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Sebastian Baez Primed For Reign on Clay

Sebastian Baez in action ahead of the ATP Santiago Open.

It is remarkable that Sebastian Baez, who first hit a tennis ball at the ATP Tour level less than three years ago, has won six titles at this career stage. It even gets more fascinating that all his Tour-level titles, bar one, have been on clay.

Having reached the acme of the combined ITF junior ranking, Baez turned pro in 2018 and quickly established himself in his new surroundings. Within a couple of years, he had broken into the Top 100 in the ATP rankings after winning a record six Challenger titles in 2021 and reaching the semifinal of the Next Generation ATP Finals in Milan.

Sebastian Baez Poised to Rise

Success on Chile’s clay courts

Tellingly, Chile’s clay courts have been a fertile hunting ground for the Argentinian. The first of his Challenger titles came in February, 2021 at the Concepcion Challenger in Chile. The clay court event was the inaugural edition as part of the ATP calendar and he defeated compatriot Francisco Cerundolo in three sets to clinch the title. The tour moved to Santiago at the Cachantun Cup where he secured a second title on clay in as many months with a straight sets defeat of local favorite Marcelo Barrios Vera.

Following further Challenger title wins in Zagreb and Buenos Aires, Baez returned to Santiago in October to defeat Brazilian, Felipe Meligeni Alves to make it a hat-trick of titles on Chilean Clay and become the youngest player to win five Challenger titles in a season. He won a sixth Challenger title in Campina to round up a truly remarkable year on the dirt.

More Success on Clay

If 2021 was his breakthrough year then it was in the following two seasons he firmly established himself. He made it to his first quarterfinal at ATP level in 2022 at Cordoba before losing to Pedro Martinez in the final of the Chile Open. He finally bagged his maiden career title on the clay courts of Estoril with a straight-set defeat of Frances Tiafoe and moved into the top 40 in May 2022. In the same year, he made his debut in Melbourne, Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows, making it past the first round of each tournament. Also, he reached the final of the Swedish Open in Bastad, losing to compatriot Francisco Cerundolo.

The following year, he won his second ATP title on the clay courts of the Cordoba Open in his native Argentina, defeating countryman Federico Coria in three sets. In August, as part of a ten-match hot streak, he defeated homeboy Dominic Thiem at the Austrian Open in Kitzbuhel and subsequently Jiri Lehecka at the Winston Salem Open to claim his first and only title not on clay courts.

Promising Future Ahead

He continued his success on clay this season, winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP 500 clay court event in Rio. In the all-Argentine final against Mariano Navone, he crushed the youngster 6-1 6-2 in the most one-sided final in the history of the competition.

His recent triumph at the Chile Open in Santiago further amplifies his affinity for the country and the surface especially. With Rafael Nadal waning, there are several players who are capably queuing to fill his shoes and the diminutive Argentine is certainly in the mix. At just 24 and with five titles already on clay, he’ll certainly not overhaul the Spanish legend’s record, but the tenacious right-handed dynamite will undoubtedly win enough to be considered one of the greats on the surface.

Main Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

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