Monday, March 13, 2017

San Pablo Cuevas : The pride of Uruguayan tennis

It's interview time and during the 2017 Australian Open I managed to catch up with Uruguay's finest and the king of ATP São Paulo where he has won the title three years in a row. He is Pablo Cuevas who was generous with his time.

Cuevas was out of the game for 2 years with a knee injury and was not sure if he was ever going to come back to play at the top level. He is a very friendly personality one player I have wanted to interview. He has won the most ATP singles titles ever for an Uruguayan player and has an outstanding single hand backhand

I would like to thank him for giving me 20 minutes of his time, helping me with my first experience of yerba mate and an oppprtunity for him to laugh at my bad Spanish.

How old were you when you started playing?
I started playing tennis at 6 years old.

Uruguay is known for football and beef? What made you choose tennis over other sports?

I like watching football but as a young boy I had many friends who played tennis, so I played and now enjoy the sport.

Did you have anything to do with Marcelo Fillipini or Diego Perez when you were playing in your early career?

I’m a very good friends with Diego and Marcelo. I couldn’t share much time in a tennis court with them. But they are always there, giving me advice, whenever I need them.

Without a powerful federation and a big agency behind you. How difficult were the early days when trying to establish yourself on tour, for example in relation to getting sponsors?

In Uruguay it is very difficult to get support or sponsorship. It becomes difficult for any South American player during their early years. I had an investment group in Argentina at the start. Well, I hope that things can change for the rest of the upcoming players, that we can have a much powerful tennis federation, along with a Government that can support the sport.

When did you realise that you were able to make it as a professional player?

When I made it to the top 100.

What have been your experiences of playing on the Futures & Challenger Tour? Do you have any funny stories to share?

Yes, I was playing with Crazi Dani Koellerer in Poland (Szczecin) in 2010 and it was a very difficult match where there was a lot of antagonism.

After the match in the locker room I was with my brother. Koellerer came in and wanted to start a fight, then he said let's go outside where the media were so he could make some shit and get me suspended. He showed what a pussy he was.

From a personal viewpoint your Roland Garros doubles win with Lucho Horna was one of my favourite moments. How did you decide to form the team and what were your memories of that fortnight?

I have great memories from this moment. I played with Lucho one tournament before Roland Garros. In the first round we defeated the reigning Australian Open champions. Lucho said " it was a big match in the first round", but it was so exciting after we won. We beat the Bryan Brothers in the quarter finals and then won the final in my 2nd Grand Slam this will always be a big memory.

You jumped over the net in the final set tiebreaker against the Bryans and they got angry. Can you explain the incident?

In the final set tiebreak it was 5-1 to us and at the changeover I sprinted and jumped the night. I don't know the Bryans didn't like the attitude or something, but they didn't say well done at the end of the match and refused the handshake.

Final Set Tiebreak

You won your first singles title in Båstad? Can you talk us through what it meant?

I remember the celebration and the party (laughing), No, I remember everything of this week it was my first title and I played unbelievable in the final beating Joao Sousa 2 and 1. I think it's my favourite tournament it's so nice.

You missed 2 years with injury. What were the injuries and how frustrating was it not being able to play the sport you love?

The injury was to the knee and I was out for 2 years. Mentally was i trying to get my head around it and thinking about different situations. Fortunately there is no more pain in the knee.

How did you spend your extended time away from the game? Did it change your perspective in any way?

I was partying every day with friends (laughs) when you were playing it's not possible, so I was enjoying the parties and the nightlife. Then I was working a lot with my physiotherapy, psychology, speaking with my family and friends who have always supported me.

Also I was reading a lot of books from other sportspeople Lance Armstrong, Martin Palermo and Tata Lopez.

I always say that it’s not necessary to practice just inside a tennis court, you also practice a lot outside of it. I believe I came back better and stronger after the injury and ever since then I have had the best years of my career.

Futures prizemoney has hardly changed since the 80s. Challenger prize money at its worst has decreased 30% from 1995, now it has been increased slightly. What can be done to readdress some of the balance?

I think this is a difficult question but I don’t know how to put it on the same level. But I understand that there are some things which are distributed in the wrong way. It is really difficult for a kid who is just starting, where everything is costly for him. I also understand that in some ways that the money isn't distibuted fairly.

I also don’t agree about the small amount of money that players get, in comparison with the amount that the tournament gets, especially in Grand Slams. So, basically, I don’t have a clear idea on how to solve it, but I believe in some way things can be done in order to improve it, since the prizemoney is not well distributed.

Do you believe that the current ATP Player Representatives doing enough to ensure that the players who earn the vast majority of money through prize money and not sponsorship are able to survive playing the sport?

The Players Council, I don't know too much about that they do.

Your favourite tournaments?

Besides Båstad, the Montevideo Challenger and I enjoy Davis Cup so much. I have a great memory of Miami when I played Roddick the stadium was full of Uruguayans and other Latin Americans. In the stadium I heard "Uruguay, Uruguay" .

Best friends on tour?

David Marrero, Marcel Granollers and the Argentinian players.

What’s the worst place you have stayed in so far on tour?

At the start of my career I played a lot of tournaments in Romania. I was staying in homes and walking from door to door asking if they had any rooms.

Name the best and worst matches you have played in your career so far?

The best matches were the semi final of the Rio 500 where I defeated Nadal and the final of Umag where I beat Robredo.

The worst was Yesterday (laughs) when I lost to Schwartzmann. (The Australian Open 2017)

You're a big surfing fan. How did you get into it and where are some of your favourite spots?

When I was 16 it was first time I started surfing and loved it. The first place I went to was a small spot called Santa Lucia Del Este it's 70km from Montevideo.

Which football team do you support?


What do you think about the length of season?

It's really long but it will be difficult to take ou some tournament since everyone is special in their own way.

What solutions would you propose for the calendar to reduce or maybe not reduce the amount of tournaments?

The last years I have realised the calendar is so important for me. I study it thoroughly play 2-3 weeks and then rest for one week.

The ATP is meant to be a joint union between players and tournament directors but it doesn’t to favour tournament directors more so. Are there ways to improve the organisation to have a better representation and reputation among the players?

I think the tournaments are well organised. But it's unfair what happens in Grand Slams and in big tournaments, where the tournament gets a larger percentage, meanwhile the players only get a 15%, which I find a too small percentage,

What are your hopes and goals for 2017?

Stay and consolidate in the Top 20 and my dream is to make the top 10.

Word association

Álvaro Recoba: Pure talent.
Brazil: Carnaval.
Punta del Este: The prettiest place.
Fernet with Cola: ah, Fernet with Cola, yes. friends.
Luis Suárez: Pure garra.
Cumbia or Candombe: Candombe.
Lucho Horna: The best partner I had.
Pepe Mújica: A figure who represented Uruguay internationally, as no one else.

Once again I would like to thank Pablo for his time, also the three translators who helped with me with the interview, especially after I lost the original translation without them it would not have been completed.


Joey Davies said...

Uruguay what a country produces so many sporting heroes even with less population than Scotland for example. Recoba was the original fenomeno.

Claudio Soltmann said...

I saw Pablo Cuevas playing in Viña del Mar in 2008. He made an outstanding point against Fernando Gonzalez, the point even reached the status of ATP point of the week. I have a very good impression of him as a tennis player, a fighter, like most uruguayan sportsmen, giving his best effort.

Martine said...

Really enjoyed the interview! It perfectly reflects him as a player and shows his great personality. Him and Lucio winning the doubles final will always be one of my favorite tennis memories!

Denys said...

Another excellent interview getting some insight into players that don't get the coverage which mostly about the big four with Kyrgios and Tomic antics thrown in for good measure.

It's not easy for South Americans as they don't have powerful federations but it breeds tough competitors as they try to make it on tour.

Cuevas comes across well and good to see he is concerned with the lower ranked players in terms with prizemoney distribution and the lack of it filtering down.

Mark Parry said...

Great read Nils. Someone has to shed some light on the unsung heroes of the tour. Sounds like a great guy too. He still has one of the best shots of I've ever seen on tour too

Anonymous said...

Great Interview Nils, You should be doing this for some major sports publication. Not many people are as well known or as well liked amongst the players such as yourself.