This past August, the Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra found himself outside of his usual element: on court at the US Open, chest-bumping his friend Carlos Alcaraz, then the No. 1-ranked tennis player in the world. The two had met at a previous Open, and now here they were, back in Queens for an exhibition doubles match, taking on American tennis star Frances Tiafoe and Miami Heat showman Jimmy Butler.
“I thought it was a cool challenge: Let me see if I can do this whole match at the US Open and not have it be totally pathetic,” Yatra says over a cup of coffee, out on the patio of a house up in the Hollywood Hills that his team prefers when they’re in LA.
It wasn’t pathetic. Yatra and Alcaraz won, and Yatra has continued to serve, on courts all over the world. “I’m actually pissed off at this city right now. We’ve been trying to play tennis here but it’s hard. You go to the tennis court and people are playing pickleball. Like, I’m sorry to all people that play pickleball,” he says, earnestly and with deliberate civility. “But I can’t respect that.”
He appreciates the satisfaction in tennis. How it’s not just about how physically capable you are, but how smart; a mental game where high-performance players, like solo artists, travel constantly and expose their lives to scrutiny. They depend on the teams around them, but ultimately earn glory or take criticism on their own.
“Carlos is super natural,” Yatra says, with heartfelt admiration. “He knows what he wants and he gets it, but without unhealthy ambition.” When you have something you love, there’s joy in just wanting to be the best you can, no matter the external validation.
Yatra is in Los Angeles to work on his not-yet-titled fourth album. His hair, once styled skyward, is now cropped tight on the sides. Tonight, he plans on taking his team to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios — “It’s so scary,” he promises — but mostly he’s spending his time here running in the morning, clocking in at the studio, and going to bed before 10. As prep for his upcoming cover shoot wraps, he quietly tucks off to a sun-lit corner to read a book.