.
- With Sergio Tacchini I was a competitor in singles, companions in doubles, and then again in the world of sportswear.
crazy. In 66 he played a double role with me, and in 67 he founded the company. Ten years later I also arrived, in ’77.
- What is an ‘Australian’ brand?
He was born in 56, at that time only Lacoste and Fred Perry were engaged in tennis. Initially he also dealt with basketball and skiing (we were the technical sponsor of some European national teams), but we chose to focus solely on tennis. Today it has sixty employees – the factory is in Gorgonzola – but the packaging is outsourced. The most important part is fabric composition, pattern design and cutting. We do almost everything in Italy. We try to keep everything here.
- You operate in a market dominated by global giants…
About 35 years ago, the big brands, Nike and Adidas, made their way well into China and Asia. We are a niche company that offers a more specialized product. But here we are. Tacchini, Fila and Ellesse were all Italian and today they are no longer: there was a moment when 50 Italian brands were in business. Either they went bankrupt or they were bought by foreigners.
- You had many testimonials. Who are you most connected to?
I remained a friend to all the guys, but Evan Lendl stayed in my heart. We took him when he was 16 and remember he was the ball boy in the King of Sweden’s Cup in Ostrava, in then Czechoslovakia. Well, that football boy of mine, five years later, is No. 1. Goran Ivanisevic was an Australian 16-21-year-old before joining Takeni. He lost the Wimbledon 92 final with “My Stuff”. On the other hand, Peter Korda won the Australian Open with us in 98.
- Are you trying to spot the young talent in “dressing up”, waiting for Nike and Adidas?
I no longer look for them, but if I see them, I recognize them. I notice a good style right away, but before investing in a very young guy, I have to spend a lot of time with him, to know his human qualities and mentality. Four or five years ago, I talked to Riccardo Piatti about Jank Sener, and it was clear that he was going to be strong, and everyone saw him. The meeting was postponed for a month and in the meantime he signed with Nike.
Twice a weekend, but no games, just some quirks between friends, and no more competitive spirit.
- Every day he goes to Milan to work, but in the evenings he always returns to Piacenza.
I don’t want to stay in Milan, I’m fine in our city, where I was born. I’ve traveled the world and found that the quality of life is not as bad as it is said. We criticize our reality, feel a little sorry for ourselves, that’s how we are made of character. I did not leave 50 years ago when I was among the top 8 students in the world, I was offered to study in American colleges with a scholarship. Not to mention now.