DelPo! Kuerten! Cuevas! El Gato Gaudio!

During the off-season, exhibition tournaments will be in full swing.  For players not considered elite enough to join the all-star exhibition at Abu Dhabi, no matter: There’s an exciting exho approaching on January 2-3 at Punta del Este in Uruguay: the Summer Cup features South America’s tennis players from this generation and the last.

This tournament marks the end of Gaston Gaudio’s career.  The Argentine announced his retirement in August.  A short summary of his career: He pulled off the greatest dramatic upset at the 2004 Roland Garros final, where he defeated compatriot Guillermo Coria.  Coria’s loss in 2004 was his last chance at Grand Slam glory.  Gaudio defeated Hewitt, Nalbandian and Coria en route to his impressive victory (from what I know, he’s the only GS winner to have won after being bagelled in the final).  Sadly, injuries and a predilection for partying had Gaudio playing Challenger events only a few years after his GS victory.  Still, he had a talent that saw him join an exclusive club of players who’ve beaten Rafa more than once on clay (3 times for Gaudio).

As wary as I am of the term “one-Slam wonder,” el Gato Gaudio probably has the strongest case for that label.  He never advanced beyond the 4th round at any other Grand Slam and his best appearances at Masters were SFs on clay.  Still, fans adore him for his style, which included a beautiful 1H backhand.  He also has an offbeat but fun personality and was prone to bursts of temper that involved colorful language and ripping off clothes.

Fun fact: Gaudio was once coached by the inscrutable enigma Franco Davin, who’s been coaching DelPo since 2008.

Franco Davin with JMDP (left) and 2004 Roland Garros winner Gaston Gaudio (right)

Former world no. 1, WTF winner and 3-time RG winner Gustavo Kuerten will also play the exhibition, which features a Kuerten-DelPo match up.  The marquee match features two friendly giants with appealing dispositions.  As much criticism as there is for parts of DelPo’s tennis game, it’s rare to hear people criticize him personally.  Though Kuerten and DelPo have differing styles of baseline play, Kuerten seems a great role model for DelPo to follow in the years ahead (minus the numerous injury lay-offs).  Kuerten also endured his fair share of Davis Cup drama for Brazil during his career.

Guga Kuerten: The Older Elf? (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The last man to star in this quartet is Pablo Cuevas, the Argentinean-born Uruguayan player. Currently ranked no. 142, he has a kick serve that did plenty of damage in his upset of Andy Roddick this year, at the Miami Masters.  He won the doubles title at the 2008 French Open with Luis Horna.  He also challenged DelPo in a loss at this year’s Estoril Open SF.  Cuevas has been out this year with injuries, but he’ll be taking part in this exho.

Pablo Cuevas

What a panoply of exciting tennis to come.  Who needs Abu Dhabi?  I sniff my nose at it.

DelPo sniffs his nose too. (Photo: AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

Sorry, that’s not a very flattering photo.  What I meant to say is DelPo is saddened by his non-invite to Abu Dhabi:

Still, Guga more than makes up for it: Guga Guga Guga—

On the other hand, it’s worrying that this exhibition will interfere with DelPo’s training for the Oz Open.  As exciting as the visual of a Kuerten-DelPo match is, playing on clay is not quite ideal preparation for the 1st GS of 2012 on hard courts, is it?


About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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15 Responses to DelPo! Kuerten! Cuevas! El Gato Gaudio!

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  4. queridorafa says:

    LOL on Guga, the older elf. Now that you bring it up…hmmm….
    I had no idea Gaudio beat Rafa 3! times on clay. That’s a lot of times. I enjoy the 0-6, 6-0, 6-1 scoreline in 2005 in Buenos Aires. Further proves my point–Rafa’s been getting randomly blown out for years! Recent blow outs no reason to panic! Right? Right!
    I remember watching that Cuevas/Roddick match–don’t think I’ve ever seen Andy so frustrated (actually, scratch that–I have, many times). But he was definitely frustrated. As I recall, Cuevas served really, really well–unusual for him.
    Love all the DelPo photos–he is his own special brand of photogenic!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      The very notion of a Kuerten-DelPo exho match is so joyful. Although DelPo couldn’t rival Guga’s marvelous hair (or could he?), I think there’s something so similarly charming about both. Of course Guga was the multilingual charmer of Paris, while DelPo is more of a hard-courter, but still in a fantasy tennis world Kuerten is the older elf 😉

      Ditto on the Gaudio-Rafa! I didn’t watch tennis as closely back when Gaudio was active, and he’d become too erratic by the time I started. Still, he joins Fed and Djokovic as members of the “beaten Rafa more than once on clay” club. Even Moya and Ferrero, who are closer to Gaudio in age, only managed it one time each.

      It was Cuevas that got me to really pay attention to the kick serve (I guess I’d been ignoring Fed’s this entire time!) Cuevas also seems a nice, friendly sort–hope he climbs up the rankings next year.

  5. ariennalee says:

    Cuevas! I like watching him play. He’s one of those guys who looks like he should be ranked way higher than he is when his game is on.
    Lol: “I sniff my nose at it.” I particularly like that photo of Delpo in the red jacket. “Trophies, who needs ’em.”

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Yes, Cuevas! Before DelPo’s match with Cuevas at Estoril, he kept saying he had a tough time taking a set off Cuevas during practice. I kept wondering if he was speaking the true or whether it was just him saying the things he says. The match turned out to be 2 sets but still pretty close! It’s a shame b/c it seems Cuevas has been out ever since then with a knee (?) injury.

      The red jacket DelPo photo is from Tokyo ’09, when he lost to…Berdy (!!!) in the final 😦 That’s where the grumpy face came from. Sigh.

      • ariennalee says:

        The first time I saw Cuevas I also noticed that kick serve. It’s hit or miss for me whether or not I actually take in a players serve on television, so it was a bit startling to me the way his jumped off the screen at me (and off the court!) I remember that I also liked his backhand, a pretty one-hander. He has those flowery clay court strokes (to which I’m a bit partial), but I’ve seen him do okay on hard courts too. Am I remembering correctly that his career was on a bit of a surge before he got injured? I was hoping to see more of him this year.

        Poor DelPo, he was probably hurting in the wrist too by then.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          So true, I guess it’s also the fact that he’s not as tall as the other players that makes Cuevas’ serve stand out so much on TV. For some of his serves, his opponent is scrambling into the stands to hit the return. I forgot Cuevas was a one-handed BH-er! I just rewatched a highlights clip of his Miami match (these are the things I do in the off-season ;)), and he really does use it well, along w/his “flowery clay court strokes.” He can play a very pretty game.

          I think he was climbing up the rankings in the first half of the year, before he had to take time off for injuries. He beat Tsonga and Bellucci (this was earlier in the yr, when Bellucci was a “thing”) at Estoril, which were great results. Hope he does make it back next yr!

          • ariennalee says:

            Lol. I very nearly forgot that Bellucci was a “thing.” Poor Bellucci. The media had such high hopes for him.

            You might be right about Cuevas, the serve & his height–because another one I remember noticing was Almagro (who looks shorter than he is on TV, but he’s not tall by tennis standards) and his serves also really pop off the television screen (though not always because of kick, if I remember correctly).

            • mariposaxprs says:

              Right? I expected Bellucci would be playing well until the end of this year! He was coached by Lari Passos, the same guy who coached Guga Kuerten for pretty much his entire career. Then, a couple of months ago, Passos and Bellucci split up. I’m not really sure what this means for Bellucci, although I hope he picks it up again next year.

              Ooh I’ve never paid attention to Almagro’s serve, but I’ll have to tune in next time! He has a pretty 1H BH too. I guess that shows that even the so-called “clay-court specialists” can pick up a handsome serve!

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