Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci retires at age 35 after Rio Open defeat Alcaraz wins at Rio Open, eyes race with Djokovic for No. 1 Swiatek reaches Dubai quarterfinals, Keys and Gauff advance

RIO DE JANEIRO. Tomaz Bellucci, Brazil’s top flag bearer on the men’s tour over the past decade, retired after losing straight sets to sixth-placed Sebastian Baez 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Rio Open.

Now 35-year-old Bellucci is preparing to move into coaching.

Bellucci won 200 professional matches during his career, won four titles and finished 21st in the ATP rankings. He is one of five players to win a set 6-0 against Novak Djokovic on clay. He has beaten top 10 players six times in his career, including Andy Murray, who then finished 4th at the Madrid Open in 2011.

Bellucci turned pro in 2005 when his sports hero, three-time French Open champion and former No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, was active. The Brazilians had high hopes that the young player could reach the same heights as Kuerten, but he almost always fell short – often due to injury.

“(You have) a historic second place among Brazilian male players,” Kuerten said in a video shown on the big screen at the Rio Open after Bellucci’s last match. “This is no joke, my boy. I will continue to cheer for you. I applaud you and thank you.”

Bellucci has played eight finals at the elite level and won titles in Gstaad (2009, 2012), Santiago (2010) and Geneva (2015).

However, over the years he developed a love-hate relationship with Brazilian tennis fans who had no one but him to pin the country’s hopes on major tournaments.

“When people expect a lot from you, you feel it. When you have several sports heroes in your country, it is diluted among all the athletes. This is what we see in Argentina, Spain, USA. Everyone has a lot of players. In Brazil, I played Grand Slam tournaments,” Bellucci said at a press conference. “It wasn’t good for me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to advance in tournaments.”

He is currently ranked 915th after nearly a full year off the field due to a left knee injury.

“I will miss getting on the court when I am surrounded by Brazilians who have been rooting for me from the very beginning. There are no such feelings in any other job, ”said Bellucci. “But I won’t miss the rest!”

RIO DE JANEIRO. Top seeded Carlos Alcaraz advanced to the second round of the Rio Open after closing the last two games of a match that was abandoned the day before due to rain.

The 19-year-old defending champion beat Brazil’s Matheus Alves 6-4, 6-4 before facing Fabio Fognini, who defeated Tomas Barrios Vera 6-2, 6-3 in a clay tournament.

Last year’s runner-up Diego Schwartzman was knocked out by Serbian player Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-4. Lajovic’s next opponent will be compatriot Laszlo Jere.

Francisco Cerundolo, who finished fourth, beat Roberto Carballes Baena 4:6, 6:3, 6:3 and will face Bernabé Zapata Miralles in the next round.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Ranked No. 1 Iga Swiatek advanced to the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championship after beating Ludmila Samsonova 6-1, 6-0.

The 21-year-old Pole will face former world number one Karolina Pliskova, who took the lead by beating Angelina Kalinina 7:5, 6:7 (6), 6:2 in the round of 16.

Swiatek, a three-time Grand Slam champion, has won her last five matches, including a successful Qatar Open title defense last week.

Madison Keys will face Coco Gauff in the All-American quarterfinals. Keys beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-1, with 18-year-old Gauff taking the lead after Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina withdrew from the scheduled match due to a lower back injury.


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