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Beginner’s Guide: Sebastian Baez's rapid rise leads Argentine youth charge
From being Juan Martin del Potro's protege to becoming one of the ATP's breakout stars, get to know the 21-year-old during his Roland Garros debut.
Published May 25, 2022
Why not Sebastian Baez?
Mentored by countryman and former world No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro, the 21-year-old is one of the fastest-rising players at the moment—and he sits at the helm of an Argentine youth charge that is shaking up the men’s tour.
Get to know the Buenos Aires native and Estoril winner who is determined to make a mark in his Roland Garros debut.
While the Roland Garros draw might be currently dominated by French and American players, there’s one country that’s never too far behind them: Argentina. But while several of France and the USA’s 15 representatives in the men’s event got there with a wild card, all 11 of Argentina’s players earned their spots by virtue of their ranking—a sign of the depth of talent pouring out of the South American country.
Sebastian Baez is the latest Argentine to make his name known on the ATP Tour. The 21-year-old started last season ranked outside the Top 300, but quickly rose up the ranks after claiming six Challenger titles in 2021—including on home soil in Buenos Aires—and reaching three finals.
His head-turning performances earned him a spot at the ATP Next Gen Finals after Jenson Brooksby pulled out with an injury. Baez made the most out of his debut opportunity, reaching the semifinals with wins over Lorenzo Musetti and Hugo Gaston before being halted by top seed Carlos Alcaraz.
After ending the 2021 season ranked inside the Top 100 for the first time, Baez has only just started to navigate Grand Slam main draws and play a full ATP schedule. But any worries about how he would adapt to the higher level of competition were soon brushed away like a clay-court sweeper.
His slow and steady rise has been marked by major milestones disguised as small wins: in his first Grand Slam main draw, he reached the second round of the Australian Open and pushed Stefanos Tsitsipas, his first Top 5 opponent, to four sets. Later came his first ATP quarterfinal in Cordoba—with a win over Cristian Garin along the way—and his first final in Santiago—where just a year earlier he’d lifted a pair of Challenger trophies—falling in three tight sets to clay-court veteran Pedro Martinez.
It all came to a head a few weeks later in Estoril, where he finally lifted his first tour-level trophy after defeating three former champions: Joao Sousa, Richard Gasquet and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. In a twist of irony, his opponent in the final was Frances Tiafoe, whose bracelet had a message that Baez took to heart: “Why not me?”
The 21-year-old had scrawled the phrase on the camera lens after each victory—except for the final, where he wrote: “Yes, it’s me!”
But he didn't stop there, translating his momentum into an eight-match win streak that took him from qualifying to the second round in Rome—his first Masters 1000 win—before falling to Alexander Zverev.
Why It Matters
With Argentina’s longtime standard bearer Del Potro announcing his retirement in Buenos Aires earlier this year, the rise of his protege Baez feels more important than ever—a changing of the old guard that’s already been set in motion.
Of Argentina’s six players inside the Top 100, half are aged 25 and under, with 21-year-old Baez ranked nearly a dozen spots higher than 23-year-old Francisco Cerundolo, and 20-year-old Tomas Martin Etcheverry waiting in the wings.
“I am from Argentina and everything was just a bit harder because of that,” Baez told Tennis Majors in a pre-tournament interview. “It takes 13 hours to get to Europe and it is more expensive. We do not have the luxury that most European players have—to play a tournament and to be home in two hours.
“I was motivated to achieve everything by myself, with my team. I take pride in the fact that nobody has gifted us anything, we have accomplished everything purely by our effort and hard work, without much help.”
Despite the financial hardships, long-haul flights and myriad roadblocks littering the path to the top of the game, the rise of Baez proves that the future of Argentine men’s tennis is in good hands.