Meet the Tour’s Most Improved Player of the Year

K. Keerthivasan
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Carreno Busta.
Carreno Busta.

It is very satisfying for a sportsman to stage a successful comeback to the elite level from debilitating injury. Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain experienced such joys early this year.

It was while playing a Challenger event in 2012 that the 22-year-old Spaniard picked up a serious back injury. Spending several months recovering from surgery and being away from professional tennis for major part of last year sure was painful, but Carreno persevered.

He bounced back in spectacular fashion earlier this year, winning 35 straight matches at the Futures level, and claiming seven titles from eight finals.

“It was incredible,” says Carreno, after a practice session at the Nungambakkam Stadium on Saturday, ahead of the Aircel-Chennai Open. 

“After the injury I never thought I could play like before. I’d like to thank my coach Javier Duarte and my family as they had complete faith in me.” 

While being aware that being successful on the Futures circuit is completely different from even staying consistent on the Tour events, Carreno says, “I know that, but winning gave me a lot of confidence.”

“My concentration levels were perfect.”

“My coach Duarte has been with me since 2010. He is a perfect coach. He has given me lot of advice more on the mental side and less on the technical side. It has proved right for me,” he says.

His first foray into the main draw on Tour was at the 250 Casablanca tournament, where he defeated top-50 regular Pablo Andujar before losing to World No.20 Kevin Anderson in the pre-quarterfinals.

However, under Duarte’s guidance, Carreno grew from strength to strength. Two weeks later, he qualified again at Oeiras, Portugal, where he had an impressive run to the semifinals getting past the likes of Julien Benneteau and Fabio Fognini. He even took a set off eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka before bowing out.

All these performances reflect in his ATP rankings. The Spaniard, who had started the season at No.715, has worked his way up to a career-best No. 64, his efforts winning him ATP’s award for the Most Improved Player of the Year in November.

“It was a great feeling. I am truly happy,” says Carreno, of the award. 

What made 2013 even more special for Carreno was the fact he got to make his Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros, his efforts to come through the qualifying rounds earning him a Centre Court audience with Roger Federer in the first round.

“Initially I was nervous playing Federer, my inspiration, on Centre Court. Later I started to enjoy the occasion,” he says.

Talking of the season ahead, he says: “2014 will give me an opportunity to play against the best of players. I have a lot to learn, and am keen to stay in the top-40 or 50 in the world by the end of the year.”

Carreno is drawn to meet Yuki Bhambri in the first round here.

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