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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday May 18, 2020

 
Thiago Seyboth Wild

Blessed with a robust game and refuse-to-lose attitude, 20-year-old Thiago Seyboth Wild is poised to become a top-notch player when tennis returns.

Photo Source: AP

The first thing you notice is the forehand, struck with the gusto of a cliff diver poised to take a fifty meter plunge into the sea. It looks like a leap of faith each time Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild sends it flying, and yet he cracks it with remarkable consistency.

“I go on court thinking that my forehand should control the match,” is how he explains it in our recent interview.




Two months ago in Santiago, while still just a teenager, Seyboth Wild and his forehand did plenty of controlling as the wild card swept past accomplished pros on his way to becoming the youngest Brazilian to ever claim an ATP title. It was a victory that would put him on the cusp of the Top 100, with the chance to go higher during the European clay-court swing.

But it would prove to be the end of the Brazilian’s surge—for now.

Less than a month after Seyboth Wild made that giant splash in South America, the Coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the globe and effectively halted the progress of Brazil’s fastest rising tennis star in its tracks.

A cruel turn soon followed for the NextGenATP star when he became the first professional tennis player to test positive for the virus weeks later. He confirmed the news on social media on March 24, urging the world to take precautions and to stay safe.

Seyboth Wild has since recuperated to full health, but the layoff continues as the ATP remains on lockdown until at least August 1. These days, all the 20-year-old wants to do is put the dark days behind him and start proving himself on the tennis court again.

“I’ve been trying to practice almost every day and give myself as much activity as possible. You know I’ve been trying to live a normal life but there is nothing normal about it these days,” the 20-year-old told Tennis Now in a telephone interview last week.

Fortunately for Seyboth Wild he has someone in his corner to provide stability in times of uncertainty. The 2018 US Open Boys Singles champion has been able to play regularly at the academy his father Claudio Ricardo manages. Using his dad as a full-time sparring partner until social distancing restrictions are eased, Seyboth Wild has managed to stay fit while he endures this unexpected delay.

He is quick to praise his dad and name him as one of his biggest influences; he speaks reverentially of the bond they have forged over tennis.

“He always supported me in anything I’d like to do, but obviously he liked tennis better, he gave me my first racquet and always introduced me to tournaments and to tennis places and to people who played really well in his time,” Seyboth Wild says. “He taught me as a person to be loyal to myself and to the people I love because that is how you have to work. You have to trust your team and you have to be 100 percent open with them so they can work their best with you.”

That work—and trust—has clearly paid off over the last few years. In 2018 Seyboth Wild completed his junior career by winning the US Open Boys Singles title, and he progressed smoothly into the professional ranks in 2019, winning 39 matches in total, including four against the Top 100. In November of 2019 he claimed the Guayaquil Challenger title in Ecuador—it was yet another sign that he was ready to excel on the ATP Tour.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Photoshoot day with @atptour / Melbourne / Aus Open / 2020

A post shared by Thiago Seyboth Wild (@thiagoswild) on



2020 saw continued progress from Seyboth Wild. He dropped his first three matches of the season but bounced back in short order, claiming his first ATP 500-level victory in his hometown of Rio before rolling to the title a week later in Santiago, where he earned his first Top 20 win and took out the Buenos Aires champ Casper Ruud in the final.

“I’d say that as a kid I’ve always thought that I could beat anybody, that I could be the best, that I could win the tournament, doesn’t really matter where I was, and it’s something I have taken with me to today,” Seyboth Wild says.

History has repeatedly shown us that making the transition from juniors to pro is extremely difficult, but Seyboth Wild has made it look easy thus far. He’s jumped from just inside the Top 400 in the ATP rankings to his current perch at 114 in less than a year. Perhaps even more impressively, he has gone 8-3 against the Top 100 in the last 52 weeks, notching victories over experienced clay-courters such as Hugo Dellien, Thiago Monteiro, Marco Cecchinato, Juan Ignacio Londero, Ruud and Cristian Garin.

“I think I am playing every match as my last,” Seyboth Wild explained when I asked him how he has been able to transition to the pro game without much friction. “I’ve always played every match as if my life depended on it. And I think that going on court and believing you can beat anybody is the most important thing for a tennis player. I think that if you go on court thinking that you’re playing a Top 20 player you are definitely gonna lose. It will overcome you. So I think that believing in yourself and thinking that you can beat anybody is the key for that.”


Thiago Seyboth Wild:

“I’ve always played every match as if my life depended on it. And I think that going on court and believing you can beat anybody is the most important thing for a tennis player."


Rather than dwell on the difficulties of dealing with the pandemic, Seyboth Wild instead focuses on the positives. After entering 2020 with just one ATP-level win to his name, Seyboth Wild now has seven.

There’s a lot to be excited about, and a lot to look forward to.

“It really shows me that my hard work is paying off,” Seyboth Wild replied when I listed a string of his achievements from February, one of which was becoming the youngest player to win a Golden Swing title since Rafael Nadal in 2005. “It really shows me that I’m on the right path and that I should not change things now. I should stick to everything I’m doing and believe the people I’m working with because they definitely know what they are doing with me.”


Like many ATP players, Seyboth Wild knows that the long layoff due to the pandemic does present an opportunity: It is a good time to add layers to the game. He says he wants to make his second serve heavier and he also feels he needs to start coming forward to finish points more.

“I need to try to go to the net a lot more because as you said I have a pretty fast forehand and it’s a pretty big shot,” he said. “It really gives me a lot of opportunities during the match and sometimes I don’t take them, I just wait for another forehand. … If I went to the net maybe I could have won the point earlier. That could save me a lot more energy during the matches.”

Grand Slam glory might be far in the distance for the still blossoming Seyboth Wild, but he believes he can do what only the great Gustavo Kuerten has done in Brazil: reach World No.1.

Thiago Seyboth Wild:

“I’d say that as a kid I’ve always thought that I could beat anybody, that I could be the best, that I could win the tournament, doesn’t really matter where I was, and it’s something I have taken with me to today.”


Seyboth Wild doesn’t know Guga well, but says he received words of wisdom from the Roland Garros legend when he was a youngster. He hasn’t forgotten those words.

“He always talked so much about how intense I should play, about how I should focus on my level and let the ranking be a consequence of how I’m playing, how the results are going,” he said, adding: “I’d say yes he’s an inspiration for me just like he is for most of the players out there. He was No.1. He beat Agassi and Sampras in the same tournament, like who really does that?”

Perhaps one day Seyboth Wild will achieve similar feats of glory. The first step is believing, and that’s already been covered.

“A lot of people have already asked me about being No.1 or winning Grand Slams,” Seyboth Wild said, when I asked him how good he thought he could be. “I’d go with being No.1 because to be No.1 you have to win a Grand Slam at least...”

And could he do it?

“Definitely,” he replied, without hesitation.

 

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