Getting to Know 2016 WSO Winner Pablo Carreno Busta


By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Pablo Carreno Busta moved up to a career-high No. 39 in the ATP World Tour rankings thanks to his victory in the sixth annual Winston-Salem Open.

The 250 points that came after his three-set, come-from-behind victory over Roberto Bautista Agut in the championship match enabled Carreno Busta to move up 10 spots when the new rankings came out last week.

The 25-year-old Spaniard insists that he won’t get caught up with numbers and rankings anytime soon, though. He is confident he can become a Top 20 or even a Top 10 player eventually, but for now he’s intent on continuing to improve and letting the process play out in its own time.

“I will try to continue going up my ranking, my level of tennis, but I’m not in a hurry to be in the Top 20 or the Top 10,” Carreno Busta said before taking a charter flight to New York for the start of this year’s US Open after winning in Winston-Salem. “I am working good with my team and I am relaxed, and I don’t need to go faster than I can and make good things.

“I just hope to continue like this. I will continue to say, ‘This is the way: work, work, work.’ You have to learn a little bit because I am 25 and I have years to make my tennis better. I think we are working well and I’m happy with my team, with my coach, and in general with my life now. So everything is good.”

The climb has been pretty dramatic already.

After missing much of 2012 following surgery on the herniated disk, Carreno Busta was named the ATP World Tour’s Most Improved Player in 2013 in a vote by the players. He jumped from a year-end ranking of No. 715 in 2012 to No. 65 by the end of 2013, and has been in the Top 100 ever since.

He entered 2016 ranked No. 67 and quickly moved up by reaching the finals at Sao Paulo and Estoril in the first two months. All told, he has reached eight quarterfinals this year and reached the semifinals at Los Cabos earlier in August.

He is the youngest of 11 Spaniards currently in the Top 100, and he became the seventh Spaniard to win a title in 2016.

Again, he insists that he does not feel any pressure as Spain’s fastest-rising star. He is content to let Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer soak up the Spanish spotlight, saying that he has no delusions of ever matching their career-long feats.

“It’s not really pressure because Nadal’s the best player from Spain and I think he’s one of the best of the history,” Carreno Busta said. “I think it’s impossible to be like him. I don’t think that I will win nine or 10 Grand Slams, so there is no pressure. For me, just to keep progressing would be great.”

Carreno Busta said he was particularly happy to experience some hard-court success at the Winston-Salem Open. His previous two finals came on clay in Sao Paolo and Estoril. Some might assume that he’s a clay-court specialist, but he doesn’t consider that to be the case.

“Maybe this was the most difficult of the other two finals,” Carreno Busta said. “But I think I was playing very good. I was serving really well. I think I’m being more aggressive with my game. It’s really important to be aggressive with your serve and then your return and when you are playing the rallies. You need to be more aggressive because if you’re not aggressive, the opponent has the key to win the matches.”

Carreno Busta almost made it through the entire tournament without losing a set, but that ended when he let two set points slip away in the first-set tie-break in the final against Bautista Agut.

He was the No. 16 seed at the WSO with his ranking at No. 49 coming into the tournament. His wins in earlier rounds came over Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round, third-seeded Pablo Cuevas in the third round, 12th-seeded Andrey Kuznetsov in the quarterfinals and John Millman in the semifinals.

At the US Open, Carreno Busta made a nice run to the third round with victories over Ilya Ivashka and Janko Tipsarevic. A tough draw in the third round against Dominic Thiem ended his run in New York, though, as he lost to the No. 8 seed 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 after dominating the first set.

The win at the WSO, he said, was a huge confidence boost going into the Open.

“This is more confidence for me in the US Open,” Carreno Busta said. “I’m playing good, with confidence. This is really good to arrive for the US Open with confidence.”