Watch highlights of the 2018 Ecuador Open final, featuring Roberto Carballes Baena versus Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Photo: Ecuador Open

Carballes Baena Completes Dream Week In Quito

Spanish qualifier upsets second seed for maiden title

Six wins in seven days. Roberto Carballes Baena could not have written a more dramatic script to lift his first ATP World Tour trophy at the Ecuador Open.

The Spanish qualifier was made to work to claim his maiden crown, upsetting a trio of seeded players in Quito, while rallying from a set down in both the quarter-finals and semis. The drama was just as palpable in Sunday's championship against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and Carballes Baena would emerge victorious 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in a tense two hours and 28 minutes.

The Granada native had not won a match on the ATP World Tour in nearly one year, but, behind upsets of second seed Ramos-Vinolas, fourth seed Paolo Lorenzi and eighth seed Nicolas Jarry, he enjoyed his maiden moment at the age of 24.

"Many feelings come to my mind and many years of training to achieve this," said Carballes Baena. "I thank my family, my parents in particular. They have been with me since I was little and have been behind me for a long time. We will celebrate this in Spain.

"I did not expect this when I came to Quito, but every day I have improved and now I have the title with me. I entered the Top 100 for the first time two years ago, but I needed to have a good ATP World Tour tournament. I did very well during the matches this week and they have been very hard matches, decided by small margins. I hope to enter more ATP tournaments to continue raising my level and win more matches."

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It looked like Carballes Baena would run away with the title on a sunkissed Sunday in the Ecuadorian capital. Behind a bevy of big serves and deep, penetrating forehands, he scored a quick break for 3-1 and he would secure the opener in just 40 minutes. 

Ramos-Vinolas fought back in the second set, as his opponent struck a double fault down set point at 5-4, but was unable to sustain the momentum in the decider. Carballes Baena would save a break point at 3-2 and claimed the decisive break in the next game. Feeling the pressure of the moment, he failed to convert his first two match points while serving for the title, but an overhead smash would seal the victory. 

The Spaniard collapsed to the clay after just under two and a half hours. Revenge was sweet for Carballes Baena, who had dropped four of five previous encounters against Ramos-Vinolas, including in the 2017 Quito quarter-finals.

It was a momentous Sunday on the ATP World Tour, with Carballes Baena joining Mirza Basic as first-time winners. It marked the third straight year in which multiple players had claimed their maiden title on the same day. Lucas Pouille (Metz) and Alexander Zverev (St. Petersburg) did so in 2016, with Peter Gojowczyk (Metz) and Damir Dzumhur (St. Petersburg) replicating the feat in 2017.

In addition, it marked the first time two qualifiers lifted trophies on the same day since January 2015, when Viktor Troicki and Jiri Vesely triumphed in Sydney and Auckland, respectively.

Carballes Baena earns $89,435 and 250 ATP Rankings points, rising more than 30 spots to a career-high No. 76. Ramos-Vinolas, meanwhile, returns to the Top 20 with 150 points and $47,105 in prize money. He was appearing in his sixth ATP World Tour final and seeking his second title.

"Nobody likes to lose finals, but someone has to," said Ramos-Vinolas. "I would have loved to win this tournament, but it could not be. Yes, I was mentally strong this week, but I also struggled a lot. Maybe the day I felt more comfortable was the one I played at night because it was slower. It happened to me in previous years, where the day I lost the first set the conditions were very fast and today something similar happened. I tried to keep fighting and I almost managed to turn the match around, but it could not be.

"The nerves, the desire to win... sometimes you make decisions in tenths of a second that go well and others not so much. Then you think about those that have gone wrong, so today I will remember them."

The 24-year-old Carballes Baena has steadily plotted his ascent in the past year, having captured a pair of ATP Challenger Tour crowns on Italian soil - in Cortina and Manerbio. He has notched four consecutive wins over Top 50 opposition, with Ramos-Vinolas being the highest-ranked scalp of his career.