Gustavo Kuerten was number 1 in the world, won three slams, won an ATP Finals and played in a Davis Cup semifinal. The Santa Catarina native is certainly not the best name to make comparisons in Brazilian tennis. So say the “new Gugas”, from Bellucci to Boscardin, who were presented with the label in this millennium. However, if it is not worth comparing, the greatest man in the history of Brazilian tennis is an excellent point of reference relatively recent to demarcate achievements and status.
That’s where Beatriz Haddad Maia comes in, champion of the WTAs 250 in Nottingham and Birmingham, both on grass, in the last two weeks. Something that no Brazilian has done since Guga. Neither Ricardo Mello nor Thomaz Bellucci nor Teliana Pereira and much less Thiago Wild (all ATP/WTA champions in the country in singles since the Guga era). None of them even came close to winning two titles in a row at that level.
It’s not even (only) the issue of originality above that puts Bia on a different level. The 26-year-old from São Paulo, number 29 in the world as of this Monday – best ranking of her career so far – lifted these two trophies in a row making three big victims: top 5 Maria Sakkari, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and former -number 1 (and also Wimbledon champion) Simona Halep.
More than that: Bia, who two months ago already talked about having the conditions to win a slam this year, already stands as more than just another underdog in the pre-Wimbledon period. And that, dear readers, is also more than what Mello, Bellucci, Teliana and Wild have done. Yes, Thomaz was #21 in the world, but he was never a serious candidate for a slam and only passed the third round once in his career in tournaments of this level.
Today, after the two titles, Bia is already among the top 10 favorites for the Wimbledon title in at least one bookmaker. Furthermore, in a balanced WTA with no obvious favorites (Iga Swiatek, number 1 in the world, is the exception, but has not yet competed on grass this year), why not believe that the Brazilian, in an excellent moment, has a chance to extend this sequence and fight for the title?
And this status, this title hope, already puts Bia Haddad Maia a level above the best Brazilian simplists post-Guga.
Things I think I think:
– Important caveats: traditionally, the champions of Nottingham and Birmingham do not usually repeat their success at Wimbledon. The last Birmingham champion to triumph on grass at the All England Club was Maria Sharapova, in 2004. In Nottingham, a tournament with little history, none of the seven champions made it past the third round at Wimbledon.
– Sub-qualification as important as the one above: when was the last time you, the reader, imagined how much the result of a tournament won by a Brazilian has to do with a slam champion? That, in itself, says a lot about Bia’s position on the women’s circuit today.
– Today’s sound on my Kuba Disco: Remind Me, new track by the Brits from Bastille.
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