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Sebastián Báez, a year ago, was out of the 310 best rackets of the world. Before, in December 2020, he carried out the preseason on clay, with the desire to participate in the qualifications for the Challengers, the competitions of the second category of professional tennis. A season ago he was champion in Concepción, Chile, and began a path of pure growth. Today, without anyone giving him anything (he did not receive invitations to ATP tournaments), his scenario is very different. It made a huge leap in quality. He is already inside the Top 100 (he enjoys his best historical position, 88th), he prepared on hard surface projecting the oceanic tour, debuted in a Grand Slam main draw (at the Australian Open), he won and in a few days pocketed half of the prize money he had in his entire career.

In 2021, Báez won six Challenger trophies and his stage was changed. On Monday of last week, at the ATP in Sydney, the 21-year-old player born in Billinghurst (San Martin) achieved his first official victory on hard court: against the local Christopher O’Connell (later he fell to the Italian Lorenzo Sonego) . He had already celebrated at the Nex Gen Masters, last November, in Italy, but the contest did not deliver points for the ranking. In these hours, at Melbourne Park, he debuted in the main draw of a major and had the pleasure of defeating an experienced player like the Spanish Albert Ramos Viñolas (current 44th, former 17th) 6-4, 4- 6, 6-3, 1-6 and 6-2, in 3h26m. Being the youngest Argentine to win on his Grand Slam debut since Juan Mónaco (age 20) at Roland Garros 2004, Báez’s map today finds paths of greater value and challenges, for which he has been preparing.

“One of the different things this year was facing the preseason on a different surface and starting at a Grand Slam. Last year I did another type of pre-season to see if I qualified for the Challengers and as the season went on the goals, the ranking and the tournaments changed. It was very nice to be able to prepare a Grand Slam. When we arrived in Australia with my coach (Sebastián Gutiérrez) it was all a bit uphill, because they were my first ATP tournaments, it was all new”, explained Báez after beating a rival (Ramos Viñolas, Monte Carlo 2017 finalist) who in In recent times he stumbled with three of the best representatives of the new generation of Argentine rackets. In addition to doing it with Báez, he lost in 2021 against Juan Manuel and Francisco Cerúndolo in the Córdoba final and in the Buenos Aires 2021 semifinals, respectively.

In Australia, with Báez, plus Juanma Cerúndolo from Buenos Aires (he lost in his presentation against the Czech Tomas Machac 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 and 6-2) and Tomás Etcheverry from La Plata (he passed the qualy and lost in the 1st round of the main draw against the Spanish Pablo Carreño Busta 6-1, 6-2 and 7-6 [7-2]), Argentina once again had three representatives under the age of 23 in the main draw of a Grand Slam after 18 seasons. The last registration had also been in Melbourne: in 2004, with Guillermo Coria, David Nalbandian and José Acasuso. The contagion effect exists and is highly productive. “We are several young Argentines who are walking a path together, playing almost the same tournaments and rowing it. And if one does well, the other does too,” said Báez, son of José Luis, a Malvinas veteran.

Argentina's Sebastian Baez returns a shot to USA's Sebastian Korda during their group stage match at the Next Generation ATP Finals on November 10, 2021 at the Allianz Cloud venue in Milan. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Argentina’s Sebastian Baez returns a shot to USA’s Sebastian Korda during their group stage match at the Next Generation ATP Finals on November 10, 2021 at the Allianz Cloud venue in Milan. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)TIZIANA FABI – AFP

“We arrived in Australia with the illusion of continuing to add new experiences, to improve on this type of court, which is a little faster than what we are used to. We arrived wanting to learn things other than brick dust. We were adding games, which was the goal to reach the Australian Open with more mileage. After the debut we give him value for having done well, for daring to play a different type of tennis. Sometimes, as South Americans, our instinct is to be more conservative and here it pays more to be protagonists. This is an important moment for Seba, but one more on a path that is just starting,” says Gutiérrez, Báez’s coach, in front of the consultation of THE NATION. Against the southpaw Ramos, the Argentine hit 43 game winners, made 61 unforced errors and went up to the net 27 times (he won 20 of those chances, 74%).

Of course, the wheel does not stop and after the stretching, the massages, the ice bath, the food and the rest, Báez will have to refocus and be ready for a new challenge. By rival category (the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, fourth seed and semifinalist in the Aussie tournament in 2019 and 2021) and stage (surely in one of the two main courts of the tournament), the biggest challenge of his career. In addition, due to the large Greek colony residing in Melbourne, the son of Apostolos Tsitsipas will have strong support. But Báez will try not to be intimidated by this. “It will be another experience that will enrich him as a tennis player and as a person,” adds Gutiérrez, part of Daniel Orsanic’s coaching staff during the 2016 Davis Cup title campaign (the other assistant was Mariano Hood).

“I watched him play at the Next Gen ATP Finals, I watched his matches…but I’ll spend time looking for his matches because it can be difficult when you’re playing against opponents you don’t know or haven’t been on tour that long,” Tsitsipas said. beat the Swedish Mikael Ymer 6-2, 6-4 and 6-3) over the Argentine, on atptour.com.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, a two-time semi-finalist in Australia, debuted at the Aussie Grand Slam beating Sweden's Mikael Ymer.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, a two-time semi-finalist in Australia, debuted at the Aussie Grand Slam beating Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.PAUL CROCK – AFP

“It will be a nice opportunity to be able to continue doing the things that I have been working on and try to enjoy it at a certain point. They are games in which one says: ‘How I would like to be there’. It will be to assess it. At this time of year, but in 2021, he was playing in Concepción. Now I want to take this new opportunity. I still have a lot to improve, but I’m doing things well, I have a great team, in which I trust a lot. Nobody knows if in a few months I’ll be better or worse, but I have to try,” said Báez.

In 2021, Báez faced only one Top 35 player (Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who was 32nd, in the semifinals of the Next Gen ATP Finals), against 21 Top 150 opponents, and then against lower-ranked players. Today, his status is different. Start playing the big leagues. He earned it. And he has no intention of letting the train pass.


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