Cerundolo Overcomes Baez For Maiden Tour Title In Bastad
Both players had showcased plenty of clean baseline hitting en route to the final this week in Sweden, but it was Cerundolo who raised his level at key moments to secure a 7-6(4), 6-2 championship match triumph at the ATP 250 event.
Cerundolo's meeting with eighth-seeded Baez was his second ATP Tour final, after he won just three games against another Argentine, Diego Schwartzman, in his hometown of Buenos Aires in 2021. Cerundolo banished those memories in style on Sunday in Sweden, as he recovered from dropping serve in the opening game of the match to seal his fourth straight-sets victory in five matches this week.
“It feels amazing," said Cerundolo at 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.”
The victory represents another milestone in a breakthrough season for Cerundolo. The 23-year-old cracked the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time in February after runs to the quarter-finals in Buenos Aires and the semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro, before reaching a maiden ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami in March.
His victory against Baez is set to lift Cerundolo into the Top 30 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday. The Argentine upset Casper Ruud in three sets for his first Top 10 win in the second round in Bastad, while he also defeated Pedro Sousa, Aslan Karatsev, and Pablo Carreno Busta to set a final showdown with Baez.
After an early exchange of breaks in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, a marathon 11th game proved decisive to the outcome of the opening set in Bastad. The 21-year-old Baez’s aggressive approach earned him six break points but Cerundolo held firm to hold. He then opened up a 4/0 lead in the first-set tie-break, going on to clinch an intriguing 74-minute set after a Baez double fault.
The momentum was with Cerundolo and he continued to dictate play with his huge forehand as Baez struggled to regain a foothold in the match. Cerundolo broke twice in the second set, staying solid behind serve before falling to the ground in ecstasy after wrapping up victory in one hour, 49 minutes.
Cerundolo’s ability to keep cool under pressure on serve proved vital to his win. The 23-year-old saved nine of 10 break points he faced, while converting three from 11 break point opportunities of his own.
“I think Francisco was better than me today, so congrats to him and his team too,” said Baez, who lifted his own maiden tour-level trophy in Estoril in May. “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 be better."