Winning two ATP World Tour titles in two weeks is generally a feat reserved for Top Ten players or those athletes with incredible physical stamina and consistent gameplay. The grueling nature of tennis, requiring players to play consecutive matches nearly every day with little to no rest between tournaments, often beats players down, emotionally and physically. Often this results in phenomenal performances one week followed by sub-par results the next, sabotaging players’ chances in multi-tournament play.
Before July 7, Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas was just another lowly ranked, aging tennis player with no ATP World Tour singles titles to his name, a struggling journeyman not unlike many other lesser ranked competitors on the Tour. At the age of 28, the Argentine-born player had never made it beyond the second round of any Grand Slam singles tournament, and apart from a number of doubles titles, including an unexpected French Open doubles victory in 2008, he had not made much of an impact in the greater tennis world.
The July conquest
Then, seeded into the Swedish Open in Båstad with a Protected Ranking on July 7, Cuevas began working some singles magic never before glimpsed in his career. In the space of one short week, he dispatched sixth-seed Jérémy Chardy in the first round, third-seed Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals, and fifth-seed João Sousa in the finals, securing his first ATP World Tour 250 title. The Uruguayan only dropped one set in his run to the top, to Swedish wild card Christian Lindell in the second round, defeating highly-ranked contenders with ease.
Professional tennis is in many ways a game of hierarchies and hegemonies, wherein the best remain at the top and generally throttle the lesser ranked competition on every front. Some seasons bear testimony to unbroken stretches of dominance by the Top Ten players, who vie amongst themselves in the semifinals and finals of nearly every major tournament and championship. Occasionally, however, an upset or an unexpected injury will shatter the status quo and send the establishment reeling.
In many ways, 2014 has been a season full of such upsets and unprecedented challengers. The Australian Open was the first major championship of the year to bear testimony to such an upset, with Stan Wawrinka’s victory over former champion Rafael Nadal in the final, and his brutal defeat of defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
The French Open quarterfinals played host to a variety of new and upcoming contenders, as did the grass courts of Wimbledon. The enthralled audiences present at the Championships witnessed the defeat of defending champion Andy Murray to Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and the unexpected resurgence of finalist and seven-time champion Roger Federer. Other pundits marveled at Rafael Nadal’s defeat at the hands of the 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios of Australia in the fourth round.
For the average recreational tennis player, a tennis court and a hard court are one and the same. The ubiquitous red and green paint, the fading white lines, and the rough, concrete-like playing surface are all characteristics of the court that dominates both the ATP World Tour and the vast majority of recreational and club tennis courts the world over.
Of the 65 professional events on the ATP World Tour, including Grand Slams, the ATP World Tour Finals, Masters 1000 events, ATP 500 events and ATP 250 events, 37 of these are held on some variation of hard court, made of either acrylic or synthetic material. Comparatively, only 22 events are held on clay, and a mere six are held on grass. Since 2009, no professional events have been held on carpet courts.
Over the years, some players have complained of the seemingly unequal distribution of tournaments and surface types. Some have bemoaned the fact that many injuries on the Tour occur because of the damage that hard courts often cause on players’ knees. Others have stated that the Tour panders to those players who perform best on the medium speed surface.