Guido Pella he played only one singles game this season. It was at the beginning of November, in the Challenger de Montevideo, a tournament that marked his return to the courts after more than a year of absence. That long inactivity, caused by a chronic injury to his right knee, in which he has practically no cartilage, forced him to close his 2021 season in October, kept him out of the circuit for 384 days and made him lose his ranking (today he has no points). . And it also led him to seriously think about hanging up the racket. However, the man from Bahía reconsidered retirement and today, after a 2022 that could have been a nightmare and in the process of “being again”, he does not hesitate to assure: “This was the best year of my life and not only for the birth of my daughter, which is the best thing that happened to me”.
“I had been in a very good mental state since the end of 2021, because I had had the courage to say ‘I don’t play anymore’. And that, for a person who has played tennis all his life, is the most important decision. I did so convinced that my year was excellent. I started enjoying other things and living life from the perspective of a normal person and I loved it. I love being a normal person, I love not having to answer to the ranking or the tournaments every week and having the freedom to choose what I want to do when I want to do it”, he commented in a chat with Clarion.
And he continued: “Living as I did this year led me to say ‘If I play again, I can take it in a different way’. It is not all so serious, it is not all so linear, it is not all so uphill. Obviously it’s an apprenticeship, but in those first months in which I began to train more professionally and compete, I was able to calm down a bit. I was able to reach a good level of tennis, but without so much mental demand, just thinking about doing my best day by day”.
To understand what Pella experienced in this last year, it is worth going back to the beginning. “I’ve got patellofemoral syndrome, which causes me severe pain in the knee, because my cartilage is very worn. It is an injury from more than ten years ago and there is no cure, but if you are of good weight, do exercises to strengthen your hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, buttocks, it should not cause major problems. But as I got bigger, I needed more exercises and a better weight. And at the end of 2021 he was having a very bad time,” said the man from Bahia, who reached 20th in the ranking and won an ATP title, in Saint Paul 2019.
“I felt a lot of pain, not only when I trained or played. The change of surface killed me and when I went from grass to concrete, it got worse. That’s why I decided to stop. Because it’s one thing to hurt when you’re competing and another, not even You can get out of bed well. There it already goes to another level and it is very difficult to bear, “he continued.
His first motivation was to leave pain behind in order to enjoy his daily life. He did several treatments, but what helped him the most were the physical exercises. However, the return to the courts did not cross his mind in the first months of recovery.
“I made the decision not to play anymore from the fever, but as the weeks went by, I became convinced that it was the right one. In addition, I had removed everything traumatic that it could have had. I hear many athletes who say ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do’ . I share it, but there really comes a time when the balance is so inclined to stop playing, because of the pain, the lack of desire or whatever… It was practically a decision made, “he commented.
What made you change your mind? On the one hand, the birth of his first daughter. On the other, having felt physically well again.
“The starting point was to stop feeling that acute pain that I had. I tried by all means to start feeling less pain for my life. For the first time, I prioritized my mental and physical health over my career, because it is not healthy to live with that And when that relief came, I started training much harder and feeling better. That made my confidence in my physique increase a lot and I decided to give myself the chance to play once more,” he recalled.
“Taking the drama out of the idea of not playing made my body relax and absorb all the training and exercises much better. Today I feel like I’m flawless, compared to how I was. I know I played a game in the last year and a half, that I lack a lot, that the level is not what it was and the training, obviously, neither. But I am trying to demand myself a little more each time to be able to continue climbing levels. Hopefully next year I can feel good physically and from a tennis point of view, which is important,” he added.
New stage, new perspective
Pella chose to give herself a new opportunity to try to be the protagonist again on a court. But in this new stage – a kind of “second career” – he will do things his way and face the competition with a new perspective.
“Today I’m playing, training and preparing because I want to. It’s my decision, no one else’s. And from this moment on, I want to make decisions that I feel comfortable with, I don’t want anyone else to demand something from me that makes me uncomfortable. I’m already big, I know what I have to do to do my job to the best of my ability and I want everything to happen through enjoying myself as much as possible and trying to play the best role I can”, he assured.
-Did you get rid of that pressure you always felt in tournaments?
The pressure never goes away. You can come to feel different types of pressure, greater or lesser, but you never stop feeling it, mainly due to an internal demand of each one. I was lucky to reach a good ranking, to be able to play against the best and to beat several, and that makes the mind get used to being demanded. That will never change. That requirement, unfortunately, does not go away. And I say unfortunately because there comes a point where you want to rest or have a calmer mind and, it seems like a joke, your brain won’t let you. I think it is something necessary for the sport. But hopefully next year I can take it as relaxed as possible.
-A few years ago you said that you did not enjoy tournaments, that you suffered from that pressure you were talking about. Did you miss the competition?
Any. Zero. The only weeks I thought ‘I want to be there’ They were the Davis Cup weeks, the one played in Argentina in March and the one played in Italy, because I always loved playing Davis Cup. I was lucky to always perform well and compete well in that tournament and I have beautiful memories. I never felt as scared on a court as in the Davis games, but they ended up being good experiences. But the rest of the year, nothing. My dad, who is a tennis fan, would watch the US Open o Roland Garros and I passed them by, there was no chance that I would sit down and watch them.
-And what did you feel when you played again, in the Montevideo tournament?
I liked it very much. Firstly, because Montevideo is a city where I love to play and that is a tournament that I have won twice. And after a year or so, I wanted to see where it was. Obviously I didn’t expect to win, far from it, but I was very uncertain about how I was going to feel. And I felt very good, very comfortable. I played a very good match against an opponent who, it seems to me, was the worst that could touch me in the first round (NdR: He lost 7-5 and 6-3 with Juan Manuel Cerúndolo; in addition to reaching the doubles semis with Camilo Ugo) and that encouraged me to continue. They made me want to have a good preseason, because I got a good feeling and I realized that I can still play and, perhaps, come back at a good level.
-Are you mentally prepared to return to the maelstrom of the circuit?
It will be very difficult. In a month or so we have to travel to Australia and thinking about that gives me mixed feelings. It will be the first time that I travel without Stefi and without the baby and I will feel that I am missing something important. But it will be a good test, which I have to face. I have to go play in Australia and do my best and try to find my best version. It’s a Grand Slam, I know that anyone can touch me, so I’m going to go with very reserved expectations, but hopefully I can play well.
-And after Australia? Did you set any goals for this new stage?
I am going to try to take advantage of the protected ranking, which is quite good (75th), to play the best tournaments: Australia, Córdoba, Buenos Aires, Rio, all the Masters 1000 and the Grand Slams. I’ll see later. There is a very concrete possibility that at the end of the year, if the results were not good, you have to make a decision. I think I’m ready to continue in tennis and have a longer career. But if I can’t, nothing will happen. Because if I realized something in this last year, it’s that after retirement, life goes on and it’s beautiful.
2022 was a year full of emotions for Pella, and that had almost no competition. His life changed forever on July 13, when he was born Ariannathe result of his relationship with the model, influencer and businesswoman Stephanie Demner. And the man from Bahia took advantage of the break in his sports career to fully enjoy the first months of fatherhood.
“Getting involved in the way that I’m getting involved allows me to get to know my baby better and I’m realizing how it changes. And the truth is, it’s spectacular,” she said, with happiness reflected in her voice. “I do everything, I give him the bottle, I change his diapers and I am the bedroom Ari’s officer during the day. It’s pretty clear to me now.”
– Is there something that costs you or do you really have it quite clear?
The most difficult thing was, as a new father, realizing that the baby, as she grows, needs different things. It happened to me, for example, that before with me she literally fell asleep after 10 seconds. Suddenly, one day, she didn’t want to sleep in that position anymore and she changed all my plans. And I couldn’t understand it. And that kind of thing, nobody explains it to you. But you learn to adapt and the reality is that babies are much smarter than we think. If they have a need, they make themselves understood, which surprised me, and you end up realizing what they need. That seems spectacular to me.