Cerundolo Wins Nordea Open Title A Long Way From Home

Francisco Cerundolo (photo: Johan Lilja / Nordea Open)

BASTAD/WASHINGTON, July 17, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Both Francisco Cerundolo and Sebastian Baez, each from Buenos Aires, Argentina, have been playing some of the best tennis of their young careers this week. That it’s happening nearly 5,000 miles away from their native country, in Bastad, a summer resort town that sits along the Bjäre Peninsula on the western coast of Sweden, has been truly remarkable.

On Sunday, in the title match of ATP 250 Nordea Open on red clay in Bastad, a tournament which dates back to the start of the Open Era in 1968 and has been previously won by Bjorn Borg and Mats Willander, Cerundolo and Baez featured in the first all-Argentine final on tour since 2021 in Buenos Aires. Cerundolo remembers the last one all too well because he lost “badly” to Diego Schwartzman.

This time, though, Cerundolo learned from his first final experience and rose to the occasion to beat Baez, 7-6 (4), 6-2, in an hour and 49 minutes on Center Court at the Bastad Tenisstadion. Cerundolo found the right solutions to finish the week as the big winner in Bastad, earning first-prize money of 81,310 euros and 250 ATP Rankings points.

The victory was a milestone for Cerundolo. Not only did it represent his first ATP Tour singles title – making him the eighth on tour this year to win for the first time – he will also rise in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings into the Top 30 tomorrow. Cerundolo broke into the Top 100 for the first time in February, after reaching the quarterfinals at Buenos Aires and semifinals at Rio de Janeiro. He also advanced to his first ATP masters 1000 semifinal at Miami in March. His game is headed in the right direction.

“It feels amazing,” Cerundolo said during the trophy ceremony. “First of all, I want to congratulate Sebastian, not just for this week. You’ve been playing amazing since last year.

“[Winning the title] means a lot. Since you are a child you imagine yourself playing in these events and finals. When I lost in Buenos Aires I was sad, because I was at home and I lost badly, but I learned a lot from that. I used it today, and I think I played a great match, a great week.”

After upsetting No. 5 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, 6-3, 6-2, on Saturday to advance to the title match, Cerundolo exuded a sense of comfort and played with so much confidence. Against, Baez, he was able to maintain his level and improved upon his semifinal performance.

The 23-year-old, 39th-ranked Cerundolo’s run to the final included victories against Portuguese qualifier Pedro Sousa, an upset of top seed and defending champion Casper Ruud of Norway for his first career Top-10 victory, and a solid straight-set win over Aslan Karatsev of Russia.

After being broken in the opening game of the match by Baez, Cerundolo played steady from the baseline the remainder of the final and took advantage of his opportunities as they presented themselves. He won 65 percent of his first-serve points, saved 10 of 11 break points, converted three of 11 break points against Baez and outpointed his opponent 86-69.

Meanwhile, despite the title loss, the 21-year-old eighth-seeded Baez was equally impressive in Bastad. He upset No. 2 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, 6-2, 6-4, to reach the title match. En route, the the 34th-ranked Baez took out Fabio Fognini of Italy, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain and Dominic Thiem of Austria. He dropped just one set – the second set against Thiem – before losing both sets to Cerundolo.

Surprisingly, Cerundolo and Baez had never met at tour-level before Sunday. However, Baez came in with a 2-1 advantage from a trio of meetings at the Futures and ATP Challenger Tour level.

The 11th game of the opening set highlighted what an aggressive battle the two Argentines engaged themselves in. At 5-all, Cerundolo fought off six break points from Baez to hold serve in a game that stretched over 13 minutes and lasted 22 points. Then, he won the 74-minute opener in a 7-4 tie-break after Baez double-faulted on set point.

Soon, Cerundolo gained an early break to go ahead 2-1 through sheer hustle and determination. While he began the final a bit tight, as the match wore on and the battle to win each point became more spirited, Cerundolo rose to the occasion and quickly found himself ahead a double break at 4-1 with the finish line – and the opportunity to experience the feeling of winning his first ATP Tour title – coming into clear focus. At 5-2, serving for his first title, Cerundolo raced to a 40-0 advantage looking not to be denied. Finally, he won on his first match-point opportunity after Baez sent a forehand return long.

“I think Francisco was better than me today, so congrats to him and his team too,” Baez said in accepting the runner-up prize after winning his first ATP Tour title in Estoril in May during the European spring clay season. “Tennis is one part of life, and I think we have to enjoy it when we lose and when we win. The little things, we have to enjoy every time. So, I enjoyed this week and I hope that next week will better.”

Looking back, Cerundolo found the right solutions through his hard work and determination. He finally has won his first ATP Tour title – fittingly on red clay, the surface he’s most at home on – a long way from Argentina, but no less happy and proud.

Matos and Vega Hernandez win third tour-level doubles title this season

No. 4 seeds Rafael Matos of Brazil and David Vega Hernandez of Spain won the Nordea Open doubles title with dramatic 6-4, 3-6, 13-11 triumph over No. 2 seeds Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, both of Italy.

Matos and Vega Hernandez saved a match point in the match tie-break at 9-10, then rallied to win on their fourth match-point opportunity. They outpointed Bolelli and Fognini, who are ranked 9th in the ATP Race to Turin, 65-62.

The title was the third tour-level this season for Matos (ranked a career-high 38th) and Vega Hernandez (ranked a career-high 39th) after previously winning trophies at Marrakech and Mallorca. They were finalists in Munich. Also, the duo won an earlier Challenger Tour title in Bordeaux. Matos and Vega Hernandez, who improved to 18-4 this season, are ranked 18th in the ATP Race to Turin.

“[We are] super happy, because we started so well this week,” Vega Hernandez said. “Then we won the quarterfinal, the semifinal and the final in match tie-breaks. I’m very, very happy to finish with the title.”

By the numbers

The Sebastian Baez-Francisco Cerundolo final is the 28th all-Argentinian tour-level final in the Open Era and second in Bastad. The first one took place in 2004 and was won by eighth seed Mariano Zabaleta over Gaston Gaudio.

“Quotable …”

“We have played the last four months together, but we had never played before. I think it’s working. We are really good friends, on the court and off the court, so I think that helps. [It makes] a difference for our team. I am just happy, and we [hope] to keep going like this because we want more. We are going to try to play [at the Nitto ATP Finals] in Turin.”

– Rafael Matos of Brazil, half of the Nordea Open winning doubles team with David Vega Hernandez.