by Lindsay Gibbs
One day you’re beating David Ferrer, the next you’re losing to Robin Haase. Thus is the life of Thomaz Bellucci. The twenty-four year old from Sao Paulo has been leaving tennis fans in a tizzy for years due to his inconsistent play. But is there more than to the thirty-ninth ranked player than loveable facial expressions and erratic forehands? Here’s the scoop on the befuddling Brazilian.
1. He’s crazy talented.
Bellucci’s career high is only 21 but he has wins over four top ten players - Fernando Verdasco, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, and David Ferrer. He’s also taken sets off of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. When he’s on his game, it’s hard to imagine why he’s not a consistent top 10 player.
2. He has a girlfriend.
Thomaz is a very private person. He stayed mum on his love-life for years, even though rumors swirled that he had someone special at home. Turns out the rumors were right! He has a girlfriend in Brazil named Liz - she doesn’t travel with him, but she can be spotted at home-town tournaments.
(We couldn’t find a picture, but if anyone has one please send it over!)
3. Jarka makes him blush!
Bellucci played the 2011 French Open Mixed Doubles with Jarka Gajdosova, and the dynamic duo made it all the way to the semifinals. Despite the fact that he has a girlfriend, the two had some awkwardly adorable chemistry as evident in this gif below (after their first round win).
After their French Open run, Jarka flirted innocently with Thomaz on twitter. When he was asked in a press conference who he preferred as his doubles partner - pal Bruno Soares or Jarka - he turned all shades of red. The below video is in Portuguese, but the awkwardness needs no translation. Apparently Bruno eventually answers for him, “Daily journeys with me, night journeys with her!”.
4. His best friends are the Brazilian guys.
His best friend on tour is Marcelo Melo, but he’s very close with all of the Brazilian doubles guys - André Sá, Bruno Soares and Ricardo Mello. Davis Cup ties are a lot of fun!
5. He loves Guga - but not the pressure that Guga brings.
Thomaz idolizes Gustavo Kuerten and sees him as an inspiration, but for the most part the two keep their distance. There is a lot of pressure on Bellucci to be the “next Guga”, and it often causes the press to view Bellucci’s accomplishments unfairly. It’s not easy to follow a legend!
6. His family built him a tennis court!
Growing up Bellucci played soccer until his knees began to give him trouble and he could no longer play. A doctor suggested that tennis might be easier on him (nobody tell Rafa!). His family - who has money from owning a drink company - built their son a tennis court and the rest is history.
7. His coach is a former ATP player.
At the end of 2011 Thomaz split with his long-time coach Larri Passos and joined forces with former Argentinian journeyman Daniel Orsanic. Orsanic is a laid back guy who helped a lot of the South American tennis hopefuls before working exclusively with Bellucci. During his playing days he reached a career high 107 in singles and 24 in doubles - and captured 8 Doubles Titles along the way.
8. He’s not that popular in Brazil.
Though he has been carrying the Brazilian singles torch for a while now, he’s not that well-known in his home country except among the hard-core sports and tennis fans.
9. He has two ATP titles.
In 2009 he was ranked 119 going into the Gstaad Open in Switzerland, but he qualified for the tournament and went on to take the title - beating Stanislas Wawrinka and Igor Andreev (both then in the top 30) along the way. In 2010 he took his second career title in Santiago, defeating Fernando Gonzales in the semifinals and Juan Monaco in the finals. Bellucci certainly has the talent to increase his hardware tally, but it remains to be seen if he can put it all together again.
10. He’s painfully shy - but very photogenic!
Sheila Vieira, a Brazilian journalist, says that Bellucci is “one of the most shy people I've ever seen.” He won’t even make eye contact during interviews!
But the camera loves him. No proper Bellucci post would be complete without a picspam, so enjoy!
SPECIAL THANKS goes out to Sheila Viera who helped make me a Bellucci expert and provided videos (and the gif) for this post. You can follow Sheila on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/sheilokavieira, read her tennis writings (in Portugese) on her blog: http://sheilokafaladetenis.zip.net/, and see her wit on her tumblr: http://soderrota.tumblr.com/ .
Photos: Getty, Reuters