Tennis: Robredo hoping to play a mean game in Auckland
Tommy Robredo is hoping to play a mean game in Auckland next week. Picture / Richard Robinson
by David Leggat
A glance at Tommy Robredo's end-of-season standings for the last three years paints a picture of a player on the up.
The last three years have had the 22-year-old righthander in 30th, 21st and now 13th spot on the world rankings.
There's a pattern here, but for Robredo it's a case of small steps on his way towards the top.
You won't get Robredo claiming he'll be at the summit of the men's game by the end of this year, perched alongside, or ahead of, the peerless Roger Federer. But the ambition is there.
"Every year I get closer. I am always going up, so why not?" he said after a workout at the ASB Tennis centre this week in preparation for next week's Heineken Open for which he is second seed behind Argentine world No 7 Guillermo Coria.
"The last year was my best year. I have to improve everything. The most important is my serve.
"This year  I improved a lot of things in my game and I won my second title in Barcelona. That was very special because winning at home is not easy."
Robredo has got where he has through consistency. In addition to the Barcelona win, he was a quarter-finalist or better eight times earning US$860,000 ($1.2 million).
But perhaps pride of place goes to being part of Spain's second Davis Cup-winning team in Seville last month.
Robredo was courtside as Carlos Moya clinched the cup with a straight-sets win over American Andy Roddick.
"It was special because I played all the ties. We kept going and going and going. We knew it would be a tough final but we did a great job as a team."
At the moment of triumph "my heart was beating so hard. It is a lot different than when you are on court".
"On court you don't feel that pressure but when you are on the side you can't do anything.
"When you have to see another guy doing things you say 'come on do this, do this'. It's not easy."
Robredo is in the vanguard of a stellar era in Spanish tennis.
Just as the swarm of Russian players are changing the face of the women's game, a case can be made that Spain is the pre-eminent nation among the men.
Thirteen Spaniards are in the world's top 100, seven - Moya at No 5, Robredo, Feliciano Lopez at 25, Juan Carlos Ferrero at 31 and Fernando Verdasco at 34, David Ferrer at 44 and Rafael Nadal at 46 - are among the top 50.
Three of those five will be in Auckland next week, with Ferrero and Nadal, the beaten finalist here last year, on their way along with No 68 Alberto Martin.
"For the last five or six years we've had more than 20 guys in the top 200, which is great for us.
"It's not only about having players in the top 10 and that's very important," Robredo said.
Robredo's best Grand Slam result was making the last eight at the French Open in 2003.
Last year his Barcelona victory over Argentine Gaston Gaudio was the second longest final of the year at 3h 46m.
And in addition to clearly being fit as a flea, Robredo has a cool head in a tight spot. His third set tiebreak record last year was 5-1.
Robredo was named after The Who's groundbreaking rock opera by his father Angel (and yes, he heard many of the songs when he was young, he has the DVD but finds watching it hard going).
He has brought his mother Dolores, father, coach Mariano Monachesi and physiotherapist on his first trip to Auckland.
This is no fun break before the serious part of the year.
"I want to play a great first tournament," he said. "Obviously it's great preparation for the Australian Open.
"If you ask me, what do I prefer to win [Auckland or Australia] it's obvious.
"But the best thing to do is to win here, play as many matches as possible and get ready for the Australian Open."
Robredo, both of whose parents are tennis coaches, began playing the game at five, but reckons "I was born with a racquet in my hand".
He likes the challenge and competitiveness of other sports but his time dabbling is limited by his career commitments.
He's a fan of Barcelona Football Club and as they are 10 points clear at the top of the Spanish premier division approaching the halfway point he should be in good spirits.
And a chat this week suggests he is. A win here next week would be the perfect start to Robredo's plans for the year ahead.
Take away Federer and world No 2 Roddick and there's not much to separate the chasing pack.
"My goal is the same as last year, try to reach top 10. I'm really close. I want to arrive at that goal, then go to another one."
Small steps? "That's it."
* Tommy Robredo
Born: May 1, 1982, Hostalric, Spain
Turned pro: 1998
World ranking: 13
ATP titles: 2 singles (Sopot, Poland, 2001 and Barcelona 2004), 1 doubles (Chennai, 2004) Career earnings: US$2.2 million