Sebastian Baez claimed a slice of history for his native Argentina on Sunday. At the age of 20 years and a month, the Buenos Aires native became the youngest Argentine ATP Challenger titlist since 2010.
Almost 11 years had passed since the South American nation presented a Challenger champion as young as Baez, but that was all about to change on the clay court of Concepcion, Chile. In what was a war of attrition, he outlasted compatriot Francisco Cerundolo 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), to lift the trophy after a two-hour, 40-minute marathon at the Dove Men + Care Challenger. Concepcion.
Baez became Argentina’s youngest ATP Challenger Tour winner since 19-year-old Federico Delbonis in Rome 2010. Former No. 1 junior and male finalist at Roland Garros 2018, he’s been fighting for this moment since becoming professional two. years ago. Having competed primarily on the ITF circuit, Baez was only competing in his seventh Challenger level tournament in Concepcion. But he would put it all together in a flash, stunning four straight Top 150 opponents for the title.
Straight-line wins over fifth-seed Daniel Elahi Galan, fourth-seed Hugo Dellien, second-seed Andrej Martin, and a decisive triumph over a scorching Cerundolo completed a dream week for the aspiring star. by #NextGenATP. Not only did Cerundolo enter the final after winning 22 of his last 24 matches, he was aiming for his fourth title in just five months.
Baez was not intimidated. He saved 15 of 19 breaking balls to upset his compatriot and win the trophy. The Argentinean will rise 58 places to a career-high No.254 in the FedEx ATP rankings, making the Top 300 for the first time. Moreover, he is eighth in the ATP Race To Milan, as he begins his quest to qualify for the ATP Next Gen Finals in November.
Baez spoke to ATPTour.com after the victory …
Congratulations Seba. How do you feel when you win your first Challenger title?
It makes me very happy. I know I worked really hard with my team for these tournaments, to achieve these goals and objectives. I think the road is very long and you need a big boost and a lot of motivation to keep achieving your goals. I work with the best people I can be today and for that reason this trophy is also for them. It is a success that I share with my entire team, because they are the most important people in my career and who support me on a daily basis.
It was your first final. Were you nervous, especially against another Argentinian player?
It is always difficult to play against someone you know, especially from your country. We have known each other for many years. It also makes you more nervous to play matches like this in the later rounds. We know the weaknesses and strengths of the adversary. There were nerves, even more in my first Challenger final, but I was able to overcome them and win the trophy at the end.
What was the key this week? You’ve beaten some really good players along the way.
Yes, the same thing happened to me last year during the South American Challenger swing, where I faced some very tough players. But I couldn’t believe in myself at these times. It was different this week. I was more focused and ready. It is also part of the daily work I do with my coach and my team.
It was your first tournament of 2021. What was your approach and your state of mind?
My goal and my mentality was to approach it like any tournament. I arrived without waiting. I have come to do the best job I can. Whoever I meet in the field, I treat them all the same. Just keep doing what I’m training for, without putting goals and pressure on myself all the time. This is the way and I hope to continue to follow it.
You have been so successful as a junior. Is it difficult to go from juniors to challengers?
A tennis career is always very complicated, especially to move from junior to professional level. There are a lot of players with a lot of junior experience and many years who have had success on the professional circuit. For us, the change of level can often surprise young players. Here we play very different games at the junior stadium and you play with men of a different mentality. This is what makes you stronger and forces you to improve yourself every day.
Winners of the #NextGenATP 2021 Challenger
|Brandon Nakashima (United States)||19 years, 6 months||Quimper II|
|Sebastian Baez (ARG)||20 years, 1 month||Design|
|Jenson Brooksby (United States)||20 years, 3 months||Potchefstroom II|
|Sebastian Korda (United States)||20 years, 6 months||Quimper I|
After all of the hard work, how can a week like this boost your confidence and help you move forward?
I believe that a good week is the result of good training, of the work that you have already done. The goals that you achieve are thanks to all the efforts that have been made in the past. There are many things that can be accomplished, but nothing without work, focus and daily effort. This is the way.
You play with a lot of energy and show your personality on the pitch. Where does it come from?
This is something that comes from working with my trainer, maybe because I have to compensate for some physical abilities [at 5’7″]. I play with a style that comes from training hard for a long time, and I show it in matches. I believe this is the result of all the training sessions. I’m just getting started.
Tell Concepcion about your experience. Is it nice to be able to compete so close to home?
I didn’t know Concepcion until this week. It’s a very beautiful city that I really like and it’s a shame that I couldn’t explore more. But the fact that they can have this type of tournament in this situation is something incredible. Also, we don’t have as many opportunities in South America as we do in the rest of the world, so I want to thank the people who are organizing this event for that. I appreciate this opportunity and this is what we needed the most.
You are in the Top 300 with this title. How high can you climb in 2021?
I do not know. Hope it will be a surprise. Everything I achieve is through effort and hard work, and results will come from that dedication.
For those of us who don’t know you, tell us something. What do you like to do off the pitch?
I like to enjoy my time with the people I love. I listen to music, play on PlayStation, and read. I am a relaxed person.