Horacio Zeballos’ click: why he bet on becoming a doubles specialist to reinvent his career

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At the age of 35, the Mar del Plata player has just qualified with the Spanish Marcel Granollers to play the London Masters. There were no Argentines in that

Horacio Zeballos began his professional tennis career in 2003. As a singles player, he reached the 39th place in the world rankings and conquered a title, in that unforgettable final of Viña del Mar 2013 in which he had the pleasure of defeating Rafael Nadal. But about three years ago, after a lot of chatting with his coach Alexander LombardoHe decided to change the course of his career and reinvented himself as a doubles player, a discipline to which he has been totally dedicated since the beginning of last year. The bet paid off more than well. In just a couple of seasons, he became the first Argentine to reach the top 10 of the couples ranking – today he is third -, he added three titles in Masters 1000, reached the final of a Grand Slam and this Monday, his qualifying for the London Masters for the first time.

The 35-year-old from Mar del Plata will contest the contest that brings together the best of each season with the Spanish Marcel Granollers, with whom he won three titles this year, the ATPs of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, before the stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Masters 1000 in Rome, with which he equaled the mark of Guillermo Vilas as the Argentine most winner of doubles, with 16 trophies. In addition, the pair reached the final in Kitzbuhel. The event in the English capital – from 15 to 22 November – will be a new milestone in his new life as a doubles player, in which the successes came much earlier than expected.

Zeballos won his first doubles tournament in 2010 in Buenos Aires alongside Sebastian Prieto. Between 2011 and 2017, he added another six in partnership with the Italian Simone Bolelli, the Chilean Julio Peralta and his compatriot Andrés Molteni. In 2018, he began to focus his work on couple competitions and since then he has not stopped growing. That year he added three more titles, in Buenos Aires with Molteni and in Bastad and Hamburg with Peralta. But the quality jump came in 2019, after playing in Auckland (he fell in the first round of qualifying) his last singles tournament.

Last season, which started in the 30th step of the ranking, he shouted champion in the Buenos Aires ATP along with Maximum González in February. In March he celebrated his first major title by winning the Indian Wells Masters 1000 alongside the Croatian Nikola Mertic. In August he partnered with Granollers, with whom he won the Montreal Masters and was a finalist at the US Open. And it closed the year in the top 5. In this typical 2020, the ascent continued.

“The achievements came much earlier than imagined. I am happy to be in the top 3 of the ranking. It is a source of great pride and emotion,” commented the Mar del Plata in an interview published in April on the ATP Spanish page.

And he acknowledged: “That I have started to do well in the doubles and have been able to achieve goals and the feat of being the first Argentine in the Top 10 makes me not miss the single so much because I was able to achieve things as a doubles player. Every so often I look the same. the final against Rafa or games that I played and I love to see or remember them. “

Although the good results came very quickly, the Argentine had to work hard to achieve them. Especially since the game of a stunt specialist is quite different from that of a pure singles player.

“I always liked to play doubles, but not so long ago I decided to specialize. We got to work full time, because there were things that I did not know and that I had to learn and improve, such as movements. To be a good doubles player I had to learn to be brave, because doubles players cross paths, they are very active on the net, they move all the time. I have the facility to adapt to different teammates. The priority has always been to enjoy, keep learning, win games, “he explained in a talk with The nation after the conquest in Montreal last year.

“Argentine doubles players were always a mirror for me. I am very grateful to them, especially to those who at some point gave me advice and tips for the specialty, such as Niño Hood, Frana, Prieto, Lucas Arnold, Pulpo Etlis, Martín Rodríguez, “he added.

This “new” career changed Zeballos’ life. Because as a member of the ranking elite, you can afford to play the most important tournaments on the circuit and be more selective when it comes to putting together your schedule. Thus, not only does he have the chance to rub shoulders with the best players in the world every day, but he can also spend more time with his family, his wife Sofía and their children Emma and Fausto.

Being one of the best doubles players in the world doesn’t pay as much as being a top singles player. Zeballos knows this, who in his career has earned $ 5,304,675 in prizes, of which 2,188,841 came for his results in this discipline. Last year, the best of his career, he earned $ 846,873. To compare, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won three titles in 2019 (Marseille, Estoril and the London Masters), reached another three finals and finished the year fifth in the ranking, accumulated 6,712,206.

“The economic difference is very big. In doubles, you earn five times less than in singles, but the pressure is the same. I’m still happy because this was a life choice,” reflected the Mar del Plata a few weeks ago after lifting the trophy in Roma and match that historic Vilas brand.

“Nowadays I feel that in doubles I can achieve achievements that I would not have dreamed of playing single, such as winning a Grand Slam or being Top Ten. This is something that I never imagined, nor was I going to experience it when I left the single to dedicate myself to the There I started training to see what things had to be done to be a better doubles player. There were new goals and we set new goals with the team and the family. That is why today being one of the best at what I do has no name. very rewarding and satisfying, “he assured.

FSM

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