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The Implausible Ascent of Juan Ignacio Londero

Juan Ignacio Londero completed a fairytale-worthy week by winning the first edition of the Cordoba Open. The Argentinian wild card entered his hometown event winless in his three previous tour-level main draw appearances.

By reeling off five consecutive wins at the Cordoba Lawn Tenis Club, Londero became not only a prophet in his own land, but also the first player to lift an ATP trophy in the same tournament he won his maiden match since Steve Darcis did so in Amersfoort, back in 2007. Credit goes out to tennis unofficial stats overlord @LucaBeck. Curiously, according to fellow stats guru @VoodeMar, Londero’s compatriot and namesake Juan Ignacio Chela also captured his first ATP title in Mexico City almost two decades ago, despite a previous 0-3 career record. Can’t make this stuff up, folks.

Cordoba, city of champions

Headlined by all-world talent David Nalbandian, Cordoba has churned out several pros in this century so far. Remember the hard-hitting Agustin Calleri? He is famous in Spain for delivering a massive 6-4 7-5 6-1 Davis Cup upset over then-No. 1 and reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2003. Well, it turns out that El Gordo is now the president of the Argentinian Tennis Association and played a pivotal role in bringing the ATP 250 from Quito (Ecuador) to Cordoba.

When Calleri and tournament director Mariano Ink first initiated the negotiations with the ATP Board, which resulted in a 10-year contract, the thought of Londero becoming its first winner was nothing short of a pipe dream.

Even though he always stood out among South Americans in his age group growing up, Londero lacked the accolades or even the high-profile wins attained by some of his countrymen. Nevertheless, he steadily improved his year-end ranking until 2014, when he closed the campaign at No. 204. But the injury bug made an ill-timed appearance, derailing Londero’s progress. His ranking cratered to as low as No. 473 in June of 2017.

Coach Schneiter spearheads Londero’s thunderous rise

With his morale severely undermined, El Topo was on the brink of retirement. However, he started working with Andres Schneiter and went all-in. Halfway through 2017, Londero jettisoned the Futures from his schedule. While he did not produce any deep Challenger breakout runs, wins started piling up for the Cordoba native, who ended the season with 52 victories under his belt.

Even if his No. 360 rank felt disappointing, Londero had returned to his winning ways. At that point, his conditioning trainer, Martiniano Orazi, advised him to bulk up over an extra-long preseason if he wanted to make it to the next level.

After starting his season precisely at the extinct Ecuador Open, Londero racked up 53 wins throughout 2018, including two Challenger trophies ($100K Mexico City and €43K Marburg). As a result, on the verge of the Top 100, he earned a well-deserved invitation into the main draw of his hometown tournament.

And the rest is history.

“Two years ago I had no money to practice or to do anything. I was sunk in the sea,” said Londero, now the No. 69 player in the world and a local hero.

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