Tennis Prose



A Star Is Born In Rio: Joao Fonseca

By Scoop Malinowski

I was told in January that ITF no. 1 junior Joao Fonseca from Brazil won two tiebreakers at ATP Finals practice vs Carlos Alcaraz and he won a practice set vs Casper Ruud.

This week on the red clay of Rio, 17 year old wildcard is emerging as a future elite ATP champion. Fonseca has reached the quarterfinals by beating Cristian Garin 64 64 and Arthur Fils 60 64 in the first round.

Wearing white ON attire this week and a pink cap, the Yonex racquet wielding Fonseca will play Argentina’s 22 year old qualifier Mariano Navone for a semifinal slot. Fonseca says he played Navone two years earlier in a Challenger and won, it was his second ATP match win.

With his heavy, penetrating ground strokes, two-handed backhand, and also feathery touch at net, Fonseca is now the second youngest player to reach the QF of an ATP 500 tournament (Alexander Zverev did it in Hamburg in 2014).

Entering the tournament ranked 655, the six-foot-one 162 pounder coached by Guilherme Teixeira, has risen 314 notches in the ATP World Tour rankings and he will be ranked 341 next week. If he proceeds to win the title the newcomer will be ranked around 111 next week.

Fonseca entered Rios on a three match losing streak, having lost in the SF at Buenos Aires Challenger to Dmitri Popko, then first round at Buenos Aires and Uruguay Challengers to Eduoardo Lavagno (238) 57 46 and Francisco Comesana (ranked 121) 36 26.

Before this week Fonseca was 0-1 on the ATP World Tour.

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  • Matt Segel · February 23, 2024 at 10:04 am

    How about Mensik! Great call last fall by you Scoop!

  • Cory · February 23, 2024 at 10:05 am

    Love hearing stories like this. This is why I love watching ATP Challenger and following futures. With that we also get the sagas of fallen players grinding. I’ve been following Hazem Naw (Syria) for a couple months now – he lost yesterday to Pouille in the Pau Challenger, but this guy looks solid mentally and has great variety – perhaps not a ton of baseline firepower – but a great will and drive to win. He’s won 18 of his last 22, most of which as an underdog. His ranking might be up to 325 after this week.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 23, 2024 at 10:11 am

    Matt, thanks, yes Jakub Mensik is the next story. I went to watch Fognini at US Open qualies 1R last year and he smoked this kid badly in the first set 61, looked like a mismatch. Then suddenly somehow this kid who never showed any frustration in the first set turned the tables on Fognini and won 61 61! I watched it all and not sure what the hell the kid did?! This kid has magical powers on a tennis court. ALso he did an ATP Biofile video and he said his goal is “to win all the Grand Slams.” Usually players say they want to win a Grand Slam. This kid is essentially saying, “Look I know I already will win one or two Grand Slams but I want all four!” Now he beats Rublev this week. Sky is the limit.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 23, 2024 at 10:14 am

    Cory thank you, I haven’t even heard of Hazem Naw yet until now. Syria is no tennis hotbed but neither was Canada or Brazil. Also there is that kid from Jordan who keeps winning and rising Shelbayh. With the Djokovic example inspiring so many young players tennis may be about to enter a new special golden era. Mensik said his big inspiration is Novak.



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