Cuevas makes it two in a row in Brazil
Pablo Cuevas was dominant throughout the Brazilian fortnight. A week after his win in Rio de Janeiro, the Uruguayan successfully defended his crown in Sao Paulo. This was the fifth ATP title in the 30-year-old’s career, with all of them having come on clay, making Cuevas definitely a man to keep an eye on once the European swing begins in a month’s time before eventually culminating in Roland-Garros.
11 wins, one single defeat and two titles – Pablo Cuevas certainly enjoyed his time on the South-American clay, winning in Rio de Janeiro (ATP 500) and Sao Paulo (ATP 250) in the space of a fortnight and making himself one of the dark horses for the forthcoming European clay swing. The sole Uruguayan in the top 500 in the world (with the only other one in the top 1000 being his younger brother Martin!) is now as high as seventh in the Race to London, as well as being back in the top 25 in the world.
Having celebrated his 30th birthday on 1 January, Cuevas is enjoying an Indian summer in more ways than one. After getting to within touching distance of the top 50 in 2011, he suffered a serious injury to his right knee which kept him out of action from May 2011 until April 2013. Far from being downhearted, the Uruguayan always fervently believed that he would be able to make a comeback. "Looking at things from a positive point of view, the injuries came when I was making progress, so I had a feeling that I still had the potential to do even more,” he said in a recent interview with Argentinean website Rosario Plus. “I thought that if I got the right treatment and managed to get fit again, I would be able to raise my game. And when I came back, I was convinced that I was going to take it to the next level."
"The tour became a lot easier when I had my wife and daughter with me"
2014 proved to be the turning point in both the career and the personal life of the man who shot to fame by winning the men’s doubles at Roland-Garros with Luis Horna in 2008. Having fallen outside the top 1000 in the world after missing the best part of three seasons, he started from scratch and made hay on his favourite surface, winning two clay Challenger tournaments (in Baranquilla and Mestre) in early 2014 before doing likewise on the pro circuit at Umag and Bastad, finishing the season ranked No.30.
This excellent year was made even better by the birth of his daughter Alfonsina in October 2014. And rather than throwing him off his rhythm, it seems to have given him the balance that he needed on the circuit with his family coming with him as he travels from one stop to another on the ATP circuit. "I found out that I was going to be a father the week I won in Barranquilla,” he said to Rosario Plus, “and from that point onwards, I started to win my first ATP titles. The Tour actually became a lot easier when I had my wife and daughter with me, because when you’re alone and things aren’t going well, all you can think of doing is going back home."
Pablo Cuevas en familia en el Lawn Tennis. pic.twitter.com/CVu8ZdAPCW— Argentina Open (@ArgentinaOpen) 6 février 2016
Heading over for the European swing with the top 15 in his sights
Cuevas, who now has Alberto Mancini as his full-time coach since the end of 2015 after working off and on with the Argentinean since his return from injury, has five ATP titles to his name and is looking to repeat the feat at more prestigious events. "My aim this year after preparing well with Mancini back in Rosario is to approach the bigger tournaments – the Masters 1000s and Grand Slams – in a more confident frame of mind, since this is where you have to make the difference if you want to get in among the top 15 in the world,” he says.
And after showing what he is capable of on clay in July and in February, Cuevas now has the European swing firmly in his sights. Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and of course Roland-Garros are all tournaments where he has achieved little in singles competition (though in doubles, he added Rome last year to his 2008 French Open title). This year, he will no doubt be a name to look out for.