Juan Sebastián Cabal: Grand Slam champion

By Freek Huigen February 8, 2017
Juan Sebastián Cabal, Colombia tennis

Juan Sebastián Cabal and Abigail Spears with their winners trophy. Photo: Oficina de prensa Colsanitas

Juan Sebastián Cabal wrote Colombian history by winning the Australian Open, teaming up with Abigail Spears from the United States. In the final, Cabal and Spears beat Croatian Ivan Dodig and Sania Mirza from India 6-2, 6-4.

Hours before the clash of titans Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, mixed doubles players Juan Sebastián Cabal and Abigail Spears surged to a 4-0 lead in the opening set, before the second-seeded duo got on the board. The Colombo-US duo didn’t blink and took the first set 6-2. In the second set, the unseeded pair lost concentration and went behind 1-4, but then clawed their way back to win the set. Twenty minutes later they celebrated their victory after winning five games in a row.

In his emotional victory speech on court Cabal said, “I want to thank all the Colombians here, it is amazing, I appreciate it so much. Thanks to my Australian family and see you next year.”

Back in Bogotá, Cabal made time for the press immediately after arriving at the airport, after more than 20 hours in the air. He explained that Spears was a great doubles partner: “This tournament was the second I played with Abby [Abigail Spears]. Last season in Roland Garros we lost a very tight match but we had chemistry and fun. In December we started talking and decided to play the Australian Open together as well. Her influence was incredible, we always had fun on the court. She is such a good person and that makes it a lot easier to play together.”

En route to the title, Cabal and Spears won all five matches in two sets. Cabal commented, “I really didn’t expect that to happen but it showed the level we had this week.”

The 30-year-old said he tried not to be overly strained in the final. “When you are in the final, you have to believe in all the work you have done during your life, believe in yourself and enjoy yourself and think of it as any other game at any other point in order to keep the same level as the other two weeks.”

In the men’s doubles Cabal teamed up with his regular partner Robert Farah. Cabal and Farah claimed two victories before they were defeated in the third round with a 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 defeat against eventual Australian Open winners Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

“I hope this is the first Grand Slam for many for us” Said Cabal. “Robert reached the Wimbledon final in mixed doubles last season, so I am confident Robert and I can get that Grand Slam that we are searching for with each other. The most difficult one is the first one, so I believe it will be the first of many.”

Cabal, who in 2011 reached the clay court final of Roland Garros with Eduardo Schwank from Argentina said he has no clear preference on where to play. “Robert and I have a slight preference for clay court, but I think we play well on all grounds and that gives us regularity throughout the year.

Cabal would love to play an ATP in Colombia one day: “It would be great to play in front of our home crowd again. Unfortunately we lost the one we had, but every year has new objectives and every year has new tournaments so I expect that we will get our own ATP tournament back again soon.”

Juan Sebastián Cabal writes history as the first Colombian Australian Open champion in history. Colombia had previously claimed a French Open title in 1974 when Ivan Molina won the mixed doubles with Martina Navratilova.