Barrientos' Diving Hot Shot Gives Colombian First Win Since 2016
Careful, Nico! The elbow!
Over the past three years, Nicolas Barrientos has battled to return to the court after undergoing elbow surgery. The 32-year-old was forced to stop playing in 2016 due to a complete muscle tear, but now he's back and targeting a successful second half of the season.
Maybe diving on a hard court isn't the best idea. On Monday, Barrientos scored his first match win on the singles court since 2016, defeating Dan Added 6-4, 7-5 at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Segovia. While serving for the match at 6-4, 6-5, the Colombian scrambled to deny Added's passing shot, leaving his feet to complete the perfect dive volley. He crashed to the court as the ball cleared the net and landed on his opponent's side.
"Diving is something that I've always done since I'm little," Barrientos told ATPChallengerTour.com. "It's always inside my head. Really I don't think about it. When I see the ball coming, it's just an instinct. I don't want to let the ball go. I was taught by my coach, who took me to a sand pit and hit the ball against the wall and made me dive on the sand. I loved it."
Barrientos, who ascended to a career-high No. 71 in doubles and reached an ATP Tour final in Bogota in 2014, with countryman Juan Sebastian Cabal, owns four Challenger titles. He continues to be inspired by Cabal and Robert Farah, who became the first Colombians to triumph at Wimbledon earlier this month.
"It's amazing to see guys like Cabal and Farah doing so well. I actually did my offseason with Cabal in December. And today I was especially inspired by Egan Bernal, who won the Tour de France yesterday. I know it was a first round and just another match, but for me it's something I needed to overcome. Winning that first match was going to be really hard and I got some strength from thinking about them. It inspired me a lot."
Barrientos says he had six doctors review his case and that surgery was the best course of action. He continued to experience pain upon returning last year and, not wanting to push it, stopped to work with some juniors in his home country.
"I came back again this year and only played doubles from the start. Then I wanted to play more singles and while my serving ability was limited, because the more serves I hit the more inflammation I had, the ATP physio told me that I just needed to build up my tolerance. I took some time doing this, going from only being able to hit 10 serves to hitting 100 in a row. Now I am completely pain-free."
Barrientos, who is using a protected ranking this week at the Open Castilla y Leon, will next face fifth seed Nicola Kuhn on Tuesday night.