Joao Fonseca Follows in Rafael Nadal's Footsteps

Joao Foseca is the fifth-youngest ATP quarter-finalist since 2000

by Jovica Ilic
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Joao Fonseca Follows in Rafael Nadal's Footsteps
© Buda Mendes / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The 17-year-old Joao Fonseca is making a name for himself at home ATP 500 event in Rio. Joao grew up near the Jockey Club, watching Rafael Nadal at this event ten years ago at seven. Now, the reigning US Open junior champion followed a 22-time Major winner on a notable list.

Namely, Fonseca claimed two wins in Rio, becoming the fifth-youngest ATP quarter-finalist since 2000 and joining Nadal on the exclusive list. Rafa could have earned his first ATP quarter-final already at 16, missing the feat by one win a couple of times.

The Spaniard entered the last eight for the first time in Bastad in July 2003 at 17 years and one month. Alexander Zverev followed Nadal's pace with his first ATP quarter-final in Hamburg 2014, achieving it at 20 years and two months.

Joao Fonseca, Rio 2024© Buda Mendes / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Karen Khachanov and Kei Nishikori joined the party, and Joao Fonseca added his name to the list this week in Rio. Fonseca earned his first ATP win with a dominant display over world no.

36 Arthur Fils, toppling the Frenchman 6-0, 6-4 and becoming the first player born in 2006 with an ATP win. Fonseca produced reliable hitting from both wings, hitting the same number of winners and unforced errors and delivering more service winners than his opponent.

The young gun never faced a break point despite serving at 54%, keeping the pressure on the other side and leaving a top-40 rival miles behind, especially in the opener. Fonseca claimed half of the return points and secured four breaks from nine chances, enough to sail over the top.

The young gun grabbed a break in the first game of the match and held in game two with a forced error, settling into a fine rhythm. The home favorite landed a volley winner in the third game, securing another break and extending the gap with a hold a few minutes later.

Fonseca pushed strong on the return in the seventh game, landing a forehand down the line winner for a break chance and converting it after Fils' double fault. Joao served for the set at 5-0 and landed a drop shot winner at deuce, wrapping up the opener with a bagel after half an hour.

Fonseca squandered two break points at 2-2 in the second set before stealing the rival's serve in game seven for a 4-3 lead. The Brazilian fired two winners after deuce in the eighth game and served for the win at 5-4.

Jao Fonseca, Rio 2024© Buda Mendes / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Joao Fonseca reached his first ATP quarter-final in Rio.

The young gun seized the third match point, celebrating his first ATP victory.

Not stopping there, Fonseca took down Cristian Garin 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 31 minutes for a place in the quarter-final. Joao played better behind the second serve, losing serve two times and stealing Cristian's serve four times from nine opportunities.

The Brazilian outplayed his rival in the department of service winners, playing aggressive tennis and hitting more winners and unforced errors. Joao held at 15 in the first game of the encounter with powerful serves and grabbed a break in game two after Cristian's double fault.

The Chilean responded with a break in game three after a deep return, reducing the deficit before playing against three break points in game four.

Cristian Garin, Rio 2024© Buda Mendes / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Garin denied them and held, locking the result at 2-2.

Fonseca fired a backhand down the line winner in the fifth game, moving in front before Garin clinched the next one with a forehand winner for 3-3. A teenager sprayed a forehand error in the seventh game, losing serve and falling behind.

Fonseca stayed calm and painted a forehand down the line winner in game eight, erasing the deficit and gaining a boost. Joao closed the ninth game with a powerful serve and pushed strong on the return again at 5-4. The Brazilian seized the second set point with a forced error, claiming the opener in 45 minutes and giving the crowd something to cheer about.

The young gun landed a service winner at the beginning of the second set before spraying a drop shot error in game two. Fonseca fired up his forehand in the third game and clinched it with an ace for a 2-1 lead. Cristian responded with a hold at love in game four and reached deuce on the return in the next one.

The home favorite held after the rival's forehand error and moved 3-2 in front. Garin landed a forehand winner at the net in the sixth game, holding at love and extending the battle. Joao opened a 4-3 gap with a service winner, and Cristian secured the next one at 30 for more drama.

Feeling no pressure, Fonseca held at love in the ninth game, moving 5-4 in front and keeping the pressure on the other side. A teenager created a match point after the rival's backhand mistake and sealed the deal when Garin netted a routine forehand, celebrating another notable win and moving into the quarter-final.

Rafael Nadal
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