Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bellucci Emerging As Player To Watch On Clay

It was a big week for Brazilian tennis last week, as 22-year-old Tomasz Bellucci, one of 5 first-time ATP titlists in 2009, claimed his second title of his young career at the Movistar Open in Santiago, Chile.

Bellucci now finds himself in the ATP's top-30, and his clay court prowess makes a jump into the ATP's top-20 a distinct possibility, as he'll have plenty of chances to compete on his surface of choice in the upcoming months.

Bellucci's most impressive win of the week was against No. 11-ranked Fernando Gonzalez in the semifinals. Gonzo is a 4-time champion at Movistar, but Bellucci was able to win a close-fought 3-setter on the Chilean's home turf. As an encore, Bellucci prevailed over another tough opponent, Juan Monaco, in another 3-setter for the title.

Bellucci, who cracked the top-100 for the first time after coming through the qualies to take the Gstaad title in August of 2009, appears to be ready to have his best clay court season yet.

While Brazilian tennis boasts only 2 top-100 players, there is a precedent for top-level tennis in the South American nation. Legendary Gustavo Kuerten a.k.a. Guga was a 3-time French Open Champion and he also held the world's No. 1 ranking for 27 consecutive weeks in 2001. Bellucci, and surprise Movistar semifinalist Joao Souza (a 6'4" 21-year-old nicknamed "bean") are both aiming to follow in the footsteps of their idol.

"We all watched Guga when we were kids," Bellucci told the ATP last year. "He was for sure an extra motivation to continue playing."

Surely, young players like Tiago Fernandes, who just won the Australian Open Boys Junior title, will begin to watch Bellucci as he now begins to come of age on the crushed red brick.

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