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Tennis: Sebastian Baez topples Francisco Cerundolo to enter final in Rio

IANS | February 25, 2024 12:26 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO: Fifth-seeded Argentine Sebastian Baez beat his compatriot Francisco Cerundolo in straight sets on Saturday to reach the final of the Rio Open.

Baez stared down three set points at 4-5 in the opening set under pressure from countryman Cerundolo and did not lose another game en route to a 7-5, 6-0 victory at the ATP 500 late on Saturday.

Baez's nine-game tear earned him the win in his first semi-final above ATP 250 level. He will play for his fifth and biggest tour-level title on Sunday against Argentine qualifier Mariano Navone.

After an early trade of breaks, Baez saved six consecutive break points in the one-hour, 24-minute match. He converted on four of his seven break chances and won more than half of his return points, according to ATP Stats.

Cerundolo, who was also bidding to reach his first final above the ATP 250 level, struggled with 39 unforced errors, including 26 off his backhand wing. Despite the loss, he will return to the Top 20 in the ATP Rankings on Monday.

Baez is up seven places to No. 23 this week in the ATP Live Rankings, setting himself up for a career high. He could move up to No. 21 with the Rio title.

In Saturday's second semifinal, Navone continued his dream week with a 6-4, 6-2 win against a physically struggling Cameron Norrie.

After picking up his first tour-level victory earlier this week, the 22-year-old Argentine scored the biggest result of his career by knocking out the second seed and defending champion.

By beating his first Top 50 opponent, Navone became the first qualifier to reach an ATP 500 final since Jiri Vesely accomplished the feat in Dubai in 2022.

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