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Pablo Cuevas and the little things in life

Matt Zemek



Photo courtesy of the Estoril Open for TWAA

Pablo Cuevas, viewed in a broader context, will be remembered in ways which aren’t so pleasant. Yet, the stylish 33-year-old clay-court expert — whenever he does retire from tennis — will still leave the sport with multiple millions of dollars in prize money. Even for many of those who don’t attain the goals they sought, tennis can still be lucrative and therefore highly successful. One wouldn’t call Cuevas’s career a complete success or a profound success, but that’s not the same as forging a career largely free of successes.

Let’s put it this way: There are worse ways to make a living. Also: There are worse ways to underachieve. Cuevas, for all the Roland Garros semifinals he hasn’t made and all the clay Masters 1000 titles he hasn’t won, still counts on this part of the tour season to fatten his bank account and his tour points. Though he hasn’t won a main-tour championship this year, he has stuffed his 2019 portfolio with quarterfinal-or-better results.

Buenos Aires. Rio. Budapest. Now Estoril. Cuevas defeated lucky loser Filippo Baldi on Thursday to reach the final eight in Portugal.

This new quarterfinal appearance might be the one Cuevas will smile at the most when he looks back on his 2019 clay season. The big picture might reflect a career in which Cuevas has not achieved what he wanted, but this week’s “little picture” has given Cuevas reason to be happy.

When players play the lower-tier events on tour and try to play every week, they constantly run into limitations and complications. Such was the case for Cuevas as he attempted to play Estoril on the heels of Budapest.

This was Cuevas’s match schedule at the Hungarian Open: match on Wednesday, match on Thursday — when he beat top-seeded Marin Cilic — and a match on Friday, when he lost to Matteo Berrettini, who won the tournament.

Cuevas went straight to Portugal to compete in the Estoril Open quallies. He won on Saturday against Daniel Brands and then had to play on Sunday against Salvatore Caruso. Cuevas was understandably unable to play his best tennis. He lost in three sets.

But wait! Cuevas got in as a lucky loser. He was able to not only get into the main draw, but get a day off on Monday. His opponent on Tuesday in the first round? Caruso, the man who beat him on Sunday. Armed with a day of rest, a refreshed Cuevas beat Caruso handily. He moved to the round of 16.

In a 28-player draw, the top four seeds get byes into the round of 16. One of those top four seeds in Estoril was Fabio Fognini. Fabio pulled out of the tournament before playing Cuevas. The Uruguayan played Filippo Baldi instead and is now in the quarters.

At the 250s and (WTA) Internationals on tour, big-picture statements aren’t made or revealed. This is a week — in Estoril and Munich and Prague and Rabat — for the little things in life.

The little things have been on the side of Pablo Cuevas this week, even if the bigger things in Cuevas’s career haven’t turned out favorably.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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