Martinez Beats Baez For Maiden ATP Tour Trophy In Santiago
The Spaniard, who was competing in his second tour-level final, backed up his hard-fought semi-final victory over home favourite Alejandro Tabilo with another battling performance against Baez in front of a lively crowd.
Martinez rallied from a break down in the second set as he mixed grit with quality to eventually triumph against the Argentine after two hours and 44 minutes. The World No. 72 has showcased his mental and physical strength throughout the week at the clay-court event, prevailing in the deciding set three times en route to the title. He will rise to a career-high No. 52 on Monday.
“I am very happy,” Martinez said in his on-court interview. “It was a big battle. He has played unbelievably well in the past year. I played very well at the end and am really happy. I always fight until the end and that can give you opportunities.”
The 24-year-old is the fifth Spaniard to win a tour-level trophy this year, joining Roberto Bautista Agut, Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Martinez is also the third first-time tour-level champion of the season, alongside Adelaide International 2 titlist Thanasi Kokkinakis and Open Sud de France victor Alexander Bublik.
Prior to his dream week in Santiago, the fourth seed had not advanced beyond the second round at an event this season. However, he flipped the form book in Chile to become the oldest champion in the tournament’s short three-year history.
Martinez has earned three ATP Challenger Tour crowns in his career. But he had never managed to crack the code at an ATP Tour tournament prior to his momentous win over Baez, losing to Norway's Casper Ruud in his only previous championship match at this level in Kitzbühel in July.
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In a physical clash in Santiago, breaks were exchanged before the World No. 78 Baez gained control of the final, troubling Martinez with his variety as he mixed his heavy groundstrokes with deft drop shots to pull 5-3 ahead.
After sealing the first set on serve, a pumped-up Baez continued to put his foot down in the second set. However, he failed to close out the match after breaking and holding a 3-2 lead, with Martinez finding his range on his forehand to claw himself back into the clash.
In a tight final set, that swayed one way and then another, Baez rallied from 2-4 to level at 4-4. However, Martinez held firm, raising his level again as he converted his third match point to break and seal his win, falling to his knees in delight.
Baez, who competed at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in November, was playing in his first tour-level final, having battled past second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas to reach the championship match.
The 21-year-old will rise to a career-high ranking on Monday, surpassing the No. 72 ATP Ranking he earned earlier this month. The seventh seed clinched three ATP Challenger Tour crowns in Chile last season, but was unable to find a way past the resilient Martinez.