Andujar’s Wife Details His Love, Faith And Perseverance
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Pablo Andujar’s wife, Cristena Moreta, ahead of his fourth-round match on Monday against Gael Monfils at the US Open.
I must admit I don’t remember every detail about the seasons, the matches or even the outcomes. I can recall just bits and pieces of my husband’s career. But one moment that does stick with me, one that’s engraved in my memory, is of Pablo Andujar, standing under a tent at Winston-Salem in 2015, completely desolate and sobbing uncontrollably. Still in his tennis attire, he was clutching his elbow in a lot of pain. That’s when I knew for sure this injury was serious.
A month before the loss at Winston-Salem, Pablo was in Switzerland to defend his title in Gstaad. During his quarter-final match against Thomaz Bellucci, Pablo turned to the stands and told us something was wrong; he had heard a “crack” in his elbow. A trip to a clinic in Barcelona confirmed he had sustained an injury.
Still, Pablo did his best to play through the pain. It was difficult to watch him suffer. We endured the episode at Winston-Salem a few weeks later, and the breaking point came at the 2015 US Open one week after, when he was forced to retire in the first round.
After more than 10 years as a couple, Pablo and I have been through a lot together. I even remember thinking early in 2015 that it was going to be an outstanding year. He was a finalist at Barcelona [l. to Nishikori] and reached the third round at Roland Garros a few months later — his best result at a Grand Slam up to that point. He matched that success by making the third round at Wimbledon, despite never winning a tour-level match on grass prior to that.
It was around this time that Pablo’s elbow became an ongoing issue. As the condition worsened, we tried every possible solution: different doctors, physiotherapy, electrotherapy, even stem cells. We were willing to try anything to avoid surgery, but things just kept getting worse. By the time Pablo petitioned for a protected ranking, it was too late and he eventually dropped to No. 104 in the ATP Rankings — 72 places below his career-high standing of No. 32.
Pablo’s life changed. Our lives changed. We lived what most would consider “normal” lives — regularly attending family functions, going to weddings together, even doing things as simple as shopping as a couple at the supermarket or hanging out at home. As strange as it sounds, that stage of our lives suited us very well. Whereas before we spent chunks of time apart, we were learning to live together. No longer was Pablo living on the road. We were always around each other and we became immersed in that routine.
Pablo barely competed in 2016. He underwent his first surgery in February of that year and a second operation in November. We were married that same month. A few days before our wedding, Pablo told me we wouldn’t be going anywhere for our honeymoon as he’d be spending that time in the operating room instead. Imagine my face when he broke that bit of news!
In the end, we wound up going on a honeymoon. Days later he had the operation and, not long after that, we learned we were going to be parents. It was a joyous time for us and I hold a special place in my heart for that chapter of our lives.
Throughout this time, Pablo never halted his training routine. He altered his approach instead to compensate for the injury by working closely with his physical therapist. All this, while he was also preparing to become a father.
On 26 July 2017, Pablo Jr. was born. If the span when he wasn’t competing had altered his life, becoming a father transformed his perspective. Our bond became closer and his role as a father took precedence over everything. Even though he’s into the fourth round at the US Open, I still scold him for my lack of rest as his oldest son has no interest in taking his naps!
After the birth of ‘Pablete’, my husband underwent a third operation on his elbow. His ATP Ranking plummeted, but dare I say he was happy and in a good place. Refocussed on his career, Pablo was determined not to let the injury define him or destroy him. The rebuilding process would not be easy as by 1 January 2018, he was ranked No. 1690.
Still, he was full of positive energy. His level of play began to rise and he captured an ATP Challenger Tour title in Spain that April. That was a major turning point and Pablo will always be grateful to Juan Carlos Ferrero and the Equelite Sport Academy for the invitation.
His luck began to change. Pablo won an ATP Tour event in Marrakech by defeating Kyle Edmund, then followed that up by lifting Challenger titles in Florence and Buenos Aires later in the year. Those wins launched him back into the Top 100 at No. 83 and he began this season with even higher hopes.
During the South American swing, Pablo was competing in Cordoba. I just remember thinking, ’Please don’t let me go into labour with our second child while he’s away.’ After his match, he returned home [to Spain] and on 10 February, Alex was born.
Since then, Pablo has found the right treatment to ensure his health. While this year hasn’t been all roses, he’s managed to win titles at Challenger events at Marbella, Alicante and Prostejov. He also reached another ATP Tour final in Marrakech.
The elbow injury, however, is always in the back of his mind. These days, he normally competes with a support sleeve and uses a therapeutic machine on his elbow an hour before bed.
In July, Pablo competed in Umag, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel. He lost to Dominic Thiem in Kitzbuhel after his face swelled due to an allergic reaction. He then returned to Barcelona to spend time with family. We were on the Costa Brava for a few days, where Pablo practised on a worn hard court. We joked as we wondered what the future might hold. Today, he’s playing for a spot in the quarter-finals at the US Open!
So, what have we gained from this entire experience? For Pablo, he understands tennis is his profession, but it isn’t everything. At another stage in his life, Pablo might not have cut training short to return to his family. These days, his priorities extend outside of tennis to include our children and me. His life is his family and children, and as it turns out, shifting priorities wasn’t a bad idea. This doesn’t mean, however, that he isn’t a true professional.
Pablo views his family as a team. Of course, it isn’t easy for us to stay back at home while he’s on the road. Pablo Jr., Alex and I miss him very much and sometimes it means he misses events like birthdays, a first tooth, a first day of school or a weekend of play. But we understand tennis doesn’t last forever. Life is long and when the time comes one day, he just might miss being on Tour!