In 2018, the South Americans are dominating on the ATP Challenger Tour and the continent's top stars have descended on the Dominican Republic for this week's $125,000 Santo Domingo Open.
Three of the Top Five win percentage leaders are in the Dominican capital, with Bolivia's Hugo Dellien and Argentina's Guido Andreozzi and Juan Ignacio Londero battling on the green clay. Dellien entered the week with a 31-11 (.738) win-loss mark and three titles, Andreozzi with a 30-11 (.732) record and also three trophies and Londero with an impressive 35-13 (.729) and two titles.
The trio have grinded on the dirt all year and are reaping the rewards in the ATP Rankings. Dellien and Andreozzi have broken into the Top 100 behind breakthrough campaigns, while Londero is close behind, peaking at No. 118 last month.
"It has been a great season for me," Londero told ATPWorldTour.com. "I feel great physically and have been playing very well. I have been spending the whole year doing the right things on court and working hard. I'm eating right, training right and taking the right breaks when I can. It has all been perfect."
"I am very happy to get to the Top 100, because I worked really hard and it has reflected in my ranking," Andreozzi added. "I am just happy with how I'm improving and the results on the court. It's true that I've won three titles and at the beginning of the year I won in Punta del Este (Uruguay), which gave me a lot of confidence. I have played with a lot of confidence and at a good level."
It has been a trying week in Santo Domingo, with players braving brutal conditions from Hurricane Michael. Moisture from the storm wiped out play on Wednesday, after matches got underway at 7pm the night before due to the torrential rain.
That has created a manic day on Thursday, with the entire singles second round and quarter-final slate being completed, as well as the first two rounds of the doubles competition. All players remain huddled in the clubhouse of La Bocha, as mother nature dictates their fate.
But spirits are high. Dellien, Andreozzi (2016 singles champ) and Londero (2017 doubles winner) have all played here in previous years and feel at home in the club's cozy confines. With world-class hospitality and a festive atmosphere, players are taking the adverse conditions in stride.
"I am very happy to return to a tournament that is very nice," said Londero. "Here in Santo Domingo they organize the event very well. Last year I reached the second round as a qualifier and had the opportunity to win the doubles title. And I'm just happy to finish the year here and then in South America, where I will be close to Argentina."
"I really like it a lot in Santo Domingo," Andreozzi exclaimed. "The people treat you very well and I will always remember my title here in 2016. It's a plus to come back to a place where you won."
Christian Garin celebra una victoria de segunda ronda en Santo Domingo
But the terrific trio of Dellien, Andreozzi and Londero aren't the only Latin American stars in action in Santo Domingo. Christian Garin carries a 36-15 record on the heels of his second ATP Challenger Tour title in Campinas, Brazil. Arguably the most in-form player in the tournament, Garin has dropped just 10 games in reaching the semi-finals and extending his win streak to eight straight.
"The truth is that it's been two years since I've come here, but I like it a lot," said Garin about his experience in Santo Domingo. "I like to play here. The heat is strong and the humidity is heavy, but it's a nice tournament and it has a lot of great energy."
The 22-year-old Chilean is pushing towards a Top 100 berth as he rises to a career-high No. 121 in the ATP Rankings. While his victory in Campinas was just his first title of the year, Garin has carried a strong run of form from the summer months. After successfully qualifying at Wimbledon, he finished runner-up on the clay of Como, Italy.
Entering the 2018 season, Garin owned just two Top 100 wins in his young career. He has exceeded that this year alone, registering three such victories over elite competition, including a stunning straight-set win over current World No. 15 Stefanos Tsitipas in Le Gosier.
"I've been working on the simple things this year," said Garin. "I'm improving my first serve percentage and trying to be more aggressive. It's paying off. I'm very happy with the things I've improved. It hasn't always been perfect, but I don't need to change much, because I feel great with the year I'm having."
Garin will face Carlos Berlocq in Friday's semi-finals, with the winner to play for the Santo Domingo Open championship.
Author: Josh Meiseles