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HomeSportAll-Argentine Affair as Báez Overpowers Navone to Win Rio Open

All-Argentine Affair as Báez Overpowers Navone to Win Rio Open

The Argentine Sebastián Báez won his first ATP 500 title on Sunday by defeating his compatriot Mariano Navone in the Rio de Janeiro tournament final, the main event in South America. The fifth seed and world number 30, which will climb nine positions, the right-hander 23-year old imposed authority by 6-2 and 6-1.

He came to have a 4-0 lead in both sets of a match settled in one hour and 22 minutes on the clay court of the central court of the Jockey Club, with capacity for 6,200 spectators.

“The beginning of the sets was important, that’s where I took the lead and I guess on Mariano’s side it became a little difficult, beyond the score, the nerves matter a little more in your first final,” he said.

The Buenos Aires native, son of a veteran of the Malvinas War (1982), achieved the greatest achievement of his career in his third participation in the hot and humid Rio competition.

He won his fifth ATP Tour title in the first all-Argentine final of the event and in an unprecedented duel against his 22-year-old compatriot, the great revelation by advancing from qualifying to the decisive match.

Before the game, his trophy case held four circuit trophies: Winston-Salem, Kitzbühel and Córdoba in 2023 and Estoril in 2022, all ATP 250 category.

He is now part of a select group that was consecrated on the city’s clay, such as Spaniards Rafael Nadal (2014), David Ferrer (2015) and Carlos Alcaraz (2022) or Argentine Diego Schwartzman (2018).

Semi-clear path

In the tenth edition of the Rio ATP 500, which has never repeated champion, Báez had a semi-clear path thanks largely to the early withdrawal of Carlos Alcaraz, 20 years old.

The world number two and top favorite shared the main draw path with the newly crowned winner, but withdrew in the first round due to injury.

Despite Alcaraz’s absence, the Argentine had solid performances and left behind Frenchman Corentin Moutet (147) in the first round 6-4 and 6-3 and his compatriot Facundo Díaz Acosta (59), champion of the Buenos Aires tournament, in the round of 16 by 7-6 (7/1) and 6-3.

In the quarterfinals he got rid of Brazilian Thiago Monteiro (117) by 6-4, 1-6 and 2-6 and in the semifinals he dispatched the best racket in Argentina, Francisco Cerúndolo (22), with a resounding 7-5 and 6- 0.

In the title match, he repeated the dose to the surprising Navone (113, will move to 60) and consolidated a good start to the year after reaching the semis in Córdoba and the quarters in Buenos Aires.

The surprise

Born in the small town of 9 de Julio, in the interior of the province of Buenos Aires, Navone starred in two upsets on the way to disputing his first ATP Tour final.

In the quarterfinals he eliminated promising 17-year-old Brazilian Joao Fonseca (655), and in the semis he beat defending champion and favorite after Alcaraz’s departure, Briton Cameron Norrie (23).

Báez and Navone are part of the list of tennis players participating next week in the ATP 250 tournament in Santiago, Chile, the last stop on the South American clay court tour.

But Navone doubted his attendance due to mental fatigue.

The Rio tournament also crowned its doubles champions on Sunday: Colombian Nicolás Barrientos and Brazilian Rafael Matos beat Austrians Lucas Miedler and Alex Erler 6-4 and 6-3.

Matos, 28, became the first local to win the tournament.

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