Join Date: Mar 2004
Meet The Spaniard Who Won More Tennis Matches Than Rafael Nadal This Year
Miguel Morales, Forbes Staff
Spanish pro Pablo Carreno Busta isn’t a household name but he should be thanks to an unusually grueling feat this season. He played a staggering 110 matches on the men’s tour, skyrocketing up the rankings with a 92-18 record. At the beginning of the year, Carreno Busta was ranked No. 715. He now stands at 64 in the world, leapfrogging 651 spots in the process while posting a tour-high ranking jump among players in the top 100.
His remarkable year ensured financial success–$182,192 in 2013 to be exact–in a sport where it’s tough for players outside the top 150 to break even. For pros costs can run as high as $100,000 a year if they travel with a full team, whose services come in handy in order to keep up with the Janowiczes. At No. 715, he likely made less than $5,000 in prize money for all of 2012. At that rate, it would take him 14,200 years to make what Federer earned the past year–$71 million. Carreno Busta told FORBES, “Sponsors have helped a lot during my tough times.” As a promising youngster from a tennis-rich country, he has the opportunity and marketing potential to count on sponsors in these moments, a coup less talented players with less established home bases can’t rely on.
At one point, Carreno Busta beat 39 opponents in a row in 77 days. His streak passed Serena’s sparkling stretch of 34 wins that included the French, and easily lapped Nadal’s two 22-match runs. One hitch: the opponents he faced were nothing like the Sharapovas and Djokovics that Serena and Nadal dispatched during their streaks. (No offense, Oriol Roca Batalla.)
His run does hint that he may have that hard-to-teach quality vital for ensuring a long career–consistency. Beating such a range of players, especially those he’s supposed to beat, for that duration on days he probably didn’t feel his best is a hallmark of top players. Even if Carreno Busta improbably said, “I felt perfect,” playing so many matches.
Playing nearly 75% of his scraps on the soft clay surely spared his knees and joints, and his youth helped him recover more swiftly as well. Last year Carreno Busta suffered a back injury, which took him out of the game for most of 2012. Back injuries can be catastrophic for pros, who must turn on a dime countless times each match, to say nothing of the back bend needed to add enough work on serves. After his early doubts evaporated about how the back would hold up, he played like a man making up for lost time–and for good reason. Carreno Busta was finally winning enough matches to start playing the comparatively lucrative Challenger tour. Just two months after beating the world no. 280 in a Futures final, he was playing Roger Federer at the French Open.
Even for someone as indefatigable as Carreno Busta, the strain of breaking the century mark in matches played, a feat only five men have accomplished in the last 13 years, began to show. Facing Bernard Tomic at the Paris Masters, he admitted, “I lacked the strength and freshness that I had in the first few months of the year.”
For his sake, he won’t have to vulture Challengers and Futures for ranking points next year. He plans on playing less than 30 tournaments next year, though playing 25 is considered a lot for pros. At 64th in the world, he’ll gain direct entry to the Slams as well as many ATP Tour events that will pay him much more than the paltry $1,300 he made for winning Spain F7. Welcome to the big(ger) leagues, Pablo Carreno Busta.