Fonseca makes history at home in Brazil

BRAZILIAN teenager Joao Fonseca became the first 2006-born player to win an ATP Tour main draw match in history, after defeating seventh seeded Frenchman Arthur Fils in Rio de Janeiro a few hours ago. The 657th ranked Fonseca earned a wildcard into the ATP 500 event in his home nation, and had the crowd in a frenzy as the 17-year-old stormed to victory.

It was simply sublime from the young gun, who not only won, but completely destroyed Fils in the opening set, bagelling him and then being able to hold firm in the second set as the Frenchman begun to found his rhythm. The aggression off Fonseca’s racquet was the difference, with the 17-year-old putting plenty of pressure on the out-of-sorts Fils.

In the opening set, Fonseca on 13 of 18 off his serve, did not face a break point and converted three of five chances against 19-year-old Fils. The higher ranked player looked helpless to stop Fonseca, who used the home clay courts to advantage with his attacking ground stokes and power impressing not just the crowd, but Fils too.

The second set was far tougher for the Brazilian, with rain threatening to delay play again, but he converted a break point from four chances and never gave Fils a chance to do the same, winning 65 and 69 per cent of his first and second serve points. By comparison, while Fils’ serve stepped up in the second set, he could not generate the same amount of power as his opponent, hitting the 10 winners to Fonseca’s 17.

Fonseca was particularly fluent off his forehand side, hitting 11 of his 17 winners from that wing, while only committing the 17 unforced errors to Fils’ 22. Additionally, the 17-year-old won 42 of 75 points from the baseline (56 per cent) compared to Fils’ 32 (40.5 per cent).

After winning his first main draw match, Fonseca overtook Czech Jakub Mensik (September 1, 2005) as the youngest player to win an ATP Tour main draw match, not turning 18 until August 21 this year. Post-match, Fonseca said he felt at home at this level, and playing just a “few blocks” from his house.

“I’m so happy it couldn’t be more better than this, 10 minutes away from my house,” he said. “All my friends, all my family watching, it’s very special for me and let’s go for the second round.

Asked if he was nervous towards the end when he squandered match points with rain delays threatening to halt the match, Fonseca despite looking calm said he was definitely tightening up towards the end.

“I was focusing and just staying with any nerves and making every ball, intense, obviously I was nervous, you can look at my hand, I was shaking,” he said. “But I was so focused I wanted to win, so I made it.”

Over the past six months, Fonseca has added extra elements to his game, saying maturity has been the biggest addition to his weaponry.

“The last few months I was so focused on my progress and this is the result,” Fonseca said. “I think I’m a lot more mature, this is where I belong. I want to be here, I want to be in these huge stadiums, let’s focus on the processes.”

Fonseca will take on Chilean Cristian Garin in the second round, with his quarter of the draw now not featuring a seeded player following German Yannick Hanfmann‘s upset of third seed Nicolas Jarry in the first round.

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