Tennis: Argentina’s Baez wins Rio Open title as players ask for more top tournaments in South America

AP , Monday 26 Feb 2024

Sebastian Baez won his fifth and biggest title Sunday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory against his Argentine compatriot Mariano Navone at the Rio Open.

Baez
Sebastian Baez returns the ball to Mariano Navone, both of Argentina, during the final match of the Rio Open tennis tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. AP

The fifth-seeded Baez wasn’t seriously challenged by the 22-year-old Navone, a qualifier, in the final of the clay-court tournament.

Neither of the two Argentinians had been among the favorites to lift the title, but defending champion Cameron Norrie, Carlos Alcaraz, Stan Wawrinka and Nicolás Jarry had all stumbled.

Baez is the second Argentinian to lift the trophy, with Diego Schwartzman the first in 2018.

Baez is set to climb to a career-high No. 21 in the rankings on Monday, from his current No. 30. Navone will become a top 100 player for the first time, reaching No. 60 after Rio.

Despite a somewhat tepid final in Rio de Janeiro, some high profile tennis players past and present have argued in favor of more top tournaments in South America to please the eager crowds that flocked to the Rio Open and the Argentina Open earlier this month.

“Unpopular opinion. South America should have its own dedicated swing on the tennis tour with its own Masters series,” said three-time major winner Andy Murray on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. “The way the fans support the tournaments there is incredible. Amazing atmospheres and is clearly part of their sporting culture. Vamos, ATP Tour.”

Six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker agreed: “Why unpopular? You’re absolutely right. Tennis should go to countries/continents where tennis is booming.”

Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman asked for more pressure.

“Let ATP know this, Andy. Every year they put us less support,” he said, adding there should be more tournaments in South America “not just because of how the fans support the tournaments,” but also “how many players we have and we had on the top.”

“We deserve more than this from ATP,” Schwartzman said.

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