Ranked among world's top 200 doubles players, Gonzales eyeing '15 Davis Cup, '16 Summer Olympics

By David Hughes Tribune-Star | Posted 21 hours ago

Results of Ruben Gonzales Jr.’s professional tennis matches from around the world haven’t always reached the Tribune-Star at blazing speed.

So it’s time to play catchup.

In July 2014, the part-time Terre Haute resident and Chicago native won his first ATP Challenger tournament — the Tampere Challenger — teaming with doubles partner Sean Thornley of England to emerge victorious in Finland.

Largely because of that title, the right-handed Gonzales reached as high as No. 152 in the world doubles rankings last summer. He’s now ranked No. 179, according to itftennis.com.

Then in mid-February of this year, he and Darren Walsh of England combined to win the ATP Morelos Challenger doubles title in Morelos, Mexico.

“It was the biggest tournament I’ve ever won,” Gonzales told the Tribune-Star recently. “The total purse for that tournament was $100,000. That put me back in the top 200 of the [world] rankings. ... I think I’m on the right track now. With the way things are going, if I continue to play the way I’ve been playing, I’m hoping to crack the top 100 by the end of the year.”

Gonzales still plays for the Philippines, his family’s native country, in the Davis Cup tournament. But 2014 wasn’t one of the Philippines’ banner years.

“We lost to Pakistan in the [Group II] semifinals,” he noted. “I had injured my knee earlier in the year and I wasn’t able to play in the deciding matches [against Pakistan]. I played the first [singles] match and the doubles and we were actually leading 2-1 going into the last day. We needed one more point, but I wasn’t able to play on the last day. I wish I would have. But I was injured and I thought it would be best to put someone else in. We ended up losing.”

Gonzales’ injury was a dislocated kneecap. Ouch!

“I was playing on it for a few months,” he explained. “I played the first two matches [against Pakistan] and it didn’t feel right. It was one of those things where I don’t think I would have been as effective. We had some healthy guys and I thought it would be best for the team [to let others play], but we ended up losing anyway. It was disappointing, for sure.”

Fortunately for the 29-year-old Gonzales, he insists he’s fully recovered now.

“I took a little bit of time off, but it was mainly a lot of rehab — months of rehab and having it taped every single day for practice and playing,” he said. “Eventually, the muscles around it got stronger. ... Luckily, it was able to heal even when I was playing.”

This past weekend, Gonzales and his Philippines teammates got off to a good 2015 Davis Cup start by defeating Sri Lanka 3-0 at Pasig, Philippines, in the first round of the Group II tournament. Gonzales won his singles match 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 over Sri Lanka’s Sharmal Dissanayake.

Now the Philippines will advance to face Chinese Taipei in the second round in mid-July.

“The biggest part for me is the team, obviously,” Gonzales said of his 2015 Davis Cup goals before leaving Terre Haute. “We’ve been in Group II for about three years now and obviously we always want to move up so my goal is to help take our team back to Group I.”

Gonzales said he’s continuing to work on improving his overall game and becoming “fitter and faster.” He also mentioned that he returns to Terre Haute between tournaments about every five or six weeks.

Gonzales’ personal life has taken a turn upward as well. He’s been dating his girlfriend, Pro Mazda Championship race-car driver Michele Bumgarner of Avon, for about 10 months and his happiness shows when he smiles.

“It’s been a very positive influence,” he emphasized. “She’s an inspiration to me, with her being successful in her career as well. She helps keep me focused.”

They often have to take long breaks from seeing each other, however. This year alone, he’s competing in such far-away places as Maui, Dallas, Santo Domingo, Mexico City, Philippines, China, Turkey, Czech Republic, Singapore, London and Paris (not the one in Illinois).

Ideally, Gonzales would like to boost his world ranking higher to help his chances of representing the Philippines in the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio De Janeiro.

“Me and another guy from the Philippines, Treat Huey, we were close to getting a wild card into the London Olympics in 2012,” Gonzales recalled. “Obviously, we didn’t get it. It was kinda disappointing. But at the same time, it kinda put that goal in my mind that in 2016, it would be nice to qualify.

“That’s why one of my goals for this year is to crack into the top 100. Hopefully, combined with his ranking, it’ll be good enough to make the Olympics next year.”

What about beyond 2016? Can Gonzales maintain this hectic pace for much longer?

Only time will tell.

“The thing with doubles players, some of the top guys are in their 40s,” he pointed out. “If things go the way I want them to and I stay healthy, I would like to play [professionally] for 10 more years. My main goal would be to play really well in a Grand Slam, maybe even win one someday. Obviously, I’ve got to get to the point where I’m playing in them consistently. But I feel like, with the progress I’ve been making, it’s something that could happen.”

Source: Tribstar.com