Translated from: “Verdasco, en crisis” (El Pais, April 23, 2013)
To be an ex-champion is no assurance of repeating in a world as competitive as tennis. Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco can attest to that. Robredo was, in 2004, the last winner of the Open Banc Sabadell before the interruption of one Rafa Nadal, who wrote his name on the trophy 5 consecutive times before injury made him decide not to play in 2010, allowing Fernando Verdasco to win the tournament (that year.) The return of the Mallorcan in 2011 augmented his reign: his trophies grew to 7, to date. (In the current tournament,) Robredo has got through the first round, beating Marc Lopez, but Verdasco succumbed to Ernests Gulbis, dropping him out of the Top 40, and adding one more loss to a bleak period, (he’s only won 3 matches in 8 tournaments.)
Robredo and Verdasco are two champions who frame Nadal’s domination in Barcelona. And they are 2 champions with issues, struggling to find a way back to an elite level that they used to be part of. Robredo, within touching-distance of 31, got as high as #5 in the world, when he regularly found himself in the last 8 of Grand Slams. Verdasco, 29, had his career high in April 2009, when he reached #7 in the world, after making the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where he lost to Nadal in 5 sets.
At the time, the future looked rosy. Verdasco was still working with Andre Agassi’s ex-trainer, Gil Reyes, in Las Vegas, and had made a big leap in the rankings. Robredo was displaying some of the best tennis of his career. But then things went sour. Verdasco changed the structure of his team, abandoning Las Vegas, and modifying his work habits. He changed his methodology, and, probably, his mentality. In 2010, he won the Open Banc Sabadell in Barcelona and was quarterfinalist at the USO. Since then, however, he hasn’t won a single trophy.
Robredo’s case is more dramatic, because he spent 2 years laid low by an injury that doctors couldn’t identify. His left leg hurt, but he kept hobbling along on the circuit. Until (one) Dr. Vilaró decided that he needed an operation on the ischiotibial muscle in the leg. ”It took a year to figure out what it was,” explains Robredo. ”But when they operated on me, Vilaró did something magic. After a week, I was more flexible than a girl they’d operated on 6 months earlier. And the pain has disappeared. It’s a struggle to get back to my competitive level, but that’s a question of time and matches. The injury is completely forgotten.”
Robredo is now #43 in the world, while Verdasco is #35, though he’ll give up his place in the top 40 with this loss. They’re both a long way away from the positions they enjoyed in their best moments. Now the expectations fall on David Ferrer and Nadal, who start their campaigns in Barcelona against Dmitry Tursunov and the Argentine Carlos Berlocq, respectively.
[Note: Clearly this is old news, as Barcelona was won by Rafael Nadal, defeating Nico Almagro. I chose it for the insight into these two players. I know we have Verdasco fans on the boards, and everyone has been happy for the resurgence of Tommy Robredo. I hope this tells you something you didn't know.]