Guido Pella leaves the training courts at the Córdoba Open and immediately makes his way to the players’ lounge to see if his daughter Arianna, not yet one year old, is still having her nap or has woken and been taken to the hotel by her mother to enjoy the pool. When he sees her, his face lights up immediately. The Argentine stops being a tennis player and is simply ‘dad’.
This constant switching of roles is now a daily routine for Pella, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2019 and has now opened with a win in Cordoba. He is playing on a wild card at the ATP 250, where he finished runner-up in the event’s first edition four years ago.
In fact, for Pella, the 6-2, 6-2 victory over Italian Andrea Vavassori was his first win on the Tour in the past sixteen months because of a chronic right knee injury.
“I feel like crying, like suffering again, continuing to compete well, fighting for it and being a tough player. Winning the first match of my return here in my country is really special, and even more so with my family around,” Pella said. “I don’t want to be corny, but I’m here again because of my family. I was beaten and ready to pack it all in.”
Pella is now the No. 1018 player in the Pepperstone ATP Ranking, but his targets are not number-oriented. He looks no further than a few months ahead. The Argentine, No. 20 in the world in August 2019, returned to competition at the end of 2022 after more than a year sidelined because of his knee injury. He has one goal — to enjoy his daily life.
“I’m gradually starting to feel like I did before,” Pella said. “Hopefully at this tournament, which has given me so much joy, I can start to play better, win matches. I would like to recover the confidence that I haven’t felt for some time, which took me into the Top 20 players in the world.”
Despite having spent more than 15 years on the Tour, Pella is starting from scratch.
“My opener in Cordoba was a very different match, because it felt like I needed that win, not only because of what it means in terms of points, but because I feel like an elite player again and I feel good on court,” Pella said. “I really felt good. I managed to return all the serves, hold mine well and not be nervous, which is the most difficult thing in tennis.”
Is there something special about Cordoba for him?
“This is a tournament where I feel really good. It’s a city I like playing in. The court is pretty fast, the ball is quick but it’s a slightly heavier ball so it means you can control it,” Pella said. “I’ve actually been preparing really well. I got here on Friday, so I’ve had time to train.”
Does he have a specific goal for the next weeks or months? “I never set myself long-term goals because when I did, when I started training, I felt really bad again. I began training in April, May and I had to compete recently, in October, November,” the lefty said. “I could see I was a long way from competitive, and I started to just think from week to week, or one month ahead.
“That way, I can focus on the daily work and know that I have a match now and nothing else. Then, I’ll have another one on Thursday, and if that goes well, then Friday. Otherwise, I’ll go to the next event and back home.
The Argentine made that point with a smile before concluding: “Until not long ago, I was close to staying at home and drinking fizzy drinks on the sofa watching the tennis, but my family motivated me… and here I am. Celebrating it with them is something I will never forget.”
Pella’s campaign to return to the upper echelons of the Tour started in Australia, where he bowed out to Francisco Cerúndolo in straight sets. Now, at home and with his family for the start of the clay swing in Cordoba — he also received an invite to Buenos Aires — the Argentine wants to start progressing on his path back to elite tennis. Only time will tell how far he can go this time around.