Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Spain has been crankin' out its share of tennis stalwarts in recent years, and teenager Tommy Robredo represents its latest rising star.
The 19-year-old shot up 199 spots in the Champions Race, finishing the year at No. 30, after placing at No. 229 in 2000.
"I'm playing with more power, more experience, and I'm using my head a lot more," said the Spanish teen. "When I put all of that together, the results will come."
Although he is small in stature as far as professional tennis is concerned, the 5-foot-11, 155-pounder has a big enough game and an immeasurable fighting spirit to make himself a top-10 player.
Robredo captured 37-of-57 matches this past season, including his first-ever ATP title when he stopped fellow Spaniard Albert "Drop-Shot Dragon" Portas in a final in Sopot. He entered 2001 having appeared in only six ATP-level matches, and posted a less-than-impressive 2-4 record.
The feisty Robredo reached two finals in all this past year, going 1-1, with the loss coming against tough Argentine Guillermo Canas in the exotic locale of Casablanca in his first-ever ATP title match. Robredo also appeared in semifinals in Chennai and Den Bosch, and reached the fourth round of the French and U.S. Opens. His loss at the year's first Grand Slam tournament -- the Australian Open -- came against eventual finalist Arnaud Clement of France.
Surprisingly, the Barcelona resident closed out his 2001 campaign with four straight defeats, but he'll most certainly bounce back in the early part of 2002.
The Spanish tennis conveyer belt continues to produce some of the game's most- talented players (i.e. Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alex Corretja and Carlos Moya), and Robredo is one of the latest products. No less than nine Spaniards titled in ATP events worldwide in 2001, including the terrific teen, who, like so many of the Spaniards, features a game that's highlighted by a sizzling forehand.
One of Robredo's biggest wins in 2001 came against his countryman Ferrero -- a stunning five-set victory in the third round of the U.S. Open. Unfortunately for Robredo, he lost to fellow rising teenage star Andy Roddick of the U.S. in the round of 16 in Flushing. The Spanish youngster also posted a big victory against top-10 star Sebastien Grosjean of France in his hometown of Barcelona this past summer.
"He's much stronger than last year," Ferrero said after that loss to Robredo. "I think that is the key to why he's winning more matches. He's playing with more confidence and he doesn't have fear against anybody."
Important qualities indeed for the fast lane that is the ATP.
Robredo has said that he would like to add a little more weight so he can push around with the big boys, but regardless of his physical presence, or lack thereof, there's no denying he's gained the respect of his peers. Portas, Robredo's good friend and reigning Tennis Masters Series Hamburg champion, said: "Tommy is a very young player with a lot of potential and a big future."
His prize money exceeded $400,000 in 2001, and you can expect the rocketing Spaniard to pocket even more than that in '02.
Robredo has said that he would really like to win Roland Garros (a.k.a. the French Open), and he could have a real shot next spring in Paris, especially if former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten continues to struggle, as he did down the stretch at the end of this past season.
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