Thursday, December 31, 2009

Departing the Stage : Agustin Calleri

It seems like I forgot to write about this retirement of the big man known as "El Gordo" Agustin Calleri. Since it's quite late here and too fucking warm, it's my blog and I can swear if I want and not sure how this will read.

Calleri decided to call it a day in 2009 from the tour, though according to the original articles that stated his retirement that he is going to play Buenos Aires and Acapulco in 2010 which makes sense as one is his home tournament and the other where he won the first of his 2 ATP singles titles, which was scant return for a player of his abilities.

His career path took a slightly different path than many players. Calleri before he could go on tour needed money to travel as he had the talent, but struggled for sponsors at the time. He was part of the generation along with Cañas, Gaudio, Chela, Zabaleta and Puerta you didn't get any support from the AAT and he still has strong views about development of tennis in Argentina especially for rural guys like himself. He ended up working at his parents shop to pay for his initial expenses on the tour and that got him in there, once he was able to start showing some promise in the Futures and then the Challengers he was able to get a gig playing in the German Bundesliga which is the highest paying league. The advantage of playing in the Bundesliga where numerous, excellent conditions, good wages for players, excellent crowds. Can use the country as a base for travelling around Europe while playing in tournaments, if they fall early then they could play league tennis.

The year was 2000 was when Calleri made an impact just getting into the main draw of Roland Garros, this was the year where he reached his best result there. With the heavy power off both wings, especially the backhand down the line he took out Felix Mantilla in the first round, then Hrbaty who was the semi finalist in the previous year and seeded 14th, before losing to Medvedev in 4 sets. He also took out Safin in straight sets in Kitzi that year. He repeated the dose in Madrid indoors and Safin said he was lucky, hard to get lucky twice. He also made the 3rd round of the US Open giving Sampras a tough time of it, but this was typical of the man, some brilliant matches and showings along with the most poor exhibitions of tennis.

It's better to start with the huge chokes and there were a few. He was leading in the final of Buenos Aires against Massu making empanadas out of him leading 6-2 5-1 and the crowd were expecting the title for Calleri, but he got tight and Massu kept fighting hard and took the second set in a tiebreaker, from there it was only one winner and not Calleri. He was in New Haven against Blake had 3 match points leading a set and 5-4 40-0, but managed to shit himself again and lose in 3 sets.

Buenos Aires was the worst one because it was a final and he was the home player, but the funniest one was the loss to Koubek in Sopot. He lost 0-6 7-6(3) 7-5, Calleri lead 6-0 4-0, served for the 2nd set twice and then loses in a tiebreaker. He lead 5-3 in the 3rd and failed to serve it out and he went bananas at losing this, though to be fair this is as good as reason as any to go bonkers.

The other side of the coin when he was truly on his game, then it was amazing to watch as he could cause havoc with the brute power off both wings, especially the backhand down the line. Enjoy the clip below where it is raining winners and little Hewitt had no clue what was going on. His best win was against Ferrero in the Davis Cup 2003 Malaga, when JCF was the number 1 in the world and the best on clay. Calleri was on fire this day and thumped him in straight sets with the last set being 6-1. He was given a standing ovation from the Spanish home fans after his performance, this is when you know you have done well.

His performance against Agassi in Miami 2004 he blasted 20 winners in the first set with 4 errors and serving at 36% first serve. Agassi looked like the kid who had sand kicked in his face at the beach. In the US Open after Hewitt took the 1st set. Calleri was very aggressive and everything was going in and this is a show of his capabilities.

It was his unpredictability that made him fun to watch, but it was very disappointing that he could not make the 4th round of a Slam during his career. He played well in Hamburg 2003 before losing to Weasel Coria in the final, but he played an excellent semi final against Nalbandian.

His two career titles came in Acapulco 2003, where he defeated Gaudio, Rios, Mantilla and his friend Zabaleta in the final. Then he followed that up with Kitzbühel 2006, funnily enough just as in Acapulco in the last 4 matches he defeated 2 Argentines, a Spaniard and a Chilean. In this case it was Massu, Gaudio, Verdasco and Chela all for the loss of just one set. When he won the titles they came out of nowhere really, as he wasn't showing much form leading into these events.

In essence Calleri should have achieved more with his career, he had a lot of injuries and some of it had to do with his physique. He used to carry a bit in the middle, but was very strong. Tactically he let himself down by just slapping the ball all of the time instead of taking off some pace as his rally ball was quite penetrating and then he could take advantage of the short ball. The one year where was relatively injury free he finished in the top 20, this and the poor results in Grand Slams reflected on the lack of overall success.

He has a lovely wife and child, hope he is enjoying time with them and watching his beloved Boca Juniors.


Choupi said...

Thanks for that tribute to El Gordo. I am very happy to have been able to see him several times on the tour, in the good times where he was winning and in the bad ones when he was going out of the court quicker than he had entered it. His little family is so precious for him that I'm sure he's gonna enjoy his time now, though he will be trully missed.

Martine said...

Thanks so much for the tributes to both El Gordo and Lucho, two of my fav players and I'm gonna miss them very much.

Not many players can make me get up in the middle of the night to watch a livestream, but these guys sure could :-)

Wishing them both all the best with their life after tennis.

Looking forward to still seeing some of Lucho in DC and hoping to see them back one day maybe as a coach.