WSO Player Update: Juan Monaco

WSO Player Update: Juan Monaco
(Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of updates on players who either played in last year’s Winston-Salem Open or have committed to playing in this year’s tournament.)
     By John Delong
The inaugural Winston-Salem Open was filled with players who have experienced great success in the time since.
Certainly one player who used the tournament as a springboard is Juan Monaco.
The 28-year-old Argentine came to Winston-Salem last August languishing at No. 36 in the South African Airways ATP rankings, unable to get much going during the summer hard-court season.
In the time since, the player affectionately known as "Pico" has won two tournaments, and last month he climbed to a career-high No. 14. He is currently ranked No. 15.
Back on his favorite clay court surfaces these days, he looks like a player who could do some damage at Roland Garros later this month.
"Juan is a great example of a player we were able to catch on the upside of their rise last year," tournament director Bill Oakes said. "It turned out it was great preparation for him for the final Grand Slam of the year, and he played well in New York. Now, he’s in the in the Top 20 and it doesn’t look like he’s going to fall back anytime soon."
Monaco had failed to get past the second round at Montreal and Cincinnati when he came to Winston-Salem last August, so he was hardly on a roll.
He reached the quarterfinals here, beating Tobias Kamke and Kei Nishikori before losing to top seed Andy Roddick in the quarters.
Then it was off to New York, where he advanced to the fourth round of the US Open before losing to Roger Federer.
The momentum then continued as he closed out the 2011 season with two more impressive performances. He reached the finals at Valencia, knocking off higher seeds David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro in early rounds. Then he reached the quarterfinals at the Masters 1000 event in Paris, knocking off Gilles Simon and Mardy Fish before losing again to Federer.
The 2012 season has been filled with even more success.
He claimed his fourth career ATP World Tour title at Vina Del Mar (Chile) in February, then beat Roddick and Fish among others in reaching the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson in Miami. He eventually lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis.
"It was a very positive week for me," Monaco said at the time. "Not good, very good. For me to be in the semifinals, on that stage with champions like Novak and Rafa and Andy Murray, for me it’s a great week, amazing. For sure, I will always remember this. I feel like this tournament is gonna bring me a lot of confidence for the next tournaments."
It was with that overflowing confidence that he won his fifth career title the very next week in Houston, winning the U.S. Clay Court Championships. He pulled out a tough, draining three-setter over defending Winston-Salem Open champion John Isner in the finals.
"This is a great moment in my career," Monaco said in Houston. "I’ve worked very hard to be here."
Monaco had also been as high as No. 14 in early 2008, after he won three tournaments in 2007 and reached the fourth round of both Roland Garros and the US Open. An ankle injury derailed him for a stretch, and eventually he dropped as low as No. 69 in early 2009.
So it has been a long road back, indeed.