LONDON (Reuters) - Guido Pella became the toast of Argentina on Thursday after achieving the biggest win of his career, something he said he had been seeking for years and never dreamt would come at Wimbledon against one of the favorites.
Pella, with no titles and ranked 82 in the world, upset big-serving third seed Marin Cilic 3-6 1-6 6-4 7-6(3) 7-5 in the second round at Wimbledon where the Croatian had entertained hopes of reaching a second consecutive final.
“I have been looking for this for years but I didn’t expect it to come here, against Cilic, at Wimbledon,” said the 28-year-old from Bahia Blanca, home town of basketball great Manu Ginobili.
“I have been deserving (of such a result) for years but I couldn’t believe it when I won,” added the left-hander, who looked stunned by his achievement when the match ended and he turned towards Argentine supporters in the Court One crowd.
“I did a good job (preparing) and this is the reward,” said Pella, who played at Stuttgart in the build-up.
“For the situation, the surface and the rival this was my best ever result, which means a lot but at the same time doesn’t mean anything because tomorrow I have to go out there again against a player who has been winning matches, who is young and must be playing well otherwise he wouldn’t have reached the third round.”
He faces 23-year-old American Mackenzie McDonald, who like him is in a Grand Slam third round for the first time, on Friday.
Pella had to overcome changes to the conditions between Wednesday, when the match was interrupted for rain with Cilic dominant and serving well, and Thursday when the Croatian was erratic. Cilic made 63 unforced errors to Pella’s 18 in the match.
“The court was faster today with the sun on it. When we stopped the first time yesterday and then resumed it was never fully dry,” Pella said.
“It gave me the chance to go to sleep and plan the (rest of the) match differently and I also gave him the chance to get a bit nervous because he had been doing whatever he wanted on the court, hitting the ball very hard, putting his serves where he wanted and he was clear favorite (to win).”
Pella, an avid video game player in his spare time, built up his confidence with the precision of his shots. “I think I got some breathing space, so to speak, with my slice which I hit very well and that gave me some calm whenever he attacked me.”
He said he saw a chink on light when he broke Cilic in the last game they played on Wednesday to go 4-3 up in the third set.
“Obviously I couldn’t have won then but it was evidence that I could do something against his serve because I really wasn’t managing to return any, he was doing whatever he wanted.
“The worst thing you can do against these (top) players is let them run away with the score because they gain in confidence and never let you come back.
“From that break the match was even and in the fourth and fifth sets you didn’t see a huge superiority; it was an even match, we both had chances and in the end luckily it fell to me.”
Reporting by Rex Gowar; editing by Clare Fallon