By Saqib Ali
Argentina open is a 250 stop on the ATP world tour. But don’t let that fool you for the prestige and honors it commands over the clay loving fans and more importantly players. Argentine’s for the longest period have produced some of the finest clay court exponents the game has seen from the days of Vilas to the current generation. Along with Spain they have vied for the top honors on the clay part of the world tour. Of course a certain southpaw from Mallorca has had a lot to say in the last decade on the outcome of all important clay events. You take Nadal out, the resume and honors on clay are quite even. This maybe a 250 stop but the pride associated with this event is right up there with clay court connoisseurs as this is very well the national championships of Argentina. Spain and Argentina are to clay court excellence what US and Australia have meant to the Davis cup historically.
This draw has attracted very solid clay court players in the past and this edition is no exception. World number five Kei Nishikori spearheads the field which includes three time champion David Ferrer and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. These three are one of the finest clay court players in the world. The support cast is very evenly balanced at this event with the likes of Joao Sousa, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Pablo Carreno Busta. The conditions are very humid and that adds to the toughness mystique of this event.
Nishikori seems to be the favorite as he has won the Spanish national championship in Barcelona few times. But tennis draws on clay seldom play to the norm and this event can crown a new champion. Cuevas has been struggling off late and this event maybe the spark he needs to put his season back on track. He is coached by Argentina’s Alberto Mancini, who won the prestigious Monte Carlo event in 1989. Winning in his coach’s backyard maybe the boost that gets Cuevas going. His backhand is a pure thing of beauty and he hits a very heavy ball. The clay season has a tendancy to throw a new name into the mix every year and this year is no exception as Guido Andreozzi has roared into the main draw with his big ground strokes. He is definitely someone to watch out for during this clay stretch in South America.
Last but not the least the biggest tournament in Argentina continues to go on without its most famous tennis son of the current era. Juan Martin Del Potro has given the event a pass again as he is easing into this season after the grueling finish to last year. The show will go on but the absence of Juan Martin is a shadow that keeps getting larger at this event. However even without Delpo, this event is on my wish list to attend in the future!