Sebastián Báez beat Richard Gasquet and advanced to the semifinals of the ATP 250 in Estoril

At 21 years old, Sebastián Báez continues to build a solid tennis history: defeated Richard Gasquet 3-6, 6-1 and 6-4, in one hour and 55 minutes, and reached the semifinals of the ATP 250 in Estoril. A gigantic step, but the boy from San Martín wants more: this Saturday he will face Albert Ramos-Viñolas, who beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2. Not a minor detail: he leads his next rival 2-0 in heads-up matches.

“I’m happy, Richard (Gasquet) is a player with a lot of experience. When the game started it was difficult, but there were many people who encouraged me and today I am in the semi-finals. I have to recover for Saturday, which will be a great battle”, said the 59th in the world ranking, who with this victory will rise to 48th place. And once again, after taking the victory, he signed the message “Why not me?” on the camera lens, a sign of his overcoming instinct.

This is the second semifinal of the year for Báez; the first occasion was at the ATP 250 in Santiago de Chile. On trans-Andean land, he had lost to the Spaniard Pedro Martínez, but that fall served to gain experience and now he will try to defeat the Spaniard for the third time, who at 34 years old today occupies the 31st position in the ranking.

The new success is part of a very good scenario for national tennis, because from Monday there will be four Argentines who will appear in the top 50. According to the live ranking, Diego Schwartzman (15th), Federico Delbonis (37th), Francisco Cerúndolo (47th) and Báez (48th) appear today

The Frenchman, who became 7th in the world and today is 80th, was ahead in the score already with a break in the Argentine’s first service game. But in addition, the winner of 15 titles on the ATP Tour maintained a very interesting pace of play during the set, comfortably dominating and submitting his rival: he was as lucid and loose as he was incisive, resorting to a repertoire of shots that dismantled Baez: a reliable forehand, a delicious one-handed backhand and several points won with drops.

In the sixth game, Gasquet got the second break to go up 5-1. However, Báez was able to respond with the break of his opponent’s service, as if to maintain the hopes of a set that had been very badly shuffled from the beginning. In the next game (5-2), Báez was on the ropes: finally, he picked up two set points and was able to stay afloat. But the right-hander from Beziers, who ended up converting two of seven break point chances, resolved the first set with an ace to take a 6-3 lead in 40 minutes.

Sebastian BaezEstoril Open

The start of the second set was much more solid for Báez, as if it were a carbon copy of the previous match against the Croatian Marin Cilic, the winner of a Grand Slam and the Davis Cup that he left behind on Portuguese soil. And that poise paid off for him, because he got his first break to go up 3-1 and kept going by keeping his serve. By now, he had already picked up the momentum. Much safer, the Argentine showed all his talent to go on to control the match, against a rival who began to feel the wear and tear at 35 years old. In this way, taking risks and hitting again and again, Báez won the second set (6-1) in 33 minutes.

Already during the 2-2 of the third set, the Argentine exchanged some words with the Romanian umpire Raluca Andrei, to complain about an apparently bad ball from his rival. But immediately, he returned to focus and both fought inch by inch, in a game that was raising the temperature and tension every minute. The ending was perfect: he struck a crucial blow when he broke for 5-4 and served for the match. And the closing was in luxury: a winner who was placed at the back of the court, to celebrate the pass to the semifinals. Thus, Báez continues to feed his dream.

“As the match progressed I felt better, understanding how to play and that made me find my game and finish a quite complicated match”, explained the winner. Regarding the semifinal against Viñolas, he pointed out: “Not only is he a good player, but last year he won here and he knows the court. I faced him this year, but every match is a new world. He is left-handed, although I have faced several of them”.

As for having reached the Top 50, he pointed out: “With my coach we never set ranking goals, but at a certain point you have to project a goal to achieve. And one of the things was precisely to get to be among the best fifty, so in a future conversation we are going to consider another objective. During the weekly tournaments, points are raised, lowered and defended. And the fact of having just entered does not guarantee anything. Yes, it is the result of a lot of work behind it”.