Roberto Carballes Baena challenged the powerful game of Matteo Berrettini to earn a shock first-round win Wednesday at the UniCredit Firenze Open, where the Spaniard rallied to a 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-5 victory.
The World No. 80 showcased incredible defense to frustrate the second seed throughout the pair’s three-hour, 19-minute clash, holding firm even when trailing by a break of serve in both the second and third sets. Carballes Baena converted all five break points he earned and reeled off five games in a row from 2-5 in the third set to silence a vocal home crowd in Florence.
“I’m very happy, it’s a very good win for me, the best of my career,” said Carballes Baena after clinching his third Top 20 triumph. “I just tried to win every point, to be focused every point, and tried to return the serve, because he served very well. I’m very happy because I am in the next round.”
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Berrettini had led 7-5, 2-0 before Carballes Baena rallied in impressive fashion to force a second-set tie-break and level the match. The Italian appeared to have finally cracked the Carballes Baena code after breaking in the sixth game of the decider, but the Spaniard’s late charge proved decisive.
“I tried to be aggressive with the second serve,” said Carballes Baena. “I tried to go to the net. I tried to be solid. I tried to play a great match, and I think I did.”
With the win, Carballes Baena advanced to his 15th ATP Tour quarter-final, but his first on a surface other than clay. He will meet Mikael Ymer in the quarter-finals in Florence after the Swedish qualifier downed fifth seed Aslan Karatsev 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-1.
Also on Wednesday, a dialed-in JJ Wolf reached his second ATP Tour quarter-final by blunting the big-serving game of Maxime Cressy in a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Wolf showcased his volleying ability throughout the pair’s first tour-level meeting, winning 81 per cent (17/21) of points at the net en route to an 81-minute win. He will next meet seventh seed Alexander Bublik or Corentin Moutet.
In the sole remaining first-round match in Florence, Mackenzie McDonald delivered a confident third-set performance to complete a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 upset of sixth seed Jenson Brooksby. It was McDonald’s first victory in three meetings between the pair this season, and the World No. 79 now faces a second-round clash against #NextGenATP Italian Francesco Passaro.