Sebastian Baez may have been the underdog coming into his semi-final clash against second seed Andrey Rublev at the Nordea Open in Bastad on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the Argentine putting on a dominant display to seal his maiden Top 10 win at the ATP 250 event in Sweden.
In a clash of two high-powered forehands, it was Baez whose ballstriking had Rublev on the run more frequently as he eased to a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting. The World No. 34 broke Rublev’s serve four times on the way to a 75-minute win that secured him a spot in his third tour-level final.
“I think I played better than yesterday,” said Baez, referring to his hard-fought three-set quarter-final win against Dominic Thiem on Friday. “I am happy to win and continue in the tournament.”
Baez now faces another player for the first time at tour-level in fellow Argentine Francisco Cerundolo. Despite never having faced each other at an ATP Tour event, however, the pair knows each other well — Baez leads Cerundolo 2-1 from three meetings at Futures and ATP Challenger Tour level.
“I think it will be a tough match, because we have known each other for many years,” said Baez. “But I have to do the best I can. This is a new tournament, a new final, another week. So, I am happy to stay in the final and of course, I want more.”
The 21-year-old Baez, a semi-finalist at last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, won his maiden ATP Tour title in Estoril at the beginning of May.
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The No. 39-ranked Cerundolo earlier delivered an accomplished all-around showing of his own as he ran out a 6-3, 6-2 semi-final winner against fifth seed Pablo Carreno Busta.
Following his second-round win against top seed Casper Ruud on Wednesday in Sweden, Cerundolo had described 2022 as “the best year so far in my career”. Yet things appear to be only getting better for the 23-year-old, who will now compete in his second ATP Tour final on Sunday.
“I think I played one of the best matches in my career today,” said Cerundolo in his on-court interview. “Everything went well. I am feeling so comfortable and playing with so much confidence that it’s amazing to be playing like this. Hopefully I can keep going and maintain my level or improve it.
“It’s fantastic [to be in another final]. Last year I was in the final at home in Buenos Aires and I lost pretty badly, so I hope tomorrow I can have a better match and hopefully take my first title home.”
Cerundolo was playing in his third semi-final of the 2022 season against Carreno Busta in Sweden. The Argentine reached the last four in Rio de Janeiro in February and surged to a maiden ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami in March.
A tight first set hinged on a pair of hard-fought games that ultimately went the way of Cerundolo. The Argentine fended off two Carreno Busta break points in the third game to hold his serve, before converting his fourth break point of the eighth game as he frequently dictated play with some huge striking off the forehand wing.
That proved to be enough for Cerundolo to seal the set, and the 23-year-old did not look back from that point on as he frequently manoeuvred his opponent around the court to race to a 5-0 lead in the second set. Despite a brief blip on serve that allowed Carreno Busta to reclaim a break, Cerundolo converted his second match point two games later to cap an assured 76-minute victory.
Aside from his hard-fought three-set win against Ruud on Wednesday, Cerundolo has brushed past Pedro Sousa, Aslan Karatsev and Carreno Busta without dropping a set this week in Sweden. Saturday’s victory in his maiden ATP Head2Head meeting against Carreno Busta lifts the Argentine to No. 32 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
The win improved Cerundolo’s 2022 record to 16-11, and his record against Top 20 opponents this year now stands at 3-4. Should he lift his maiden tour-level trophy in Sweden on Sunday, the Argentine could rise as high as No. 30 in this Monday’s update of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
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