ATP Top 40 star wins Challenger title in Uruguay, back in form
A Top 40 player in the ATP rankings is a big draw. That draw is even larger when it is a player taking part in a home event. World No. 38 Pablo Cuevas is Uruguayan, but it was a late decision to take part.
Cuevas needed a late wildcard to gain entry to the draw but the home tournament proved more than happy to accommodate him.
Uruguay does not have its own ATP World Tour event. High-profile matches in the South American country are limited to home Davis Cup ties and this Challenger events. Often overshadowed in tennis circles by its neighbour Argentina, Uruguay took centre stage this week.
Uruguay’s current highest ranked player, Cuevas has struggled on the tour of late. A solid Round of 16 display at the paris Masters was preceded by a horrid run of form. Cuevas had gone without a win since Roland Garros, a run of nine straight matches. He turned it around somewhat by taking World No.1 Rafael Nadal to a close deciding set in Paris after wins over Karen Khachanov and Albert Ramos Vinolas.
Yet Cuevas’ signs of poor form and confidence almost threatened to derail his winning run in his country’s capital. He started the tournament by dropping the opening set of his match with qualifier Juan Pablo Ficovich, ranked No.367. Cuevas recovered to win the match in three, dropping just one more set en route to the title.
That run saw him take out Jose Hernandez-Fernandez, Facundo Bagnis, and Nicolas Kicker. He faced Portugal’s Gastao Elias in the final, and ran out a 6-3, 6-4 winner to the delight of the home crowd.
The title win will not mean a great deal for Cuevas in terms of ranking points. However, winning a title at Challenger level is worth a great deal. Cuevas becomes the second highest-ranked player to win a Challenger this season.
He joins Richard Gasquet as high profile winners of tournaments at Challenger level this season. Gasquet used his win at the Szczecin tournament to propel him to a solid finish to the season after a first half beset by injury, illness, and poor form. After winning Szczecin Gasquet reached the quarter-finals in three of his last four tournaments, proving the confidence that can be gained from a strong run.
The season may too close to the end for Cuevas to make the most of the recent spell, but it may at least give him a positive mindset going into the off-season, and give the Uruguayan icon a chance to prepare well for 2018.