Mariano Puerta

Born: September 19, 1978 in Córdoba (Sierras Pampeanas)
Height: 1.76 m
Plays: Left-handed
Part of an intriguing generation of South American players emerging on the tennis circuit in the late ’90s, the infamous Argentinian wasn’t as naturally gifted as his counterparts like Chilean Marcelo Ríos, Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, or Ecuadorian Nicolas Lapentti. Nevertheless, Puerta solidified his status as a regular ATP player after Wimbledon ’98 and was seen as a potential future top Argentinian player among the likes of Mariano Zabaleta, Franco Squillari, and Guillermo Cañas.
The year 2000 proved pivotal for Puerta. He had a highly successful Latin America swing, securing finals in Mexico City and Santiago, and ultimately claiming the Bogotá title despite facing a match point down against Kuerten in the semifinal. However, his progress halted in 2001 due to a left wrist (ligaments) surgery in January, causing him to miss almost five months, and playing poorly after the comeback. Later, he served a nine-month suspension after testing positive for clenbuterol at Viña del Mar in February 2003.
It seemed Puerta’s career was in jeopardy. His ranking plummeted to No. 440, and he grappled with weight gain. Yet, in October ’04, he participated in and won a Futures event in Chile; it activated an inspiring resurgence from a player once eyeing the Top 10. A little over six months since playing in an obscure Chilean court, Puerta displayed outstanding tennis on Centre Court in Paris. The Argentinian showcased remarkable clay-court prowess, defeating formidable opponents like Cañas (quarterfinal) and Nikolay Davydenko (semifinal) in similar five-setters. His play was characterized not only by colossal forehand winners but also by incredible dives, a rarity on clay courts. In the opening set of the final, he performed exceptional tennis against Rafael Nadal, who claimed his maiden French Open title though, but had to give his all to avoid a decider.
Unfortunately, Puerta faced another accusation of using illegal substances, this time the cardiac stimulant etilefrine. Consequently, in December 2005, having lost six straight matches at the main-level (three at “Masters” included), he received an eight-year suspension as a recidivist, the longest in tennis history at that time, effectively terminating his professional career. However, this suspension was later reduced on appeal, permitting Puerta to return in 2007.
Puerta had to forfeit all his ranking points and prize money from the 2005 French Open onwards. However, his finish as a finalist at the 2005 French Open was allowed to remain on the record books. In June 2007, after a 1.5-year hiatus, Puerta embarked on an unsuccessful comeback. Despite climbing back to the Top 300, ATP event officials were uninterested in offering him ‘wild cards’. After two years competing at the Challenger level (193-121 record at this level throughout career, ten titles), the forgotten Puerta decided to retire at the age of 31.
Career record: 128–118 [ 117 events ]
Career titles: 3
Highest ranking: No. 9
Best GS result:
Roland Garros (runner-up 2005)
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