Sebastian Baez did not read the script Tuesday as he overcame home favourite Lorenzo Musetti 4-1, 4-1, 3-4(5), 4-3(5) at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in his first tour-level hard-court match.
The Argentine has won five ATP Challenger Tour titles in a standout 2021 season with all coming on clay. However, Baez made a seamless transition to the indoor-hard conditions at the Allianz Cloud in Milan to move to 1-0 in Group B.
“I feel so good,” Baez said in his on-court interview. “It was a great match and I am happy to win as Lorenzo is a great player. He started to play better and the crowd began to really support him. It is special for us when you are in your own country with the energy from the people. I tried to stay in the moment and think about the next point.”
— Next Gen ATP Finals (@nextgenfinals) November 9, 2021
The Italian Musetti, who reached tour-level semi-finals in Acapulco and Lyon this year, was making his debut at the 21-and-under event in Milan. But he struggled to find top form in front of his home supporters as Baez hit through the 19-year-old with his power and depth in an impressive performance to advance after one hour and 39 minutes in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.
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Throughout the match, Baez made the most of the courtside coaching rule that is one of the innovations in place at the event, engaging with Sebastian Gutierrez for guidance. And this paid off with Baez, who won 83 per cent (40/48) of his first-serve points, capitalising in the big moments as he broke three times en route to his victory.
The World No. 111 joins Sebastian Korda on one victory in Group B after the American became just the second player in the tournament’s history – alongside Borna Coric at the inaugural edition in 2017 – to fight back from two-sets-to-love down, downing Hugo Gaston 3-4(2), 3-4(6), 4-0, 4-3(3), 4-0.
In a challenging evening, the World No. 58 was impaired physically at times against Baez, receiving a medical time out at the start of the third set before continuing. Unlike at regular ATP Tour events, players are only eligible for one medical time out at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.