World No 655 makes history with stunning upset over Arthur Fils in Rio

Ewan West
Joao Fonseca in action at the Rio Open
Joao Fonseca hits a volley at the Rio Open

Rising star Joao Fonseca produced a stunning display to earn a sizeable upset over Arthur Fils in the opening round of the 2024 Rio Open on Wednesday. 

The 17-year-old Brazilian wildcard, who is currently ranked 655th, dismantled seventh seed and world No 36 Fils 6-0, 6-4 at his home tournament.

Fonseca did not lose a game as he stormed through the opening set in just half an hour, before earning the only break in the second set as he sealed a resounding victory.

The Brazilian did not face a break point during the contest and converted five of the nine opportunities he created on the 19-year-old Frenchman’s serve.

The teenager’s victory was his first on the ATP Tour and means he became the first player born in 2006 or later to win a match on the main tour.

Following his triumph, Fonseca said: “I am so happy. It couldn’t be better than this to get my first win 10 minutes away from my house and with all my friends, all my family watching.

“It’s very special and let’s go for another one in the second round. I was focused on making every ball. Obviously I was nervous, I was shaking, but I wanted so much to win, I made it.

“The last few months I was so focused on my progress and this is the result. I am a lot more mature and this is where I belong. I want to be in these huge stadiums.”

Fonseca alerted the tennis world to his potential last year, when he reached the quarter-finals of the junior events at the French Open and Wimbledon, before winning the junior US Open in September. He ended the 2023 season as the world No 1 men’s junior.

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The Brazilian, who turned 17 in August last year, started his 2024 season by making a run to the semi-finals of the Buenos Aires Challenger event in January.  He was then beaten in the opening round of Challenger tournaments in Buenos Aires and Punta Del Este prior to his appearance in Rio.

The world No 655 has already climbed to 436th in the Live ATP Rankings with the 50 points earned from his opening round victory.

Fonseca will face world No 88 Cristian Garin in the second round of the ATP 500 tournament on Thursday. Four of the top eight seeds, including favourites Carlos Alcaraz and Nicolas Jarry, exited in the first round of the event — presenting Fonseca with an opportunity to make a strong run.

In his post-match press conference, Fonseca looked ahead to his encounter with Garin and discussed what the tournament means to him.

“The match against Garin will be another tough one, but I think I’m prepared. I’m at home and have my family and friends here to support me so hopefully I’ll try to enjoy the moment and let’s see what happens,” he said.

“I’ve been coming to the Rio Open since the first edition and this makes this win even more special to me… I know this was a big step, but it’s not over yet. I’m happy but I want more and more and hopefully keep going in the tournament. I want to reach the top and that’s what I’m focused on.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match but the pressure was on his side so I tried to work with that. I tried to keep my intensity since the first point. I played really well on the first set and I knew he was going to be a bit nervous playing against a younger opponent.”

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