The two finalists at this year’s Millennium Estoril Open came through equally tight semi-finals and acknowledged that concentration and determination had been required to make the title round on the Portuguese Riviera.
It’s always difficult, so I have to do it like today, but better Sebastian Baez
World No. 59 Sebastian Baez of Argentina making his debut at the Portuguese event, said that not giving up was the key to his 6-3 6-7(9) 6-0 semi-final win over the Spanish defending champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas while, in the top half of the draw, Frances Tiafoe, in an All-American semi, admitted that the crowd had helped him through against Sebastian Korda 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4.
”I just tried to continue the game [after the second-set tie-break],” Baez said on reaching the second final of his career.
“Maybe he played a little bit better, but I knew if I continued the level, it was so close.
“I made two big mistakes in the tie-break, and I paid [for them].
“In the third set Ramos was more tired than me, so I tried to [use] that.
“The first match point, he served well. The second, I had one easy ball so [that’s something] to take and do better tomorrow, because it’s a final.
“It’s always difficult, so I have to do it like today, but better”.
It was the 21-year-old from Buenos Aires who made the more positive start converting an early break opportunity to lead 2-0 but missed two set points in the eighth game before claiming it in the next.
With neither player able to force a break in the second, it was left to the tie-break to decide. There Ramos Vinolas opened up a comfortable 5-1 lead only to see it fritter away as Baez won five consecutive points to go ahead 6-5 for his first match point.
The young Argentine failed to convert it and a second which followed at 7-6 as Ramos Vinolas hung on to level the match on his first set point.
It looked like Baez had blown his chances but then showed the fighting spirit required to win titles as he whitewashed the defending champion in the third to make his second final where he hopes he can lift his first trophy having just failed to do so in Cordoba, Argentina, earlier this season.
But he will be facing an equally determined American to become champion of Estoril, who, ranked 28, is keen to win his second title having now reached his fourth final.
Frances Tiafoe, aged 24 and seeded four at the event, credited the crowd for his dramatic victory over the eighth seeded Sebastian Korda for he basically was down and out before recovering to claim an excellent win.
Korda was in fact up by a set and a break and held three match points in the second set which Tiafoe saved to give him the boost he needed to turn the match around and eventually claim a well and hard-earned victory.
“I knew it was going to be really tough, Sebastian has been killing everybody this week,” Tiafoe said after the match.
“I knew he was going to be fresh and have a lot of legs. I came out pretty good, but I went on a bad streak serving. This crowd definitely kept me in it, for sure”.
Like Baez, it was Tiafoe who made the better start to take a 4-2 and looked to be cruising only for Korda to hit back and snatch the opening set by claiming seven consecutive games which also took him into a 3-0 lead in the second.
While Tiafoe managed to snap that run it still looked like Korda’s match but then Tiafoe saved a match point in the eighth game to reduce the deficit to 5-3.
Tiafoe then broke Korda in the ninth to bring the set back on serve, before saving another two match points in the 10th game to level the set at five games-all and force a tie-break where he took a 4-0 lead and control of the match.
While Korda fought hard in the decider breaking back after losing his serve, he was unable to prevent his American compatriot from gaining a place in the final when he was broken for a second time in the set, this time while serving to stay in the match.