ATP CHALLENGER TOUR FINALS 2013
Gonzalez Ready For Challenger Tour Finals Test
Sao Paulo, Brazil
by Josh Meiseles|
More than two thousand spectators crammed into the Club Campestre on 21 July 2013 for the final of the Seguros Bolivar Open Medellin, a $50,000+H event on the ATP Challenger Tour. Nestled in the Aburra Valley in northern Colombia, the Andes Mountains serve as a stunning backdrop for the Medellin Challenger, held at the historic 89-year-old club since 2006.
Meet Alejandro Gonzalez.
To win a title as a professional tennis player, regardless of its level in the hierarchy of the sport, is an impressive feat. To win one in your hometown is something special.
“It was one of the most emotional moments of my career,” said Gonzalez.
With hoards of friends and family in attendance, the Medellin native disposed of Guido Andreozzi 6-4, 6-4 to capture his second ATP Challenger Tour title.
“Winning at home with everyone that knows me was very nice,” Gonzalez added. “My family, my girlfriend and all of my friends were present in that moment and that makes it much more special.”
A three-time champion in 2013, Gonzalez will be one of eight men making the trip to Sao Paulo for the ATP Challenger Tour Finals. To be held on outdoor clay at the Sociedade Harmonia de Tenis from 13-17 November, this is the third edition of the event.
Gonzalez is excited for the challenge. “I am very happy to have qualified for this tournament. It’s a special and different tournament that I don’t know if I’ll be able to play it again in my career. At the beginning of the year it was not a goal, but with the good results I started thinking of it.”
In a region rich with tennis history and a proud culture of clay-bred legends, from Guillermo Vilas to Gustavo Kuerten and Marcelo Rios, Gonzalez is looking to launch Colombian tennis into the forefront. Now with six Challenger-level tournaments, comprising the Seguros Bolivar Open series, and the addition of a hard court ATP World Tour 250 event in Bogota, Colombia is establishing itself on the tennis landscape.
“It is not easy to train in Colombia, especially because there are not many players and most of the cities have high altitudes,” said Gonzalez. Despite the difficulties of cultivating a strong tennis identity in his country, the 24 year old feels the sport is steadily growing in popularity. “I think we have been improving and tennis in Colombia is rising.”
Ranked just inside the Top 300 a year ago, Gonzalez was committed to making a splash on the Challenger circuit in 2013. In February, he made an immediate impact, capturing his maiden title in Salinas and reaching the final in Panama City five weeks later. Then, in early May, competing in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, in Madrid, Gonzalez came just two games from claiming the biggest win of his career. Despite having to retire with an ankle injury, he pushed then-World No. 55 Marinko Matosevic to 4-4 in the third set in the first round of qualifying, in just his second match against a Top 60 opponent.
The ankle ailment was not serious and the 6’3” Colombian would rebound beautifully, claiming a pair of ATP Challenger Tour titles in consecutive weeks, in Medellin and Sao Paulo, in July. A month later, he would win his first Grand Slam qualifying match, at the US Open, and soon after ascend to a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 106.
“I think it has been a great year for me, not just because of the results but also for what I have improved in my game,” said Gonzalez. “Being near the Top 100 makes me happy and also motivates me to work harder because I know that I still have many things to improve.”
Where does Gonzalez’s passion for the game come from? Naturally, a reverence for World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. “Above all [I am] a fighter on the court,” he proudly exclaimed, saying he emulates Nadal’s on-court grit and determination and unrelenting aggressiveness. “I don’t think too much about my ranking. In 2014 I have to keep working hard to improve my game.”
Gonzalez is looking to become the fifth Colombian to hoist the trophy in Bogota next week, before heading to Sao Paulo for the season finale.
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