Challenger Finals Preview: 10 Questions For Guido Pella
One of five players from Argentina in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, Guido Pella is an integral member of the South American nation’s resurgence in 2015.
Less than a month removed from reaching a career-high World No. 73, Pella is looking to cap a strong season with a deep run at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals. He is the first former champion to return to the Brazilian metropolis for a second shot at the trophy. The 25 year old, who won the title on indoor hard in 2012, arrives at the indoor clay courts of the Pinheiros Club with his sights set on surging to full-time ATP World Tour status next year.
Pella’s path has been a rocky one. Following his breakthrough success in 2012, he was on course to soar to new heights following his first match wins at the Grand Slam and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 levels the next year. But the Bahia Blanca native would endure a significant setback just months later, suffering a torn right hamstring in his Wimbledon debut. Locked in a fifth set against Jesse Levine, Pella had to be carried off Court 7 after slipping on the grass. His position in the Emirates ATP Rankings would subsequently slip outside the Top 200 in 2014, but he was determined to rediscover his top form.
Boasting a 43-13 mark this year, which included titles in Montevideo (Uruguay), San Luis Potosi (Mexico), Porto Alegre (Brazil) and Sao Paulo – the host city of this week’s season finale – he is playing the best tennis of his young career and will be the second-highest ranked player in the field.
Pella spoke to ATPWorldTour.com ahead of the ATP Challenger Tour Finals…
Guido, you were out of the Top 200 exactly one year ago, then you won the title in Lima and it all turned around. How special is it to be back inside the Top 100 and at a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking?
This year was a special year because I never thought that I would be at this ranking in this part of the year. It was a really good season because I worked really hard to get here. I’m trying to enjoy it. It feels really good to be in the Top 100 again and the main draw of the Australian Open next year. I’m trying to work hard and improve my ranking. I enjoy playing well like this.
What are you doing differently this year? Has it been more of a physical or mental hurdle to overcome?
I think it has been a mental thing, because two years ago I was in the Top 100 but I was not so strong mentally to be there. I stayed there for a few months and I didn’t understand how to be there for a longer time. I’m older now. I’m 25. In my mind, now I’m prepared to be there for a few years. I’m going to try to get to the Top 50, play better every day and improve my tennis.
You’ve won 43 matches and four titles this year. Is there one moment that has stood out for you above the rest?
I don’t know about one moment, but I think it all started in Mexico when I won my first title this year (in San Luis Potosi). I felt really, really good. The altitude there was very high and I played really good tennis. My mind was in a good place in that tournament and I felt that I could play better and be in the Top 100 again after that. In that moment, that was the best thing for me to later achieve the goal.
You’re now heading to Sao Paulo. Was this a goal of yours this year? What are your thoughts on the rest of the field?
There are a lot of good players, but I’ve been there a lot of times. I won two or three Challengers in the city. This year I won one title in Brazil and I feel really good. It’s South America, so I am comfortable there. The eight best players are there, so it’s an important tournament for me. There are a lot of points and money and it’s always good to play in those kinds of tournaments.
You won the title in 2012 when it was on indoor hard. What are your memories from that week?
It was on indoor hard and I beat a lot of good players, like Victor Hanescu. It was really important for me because it was an unknown surface and it’s difficult for us (Argentines) to play good tennis there. I remember I played really well.
How do you change your approach when you know you can lose a match with the round robin format and not be eliminated?
I think it’s really good because we are used to losing one match and being eliminated from the tournament. It helps our minds to be prepared in case we lose one match. If we can win the title without losing any matches it’s even better, but I remember in 2012 I lost the second match of the round robin and it was ok. I was still in the tournament and I think this year I will be more prepared than three years ago because I already know the format.
Looking back at your Wimbledon debut in 2013, when you tore your hamstring, how did that drive you to work even harder to get back to your top level?
It was very tough. It was a really disappointing thing for me, because I worked really hard to play well on grass. Now I’m stronger and playing better. I’m happier with my tennis.
Guido, tell us how you got your start in tennis and who were your idols growing up?
I started playing in my home city of Bahia Blanca at five or six years old in my father’s club. I don’t know how I got to improve this much. I played for many hours. When you are a kid you play for 10 hours in a row and you don’t get tired or injured. It was really fun and I enjoyed it. Now I can’t believe that I am here and that I improved so much, because we didn’t have many courts to practise on and didn’t have good players to hit with. I liked (Guillermo) Vilas, I liked (David) Nalbandian and Jose Luis Clerc. They were good players. The most beautiful player to watch was Nalbandian. He was No. 1 of the Argentine players.
You are one of five Argentines in the Top 100. What impact has the rise of Leo Mayer and Federico Delbonis had on your country with Juan Martin del Potro still absent?
Fede Delbonis and Yaca Mayer proved to the entire world that they can win a lot of matches in Davis Cup without being Top 10 players. Argentina has had 10-12 years of Top 10 players and now we only have one and he’s injured. I think it’s really good for us to be in the semi-finals of Davis Cup and do even better without Del Potro. It’s a really big responsibility and they played really well. We’ll always be a huge tennis country and I think we can do better.
Your position in the Emirates ATP Rankings now puts you in position to qualify for ATP level events next year. What are your goals for 2016?
I want to keep improving my tennis first, and I know that if I keep playing well I will get more points, a better ranking and play in better tournaments. It’s a circle. 2016 can be my year to be in the Top 50. That is my main goal. I think I’m ready.