Baez Proudly Celebrates First ATP Tour Title In Estoril

Sebastian Baez (photo: Millennium Estoril Open)

ESTORIL/WASHINGTON, May 1, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Throughout the Millennium Estoril Open, Argentina’s Sebastian Baez celebrated each of his victories by writing “Why not me?” on the camera lens. On Sunday afternoon, after he secured his first career ATP Tour singles title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over two-time Estoril finalist Frances Tiafoe of the United States, the diminutive Argentine proudly scribbled “Yes it’s me!”

Baez’s perseverance and great work ethic rewarded him handsomely and his dream week of big victories in Estoril – including wins over three former Estoril champions – earned the 59th-ranked Baez plenty of magic moments of celebration he’ll always remember. After beating Tiafoe, he became the sixth first-time ATP Tour singles title winner this season.

With perfect weather and a colorful Club de Ténis do Estoril stage filled with fans for this ATP 250 clay final, about a half-hour from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, the right-handed-hitting Baez dominated play throughout the 73-minute title match. He was effective scoring from both wings, winning 64 percent (41 of 64) of his service points and 50 percent (23 of 46) of his return points. He outpointed Tiafoe 64-46, winning the last five games of the final.

After surrendering the first two games of the final to trail 0-2, Baez saved three break points during the ensuing 10-minute, 18-point third game to hold his serve. He was back in business. Baez went on to break the 29th-ranked Tiafoe’s serve – and the American’s heart – in consecutive service games and won the opening set going away after taking four of the final five games of the 39-minute opener. It served as a portend of good things to come for Baez.

Soon, at 2-all in the second set, Baez once again broke Tiafoe in consecutive service games and promptly backed each break with solid service holds of his own. He set up the title victory with his fourth break of Tiafoe to go ahead by a 5-2 double-break lead after the American struck the net cord with the 13th shot of a back-and-forth rally and watched as it sailed out of bounds.

Serving for the match – and with the crowd fully dialed in with plenty of support for Baez – the Argentine reached match point at 40-30 looking confident and proud. He took his time and hit a third-shot winner that Tiafoe was unable to get his racquet on.

After securing championship point, Baez immediately dropped to the red clay on his knees and covered his face for a moment of private meditation. Then, after he got up, Baez raised his arms in celebration and clapped his hands along with the crowd. It was unscripted and truly a moment of joy.

During the trophy ceremony, Tiafoe, who lost the 2018 final to Portugal’s João Sousa, said of Baez: “Unbelievable job by Sebastian. He deserved it. He played better than me today.”

Then, when it was Baez’s turn to address the crowd, he was asked what went through his mind after he won and collapsed to the ground. “A lot of things, a lot of words,” he said, “but I think the best words were ‘so proud.'”

Baez added: “I started so nervous. He started good, I think. After the third game, it was so important for both. I started to play better. … The key was trying to be in the game every time, try to think what I had to do, and that’s the difference today.”

Indeed, the 21-year-old native of Buenos Aires had come of age in Estoril and proved himself a worthy champion. Along with first-prize money of 81,310 euros, Baez will rise in the ATP Rankings to become the new No. 40 next week after earning 250 rankings points for winning the Estoril title.

Borges and Cabral cap dream week with first tour-level doubles crown

Portuguese wild cards Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral culminated their dream run by capturing their first ATP tour-level doubles title in the Millennium Estoril Open final Sunday afternoon. It was such a big occasion that the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, attended the final and congratulated the winners afterward.

Childhood friends Borges and Cabral defeated Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina and Andre Goransson of Sweden, who had not played with or against each other before teaming the week, 6-2, 6-3, in 62 minutes.

“It’s an unreal feeling winning on home soil,” Cabral said during the trophy ceremony after their title triumph. “First ATP event, first main draw, first title with Nuno, my childhood best friend. I couldn’t be happier.”

Borges added: “Thank you for everybody who made it here to make this moment a little more special than anything I had before.”

The Portuguese duo, both 25, advanced to the final with an upset of No. 1 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand, 6-2, 6-4.

Sunday’s victory improved the win-loss record for Borges and Cabral to 5-0 as a team at tour-level and 13-1 in all competitions, which includes two ATP Challenger Tour titles won in Oeiras, Portugal in April. They also ended 2021 on a 15-match winning streak at Challenger level and won six ATP Challenger Tour titles last year.

Next, Borges and Cabral return to the Challenger Tour in the Czech Republic for this week’s I.CLTK Prague Open, where they’re seeded third. Borges, who is ranked No. 131 in singles, is also the No. 2 seed in the Prague singles draw.

By the numbers

Sebastian Baez became the eighth active Argentine to win an ATP Tour title (following Juan Martín del Potro 22, Diego Schwartzman 4, Federico Delbonis 2, Juan Manuel Cerundolo 1, Juan Ignacio Londero 1, Guido Pella 1, Horacio Zeballos 1).

“Quotable …”

“I just want to thank you guys, honestly. You guys made it an unbelievable week for me. I played some crazy, crazy matches and I hope you guys really enjoyed it. I tried to give everything I had this week. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much today, but you guys were unbelievable. I hope I can come back for many years and we can keep putting a show on this court. It’s one of my favorite courts to play in.”

– Two-time Estoril finalist Frances Tiafoe of the United States, addressing the crowd during the trophy ceremony.