by Lindsay Gibbs
Spanish tennis has never been hotter. The Davis Cup trophy practically has a house in Madrid. Rafael Nadal is one of the best tennis players to ever play the game. David Ferrer is a Top-5 mainstay. Four others: Nicolas Almagro, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco, and Marcel Granollers are all in the top 30. They're awash in millions, models, and magazine spreads. And then there's the 7th best Spaniard in the ATP... Pablo Andujar.
Andujar, currently ranked #45, is poised to be at a career high after the BNP Paribas Open (he's into the 3rd Round after defeating Robin Haase and Florian Mayer). The 25 year old is coming off of his best year ever on the ATP tour, and speaking of hot.... well, let's just say it's time for us all to pay attention to the man from Cuenca. To help us all out, here are the essentials:
1. He's a clay courter. Like most Spaniards, Andujar feels most at home on the clay court. His main goal right now is to improve on the fast courts so he can better his ranking, but he knows he has to work on his serve and volley first.
2. His coach is Jose Luis Aparisi. Aparisi is a former ATP Player from Spain, who reached a high ranking of 142. The two started working together in February of 2011.
3. He's shy. Pablo is not as comfortable in the spotlight as his Spanish counterparts. In Winston Salem, when a couple of girls (I HAVE NO CLUE WHO THEY MIGHT BE) recognized him and accidentally shouted his name, he merely hung his head and blushed, seemingly in shock that anyone recognized him. I have a hard time imagining Verdasco having the same reaction!
4. He's won an ATP Title. Right after teaming with Aparisi last February, he won his first (and to-date only) ATP Final in Casablanca, Morocco. He was ranked 69 at the time. Along the way he defeated Jeremy Chardy, Albert Montanes, and Potito Starace. He made two more finals later in 2011- Stuttgart and Bucharest- losing both.
5. He has some good Idols. Coming up through the Juniors, Andujar's biggest tennis idol was Juan Carlos Ferrero. Now, he most admires David Ferrer. He says he looks up to Ferrer more than Rafael Nadal because Nadal's gifts are so extraordinary, it seems as if he was just born that way. Ferrer has had to work hard for his place in tennis history. He says that Ferrer is "more human than Rafa".
6. He loves Suzanne Lenglen. One of his favorite tennis memories is last year at the French Open, taking on Rafael Nadal in the 2nd Round. T hough he lost in straight sets, Andujar tested Nadal for 3 hours and his potential was on full display in front of the crazy French crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
7. He thinks the French are jealous. He spoke up in defense of his country-men after the controversial Canal puppet spoof that implied that Nadal, in particular, used drugs. He said that it was not funny at all, that it was "a very bad joke", and suspected that the French were merely jealous of the recent successes of the Spaniards.
8. His best friend is Granollers. The two won the Juniors French Open Doubles trophy and have been inseparable ever since.
9. He speaks Spanish, English, French and Italian. I mean, hello. Impressive.
10. He's...well, he's rather attractive. OKAY FINE I ADMIT IT. I don't mean to objectify, but it's a hard thing not to point out. Andujar's classic good looks are part of the reason why we hope he keeps winning for years to come.
Special thanks to Caroline Paquin (@caropaquin80) of The Running Forehand for her help, Andujar expertise, and photos!
Lindsay Gibbs is a contributing writer for OnTheGoTennis. She is the author of the book,Titanic: The Tennis Story which is available for purchase on April 1st at Amazon.com. To follow her on Twitter, click here.