Baez Wins First ATP Tour Title In Estoril
Sebastian Baez capped a dream week at the Millennium Estoril Open with one of his most dominant performances of the tournament to claim his first ATP Tour title. Playing in his second tour-level final, the 21-year-old defeated Frances Tiafoe, 6-3, 6-2, in the championship match.
The Argentine collapsed to the court in celebration as he capped the week of his life by winning the last five games of the final. During the trophy ceremony, he shared his thoughts during that moment: "A lot things, a lot of words," he said, "but I think we best words were 'so proud'."
Baez's victory caps a banner day for young stars on the ATP Tour following #NextGenATP Dane Holger Rune's maiden tour-level title in Munich earlier on Sunday. The Argentine was a semi-finalist at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, but just misses the cutoff for eligibility this year due to turning 22 on 28 December.
After entering the week at a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 59, Baez is projected to rise into the top 40 on Monday.
In the Estoril final, Baez dropped the first two games of the match and saved three break points to avoid going down 0-3. But after holding serve in a six-deuce game — the longest of the one-hour, 14-minute contest — he sprinted to a 5-2 lead before closing out the opening set with ease. It was a similar story in set two, with Tiafoe unable to cope with the aggressive tennis from his opponent.
"I started so nervous. He started good, I think," Baez assessed. "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."
Baez defeated three former champions on his way to the final: Jaoa Sousa in the opening round, Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals and defending champ Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the semis. Alongside sixth seed Ramos-Vinolas, he also beat third seed Marin Cilic and fifth seed Tiafoe.
Tiafoe provided inspiration for Baez throughout the week after the Argentine noticed his bracelet which reads "Why not me?" Baez wrote those words on the camera lens after his victories this week. After his title-clinching win, he wrote "Yes it's me" alongside his signature.
"Unbelievable job by Sebastian. He deserved it. He played better than me today," Tiafoe said during the ceremony, before addressing the Portuguese fans. "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 favourite courts to play in."
After receiving the trophy, Baez said to Tiafoe: "Why not me? And why not you, man?"