VALE DO LOBO/STARNBERG, November 20, 2023
Henrique Rocha sealed a perfect campaign by clinching the singles title at the Vale do Lobo Open I, where he had already lifted the doubles trophy alongside his older brother, Francisco Rocha, the day before. This marked the first of two consecutive ITF World Tennis Tour M25 tournaments organized by the Portuguese Tennis Federation at the Vale do Lobo Tennis Academy (from November 12th to 19th and from the 19th to the 26th).
In Sunday’s final against World No. 531 Hynek Barton from the Czech Republic, it was the first encounter of the week where the 19-year-old Rocha found himself trailing. However, it quickly turned into his best performance of the five matches, and after just 73 minutes, he emerged victorious with a scoreline of 6-3, 6-1.
Henrique Rocha sails past Hynek Barton 6-3, 6-1 to win in Vale do Lobo his 6th ITF M25 title of the year in 7 finals.
A flawless week for the 19-year-old, who also won the doubles title with his older brother Francisco Rocha yesterday. pic.twitter.com/POdLxHBGwy
— Gaspar Ribeiro Lança (@gasparlanca) November 19, 2023
Despite being more physically fatigued, Barton came into the final “on the attack” and secured the first service break with aggressive and varied play (utilizing many drop shots), but lacked consistency. Rocha quickly adapted, responding promptly. Relying on deep strokes, intelligent play, and a determined effort to control the points, he swiftly took command of this first encounter against an opponent he has known since their junior days.
“I played really well today. I had lost my last final and wanted to give my all to win, and that’s what I did perfectly. I didn’t start very well, but I managed to respond well right away, and once I stepped on the accelerator, I didn’t stop,” Rocha said after lifting the trophy.
“In the first set, there were tough moments, but I always managed to overcome them and kept my focus. I was a bit surprised by his style of play because I didn’t realize he was so attacking, but I noticed he was changing the pace and varying without a clear strategy, which gave me confidence and helped me understand that I could dominate,” the World No. 277 added.
After victories in Vila Real de Santo António (in February), Mungia (in June), Bakio (in July), Sintra (in August), and Tavira (in October), Vale do Lobo marked the sixth singles title for Rocha—all in the ITF M25 category—out of seven finals he has already contested in 2023.
Starting the season at 850th place in the rankings, Sunday’s victory ensured a jump of approximately twenty positions, placing him among the top 260 by November 27th—a new career-best ranking. This keeps alive his dream of securing a spot in the qualifying of the Australian Open.
Talking about this goal not only fails to intimidate him but motivates him further: “I’m quite ambitious, but I’m fully aware of the whole context and don’t think of becoming number one tomorrow. I know what I’m working for and what I can achieve. But I like to be very ambitious, and next week, I want to win again. I have to be at full throttle in every match because from now on, they’re all like finals.”