Thomaz Bellucci retiring after losing in Rio Open

Rio de Janeiro –

Brazil’s mainstay on the men’s tennis tour for the past decade, Thomas Bellucci retired after a 6-3, 6-2 straight-set loss to No. 6 seed Sebastian Baez in the first round of the Rio Open.

Bellucci, 35, is now preparing to transition to coaching.

Bellucci won 200 professional matches in his career, won four titles and reached a career-high No. 21 in the ATP rankings. He is one of his five to win a set against Novak Djokovic in his 6-0 on clay courts. He beat top 10 players his six times in his career, including Andy Murray, who was ranked his fourth in the world at the 2011 Madrid Open.

Bellucci turned pro in 2005, a time when his sporting hero, three-time French Open champion and former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, was in action. The Brazilian hoped the young player could reach Kuerten’s heights, but he mostly fell short due to injuries.

After Bellucci’s final match, Kuerten said in a video played on the big screen at the Rio Open Arena, “(You) hold the historic second place among Brazilian men’s players.” No, boy. I will always support you. I will applaud and thank you.”

Bellucci has appeared in eight finals at the elite level, winning titles in Gstaad (2009, 2012), Santiago (2010) and Geneva (2015).

Yet over the years, he has developed a love-hate relationship with Brazilian tennis fans.

“You feel it when people expect a lot from you. When a country has some sporting heroes, it gets diluted among all the athletes. It’s what you see in the US. There are many players in everything. I was the one who played a Grand Slam in Brazil,” Bellucci said at a press conference. “It wasn’t good for me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to move forward in the tournament.”

He is currently ranked No. 915 after a left knee injury kept him on the sidelines for almost a year.

“I miss being on the court surrounded by Brazilians from the start, a feeling you don’t get in any other job,” Bellucci said. “But you can’t miss the rest!”

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