Four titles in two days: that was Argentina’s tennis weekend, starting Saturday with the Girls’ 12 & Under team winning the South American championship in Lima and the boys being runner-ups. Then came a succession of three men’s titles, one in each category of professional tournaments (one on Saturday, two on Sunday), to cap a great weekend for Argentine tennis.
Patricio Heras continues his successful comeback
It all started with knee pains that came and went last year, still permitting him to play. Then, Patricio Heras woke up with a jammed knee one morning, passed tests. The verdict ended up having sad consequences on the 23-year-old’s development: it was a torn meniscus in the right knee, which required surgery.
From then on, it escalated with a compensation injury in the left knee (tendinitis), then another one (right Achilles tendinitis), and a lengthier absence from the courts.
In the end, Heras did not play a tournament for five months.
The Río Cuarto native made his comeback at the beginning of September, in the Futures of La Rioja, where he lost in the first round to Bolivian promise Hugo Dellien, and reached the second round of the Futures of San Juan (l. to Tomás Lipovsek) the week after. On the third week of his comeback, in Cucuta, he reached the semi-final.
Success was just around the corner for him. A month after his first comeback match, Heras won his first tournament of the season, at the Villavicencio Futures, defeating the man who had stopped him the week before, Alejandro González, 7-6(7) 6-4.
Three weeks and another semi-final later, Patricio Heras won, on Saturday, his second Futures of the season, in Villa Alemana (Chile), by defeating another player on the comeback trail, Stefano Travaglia, in the final, 2-6 6-4 6-4.
Coming back from an injury is never easy, but Heras persevered and the end of this season opens up very promising prospects not only for the last few weeks of 2012, but also for 2013. Hopefully he can remain healthy and continue on this run.
The first Challenger winner of the ’92
In Argentina, the Class of ’92 is without a doubt one of the most (if not the most) promising class of players we have seen for years.
Counting on players such as Andrea Collarini (French Open Junior runner-up in 2010), Agustín Velotti (French Open Junior champion in 2010), Facundo Argüello, and Renzo Olivo, there is also one player who, without perhaps being as flamboyant in his game style or results as the others in the last couple of years, is nevertheless a bright prospect, and it showed all summer.
Before the start of the series of Challengers in Argentina (San Juan, Villa Allende, Buenos Aires), Diego Schwartzman was on a 30-match winning streak in Futures tournaments (six consecutive titles), a streak cut in two by a quarter-final and two first-round defeats in Challengers.
We nevertheless knew that the 20-year-old from Buenos Aires was close to making a successful jump to the Challenger level, and really soon.
It took five weeks, two first-round defeats (Campinas and San Juan), and one in the second round (Villa Allende), and a return home in Buenos Aires for Schwartzman to have, without a doubt, the best week of his young career.
On the clay of the Vilas Club, surrounded and encouraged by his friends and family, El Peque played the best tennis we’ve seen him play, upsetting seventh seed Frederico Gil in the first round, then dispatching Julio César Campozano, and causing another surprise in the quarter-finals, when he defeated third seed Martín Alund to reach his first Challenger Tour semi-final.
The weekend was just as much of a fairy tale for Schwartzman, as he played inspired tennis to take his revenge on his friend Agustín Velotti (who had ousted him in the Lima quarter-finals) to face the Villa Allende champion, n° 4 seed Guillaume Rufin, who was, perhaps, a little flat, but to Schwartzman’s defense, he never let Rufin get into the first set, picking up just where he had left off against Velotti.
The Frenchman found another gear to break quickly in the second set, but Schwartzman never gave up and twice came back from a break down to level the set. Even though Rufin saved one championship point in the ninth game, firing three winners to level at 5-5, it felt like the end was coming near, and in the 12th game, at his second championship point, Diego Schwartzman broke to seal his first Challenger Tour title, 6-1 7-5.
From the first time in the last four of a Challenger event to his first title, it was an ideal conclusion to dream week for Schwartzman, who becomes the first of the Argentine Class of ’92 to win a tournament at this level, and he did it all at home, in front of all those who have been there for him from the start.
Del Potro dethrones Federer
Just a few minutes after Schwartzman was crowned in Buenos Aires, Juan Martín del Potro put the cherry on top of Argentina’s great week by causing a pretty big surprise in Basel.
A week after defeating Grega Zemlja in the Vienna final, del Potro was facing a rival he had not defeated since the World Tour Finals back in 2009: two-time defending Basel champion, Roger Federer.
Throughout all this season, Delpo had been closer and closer to defeating him, and this time, he made sure that he would not be vanquished seven times by the same rival in one season.
True, the World n° 1 has appeared vulnerable all week. However, it is also true that del Potro has been playing his best tennis since 2009 for the last fortnight, and this match was no different. Imperial at the service line, hitting the ball cleanly and potently, defending like the top 5 he used to be (and should soon get back to), the Tandil native showed immense confidence and hung on to earn himself a well-deserved 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(3) triumph over Roger Federer.
Del Potro’s 13th career title places him in third place for the most ATP titles won by an Argentine, behind Guillermo Vilas (62) and José Luis Clerc (25). Furthermore, this is also the 200th ATP title won by an Argentine player. Fitting to have won it against the best player of all time, isn’t it?
The only question that remains is how much Juan Martín del Potro will have left in the tank for the last two weeks of the season, especially for the World Tour Finals, where his qualification was confirmed a few days ago, just after the confirmation of Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal.