ROLAND GARROS 2011
Cabal Reaches Grand Slam Final In Tour Level Debut
by Matt Fitzgerald|
Prior to Roland Garros, World No. 100 Juan Sebastian Cabal had never played an ATP World Tour tournament, let alone a Grand Slam event. In his first tour-level tournament, and partnering Argentina’s Eduardo Schwank, the unheralded Colombian has been living the dream, riding a string of upsets to reach the doubles final.
Cabal and Schwank knocked out eighth seeded and former Roland Garros finalists Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman in the first round and stunned top seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6(4), 6-3 in the semi-finals Thursday. Schwank was successful in doubles at the majors last year, reaching the semi-finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open. He and Cabal have an opportunity to pull off one of the most surprising results in recent years, when they take on No. 2 seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor Saturday in Paris.
ATPWorldTour.com caught up with Cabal after his semi-final victory against the Bryans.
Congratulations Juan Sebastian. First off, how does it feel to defeat the World No. 1 doubles team of Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan to put yourself and Eduardo Schwank into a Grand Slam final?
Thank you. It’s an amazing feeling. The Bryans are No.1, have been No.1 for a few years, so it’s a very good feeling beating them and being in my first final at a Grand Slam.
Coming into Roland Garros you had never played a match at the tour-level, outside of Davis Cup. How crazy has it been for you this tournament and could you have ever dreamed this would happen?
Yeah, I know, it’s really, really crazy! These are my first ATP doubles matches and right now I’m in a final. It’s like a dream week; I never expected to play doubles over here and right now I’m playing really good with Eduardo. I’m happy with him and we’re playing good matches. It’s amazing.
Have you checked your mobile phone since the match and if so, how many messages were waiting for you?
Right now, I couldn’t count it, but I think it is a lot of ones. (Laughter). It will take a long time to respond to them.
Do you have any sponsors?
Yes, I have one big sponsor, Colsanitas. They’re my only sponsor but I’m really happy with them. I appreciate the hard work they’ve put in the whole year.
A result like this can really get a career going. Before this tournament, you had been grinding it out on the Challenger circuit. How excited are you for not only Saturday’s final, but for the rest of the season, knowing you’ll have opportunities to play ATP level events on a consistent basis?
Well, right now, my calendar can change a lot. I have been playing some Challengers with my Colombian partner Robert Farah. We’ve been good together, winning tournaments, so now we can change our calendar. But I wish to play singles so we’ve got to keep working. It’s a long year as there are a lot of tournaments, so we have to continue working hard.
You and Eduardo had never teamed up before this event. Whose idea was it to play together and what’s enabled you guys to gel so quickly?
Eduardo told me he wanted to play during the qualifying week. We’ve got a good friendship, so it’s a nice start for playing doubles. We have a lot of confidence with each other and we talk a lot on the court, which is very important.
You’re the first player from Colombia since Ivan Molina to reach a major final (Molina took home the Roland Garros mixed doubles crown in 1974 with Martina Navratoliva and also finished runner-up in the 1977 Roland Garros mixed event). What does a result like this mean in your home country?
Yeah, it’s crazy. I’ve been receiving phone calls, emails, messages from my friends congratulating me. I’m really happy – I want to make history and am looking forward to the match. I’m just thinking about playing and I want to enjoy it.
Did you guys have a specific game plan going into today’s match against the Bryans?
Yes, we tried to make the right decisions, always thinking forward to the next point. We didn’t think twice where to hit the ball. And also, to just enjoy the match, which is most important. We have a lot of pressure now, being in the final of a Grand Slam, so we’ll have to play well.
Entering Roland Garros, you were ranked No. 100 in doubles and hadn’t yet made a presence on the ATP World Tour. You’ve defeated three veteran teams along the way… what’s been the key to your success in Paris?
The key is my good friendship with Eduardo – we’re able to show that on the court and it’s making us play good.
What would you say is the best shot in your game and why?
Maybe my serve, I don’t know. In this tournament, I’m hitting a lot of first serves in, and that’s a big, important shot in doubles. My forehand too… I’ve got a lot of confidence with that shot.
You’ll have to defeat the No. 2 seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor to win the title. What do you and Eduardo need to do to give yourselves a chance to pull the upset and cap off the dream run?
We have to just keep doing what we’ve been doing all this week, playing good and hitting our best shots. We need to have fun on court, always motivating each other. In the end we may lose, but we could also win, so we should enjoy it.