04:59 AM GMT March 01, 2020
Twelve days ago, Thiago Seyboth Wild stared down three match points on his serve during the second set of his first-round match at the Rio Open presented by Claro against 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. On the first of those points, he ripped an inside-in forehand that clipped the tape and bounced up in the air before trickling over. If that ball fell in the other direction, Seyboth Wild would have departed the ATP 500 after a straight-sets defeat and with just one tour-level win to his name.
But the #NextGenATP Brazilian went on to win in three hours and 50 minutes, topping the length of any best-of-three set match in 2019. When Davidovich Fokina made a final error to end the clash, Seyboth Wild fell to his back in celebration. Seyboth Wild lost a final-set tie-break in the next round against former World No. 12 Borna Coric, but he’d certainly shown that despite being 19, he has plenty of game and guts to compete on the ATP Tour.
“I think that every match you win at an ATP Tour event, it gives you so much confidence, it gives you so much strength to believe in yourself, to play better as the matches go by,” Seyboth Wild told ATPTour.com. “I think it had a pretty good [impact] on what I’m doing this week.”
One week later, Seyboth Wild became the youngest Brazilian finalist in ATP Tour history (since 1990) at the Chile Dove Men+Care Open in Santiago. If he beats Norwegian sensation Casper Ruud on Sunday, he will become the youngest ‘Golden Swing’ titlist since Rafael Nadal lifted the trophy in Acapulco 15 years ago. Nadal is the teen’s idol.
“I honestly don’t even know where to start… it’s just amazing,” Seyboth Wild said. “Rafa is a player, I don’t think anybody is going to do in 200 years what he’s done on clay or even reach his tennis level or win the tournaments he won and be the person he is. But if I could accomplish like 15, 20 per cent of what he’s done in his life, it would be amazing.”
For those who haven’t seen last year’s Guayaquil Challenger champion play, he believes his strengths are his forehand and his serve. But more than any physical tool, Seyboth Wild thinks the passion he brings on court and his desire to win are what will help him compete against the best players in the world. That’s also what he wants fans to take away from watching him.
“[It’s my] passion of playing tennis, how much I like the sport and how much I like to compete,” Seyboth Wild said. “I think it’s a thing that all South American players have. We’re just more emotional than Europeans. Maybe we’re like Australians, like Lleyton Hewitt was. It’s something different that we have. Not necessarily better, but different.”
At times, those emotions haven’t actually helped him, but hindered him.
“I’ve controlled that a lot the past few years,” Seyboth Wild said. “I think that most times that it happened, when I overloaded myself with emotions, it made me lose concentration. It made me lose matches that I should not have lost, and most of the time it made me step back instead of stepping forward.”
Seyboth Wild won the 2018 US Open boys’ singles title, and last November he cracked the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time following his triumph in Guayaquil.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the past two years,” Seyboth Wild said. “But that happened actually a little fast for me and it’s really good because when I can keep a streak of two, three, four great weeks of practice, it just makes me play better and feel better on court, and that’s what gives me the happiness of playing tennis.”
Seyboth Wild can make national history on Sunday, as he tries to become the first Brazilian since Thomaz Bellucci at 2015 Geneva to lift an ATP Tour trophy. And at World No. 182, a win will make him the lowest-ranked Brazilian to capture tour-level glory.
"Playing in an ATP event, being Brazilian, you don’t have the culture of having top players all the time,” Seyboth Wild said. “It’s just really good, it’s just amazing, it makes me feel like I can do better. It makes me feel like I actually have the potential to go on and use my strengths to keep going in the season.”
The good news that comes with Seyboth Wild's early ATP Tour success is that he's only going to get better. He admits there are plenty of plarts in his game to improve.
“I think that’s the good thing about being 19, because I’m already in an ATP Tour event final and I still have a lot to develop. So I still have a lot of space to grow, I still have a lot of things to develop in my game,” Seyboth Wild said. “We can always do something better every day. The fact that I know that and the fact that tennis players know that, it’s what moves us, it’s what makes us wake up every day and want to go practise and want to beat ourselves every day.
“That’s what keeps Roger Federer winning tournaments every day. He’s behind Nadal [right now], but we can’t all be Nadal, we can’t all be Federer. It’s just the motivation that we have.”
Seyboth Wild is projected to climb to a career-high World No. 131 if he loses in the Santiago final, and he will soar into the Top 115 with a title. Between next Monday and the last week of October, the 19-year-old will only have 109 points to defend, giving him plenty of room to climb even higher.
But he is not concerned with that now. First, he’s focussing on playing Ruud. Then he’ll worry about his next practice, and then the practice or match after that. That hunger to do the best he possibly can in the present allowed Seyboth Wild to find a way to win a three-hour, 50-minute marathon last week in Rio de Janeiro. And that's what will continue propelling him forward.
“I want to be the best player I can be,” Seyboth Wild said. “Better than I am every day. I don’t have a goal of titles, I don’t have a goal of ranking. I just want to do my best and be happy on court.”
Did You Know?
If Seyboth Wild wins the Santiago title, he is projected to rise to second place in the ATP Race To Milan on Monday. If he loses, he will climb to sixth.