Seyboth Wild

“Guga” Seyboth Wild wows Roland Garros central stadium with feat of knocking out Medvedev

His nickname is not “Guga”, but he deserves to go by it. Thiago Seyboth Wild, a 23-year-old Brazilian, wowed the Roland Garros central stadium on Tuesday by knocking out one of the greats of tennis, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Twenty-six years ago, on the way to his unexpected first French Open title, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten had also faced a Medvedev, Russia’s Andrei Medvedev, on the way to the Musketeers Cup. Kuerten won that round of 16 match, Seyboth Wild won this first round match. Déjà vu in Paris?

Seyboth Wild, ranked 172nd in the world, was never even in the top 100 in the world, but his display on the Philippe Chatrier was that of a top ten player, except at one key moment, when he had the match in his hands to win it more easily: a one-set lead and a 6-4 lead in the second set tie break.

At that moment, Seyboth missed a mid-court forehand and a smash that gave the world number two the set. But the Brazilian pulled himself together and, on a mildly warm afternoon in the Parisian spring, eliminated the recent Italian Open champion 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (6-8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in four hours and 15 minutes of electrifying play.

The Brazilian, the 2018 US Open junior champion and 2020 ATP Viña de Santiago de Chile champion defeating Norway’s Casper Ruud in the final, is a player who lives under the radar, but that will no longer be the case.
His brash yet elegant tennis, his power and the display he showed on Tuesday will put him back in the international spotlight to hear the same question frequently: why isn’t he higher in the rankings, why isn’t he one of the tour’s leading players?

Personal problems – a stormy relationship with an influencer that included police reports – injuries and a perhaps not always so professional attitude weighed down the take-off of the Brazilian, who by winning the 2020 ATP 250 in Chile became, at 182nd in the world rankings, the youngest player from his country to triumph at that level.

Seyboth Wild, who reached the main draw of the tournament by winning three matches in qualifying, showed on the Parisian clay a very powerful serve, a furious forehand with which he always commanded and a ductile two-handed backhand. The festival of brilliant shots on centre court was reminiscent of Kuerten’s breakthrough in 1997, except for the detail that the former world number one played with a one-handed backhand.

What was his tactic today, former French tennis player Fabrice Santoro asked Seyboth Wild after the match.

“Looking for the angles, using my forehand against his… it worked very well, heh,” the 185-centimetre Brazilian said with a smile. “I’m really happy with the way I’m playing. If you work hard, you get rewarded.”

In addition to the fact that they both got rid of a Medvedev, there are other parallels with Kuerten’s breakthrough in 1997: both players are from the south of Brazil; Kuerten from the state of Santa Catarina, Seyboth Wild from the state of Paraná.

If in 1997, Kuerten was represented by the Peruvian Jorge Salkeld, 26 years later, Seyboth Wild is also working with him.

That story of the 1990s became a legend, with Kuerten adding two more titles in Paris and reaching the top of the ranking in 2000. Seyboth Wild, three years older than the Kuerten of 1997, only just hit the ground running, but there is no one or nothing that can take away the greatest joy of his career.

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Clay’s managing editor has covered more than 60 Grand Slam tournaments since 1996. Author of “Sin Red”, a journey around the world following Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends