Baez Super In Santiago To Reach First ATP Tour Final

Martinez uses underarm serve to spark comeback vs. Tabilo

Sebastian Baez’s rapid rise does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.

The Argentine, who competed in last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, reached his first ATP Tour final on Saturday when he battled past Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the semi-finals of the Chile Dove Men+Care Open in Santiago.

“I feel good because today was such a tough match because Ramos has a lot of experience, he’s a great player,” Baez said. “I’m happy to have won this match and I have a new opportunity tomorrow.”

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Baez will face Spaniard Pedro Martinez for the trophy, after the fourth seed came from a set and a break down to defeat home favourite Alejandro Tabilo, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

The seventh seed in Santiago, Baez had to work hard to make the championship clash. The 21-year-old saved 10 of the 12 break points he faced against second-seeded Ramos-Vinolas to triumph after two hours and 33 minutes.

“[The match] had a lot of important moments, not just in the first or in the third set, because it was all the match,” Baez said. “All the match was so close. In some moments, maybe today I had a little bit of luck.”

The key was second-serve success. Baez won 65 per cent of his second-serve points compared to 50 per cent for Ramos-Vinolas. That helped the Argentine take a 2-0 ATP Head2Head lead against the 31-year-old lefty, whom he also defeated at this year’s Australian Open.

Baez began last season outside the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings. He reached a career-high No. 72 earlier this month and is projected to climb higher than that on Monday thanks to his efforts in Chile. The South American nation, which borders his native Argentina, has been a happy hunting ground for Baez: He improves to 26-2 in Chile since the beginning of the 2021 season.

Both Baez and Martinez will be seeking their first ATP Tour title on Sunday. The Spaniard is playing in his second tour-level final after losing to Casper Ruud in Kitzbuhel in July.

Martinez, who twice led Tabilo by a break in the opening set, nearly didn't make it in Santiago. Despite twice leading by a break in the opening set, he found himself trailing, 7-5, 3-0, and facing a break point for 4-0 as the Chilean crowd roared on their man.

"I was nervous," Martinez said post-match. "I didn't manage the emotions well, because it was not easy to play today with all the crowd against me."

An underarm serve saved one of four break points in the Spaniard's 2-3 service game and allowed him to continue a run that would stretch to five straight games. Tabilo retrieved the surprise short delivery, but Martinez came up with a backhand pass on the way to a crucial hold. 

"He was returning far [beyond the baseline]," Martinez said, explaining the tactic. "I was nervous. I didn't think much about that. i just did it.

"I won the point. For sure he was thinking about that," he added.

Martinez continued to dominate in the third, breaking twice to cap a decisive run in which he won 11 of 13 games. But from 5-1 in the third, Tabilo charged back to 5-4.

On his second attempt to serve out the match, Martinez staved off four break points before chasing down a drop shot to win a 13-ball rally on his second match point.

"I always try to fight until the end," he reflected, "and today is one of those days where fighting gives you another opportunity to compete tomorrow."