Lopez ends five-year trophy drought in Joburg
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:54
A Spanish lefty ended his title drought on Sunday – but it wasn’t Rafa. Instead, Feliciano Lopez clinched his first title in over five years with victory at the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg.
The world No.39, who toppled top seed Gael Monfils in the semi-finals, eased past Stephane Robert 7-5 6-1.
Lopez saw eight break point opportunities come and go before finally breaking No.8 seed Robert’s resistance in the late stages of a 49-minute first set.
With the momentum firmly on Lopez’s side, first-time finalist Robert managed only 11 points in the second, giving the Spaniard his second career title after claiming the Vienna title in 2004.
“I had everything to lose and Stephane had nothing to lose so it is a great feeling to succeed,” Lopez said after the match.
“Some missed opportunities in the first set angered me, but it all came together in the end,” he added. “The support for me here, so many thousands of kilometres from home, was amazing.”
29-year-old clay court specialist Robert admitted that he had been beaten by the better player on the day, but was keen to take the positives away from reaching his first ATP Tour final at a hard court event.
“Feliciano was better today with his unbelievable service and I lacked confidence, but this has been an amazing week for me.
“I received many messages of support from my area and club and I look ahead with great hope,” he said. “I am known as a clay court player but now I believe I can also do well on hard courts at altitude.”
In Croatia, Marin Cilic defended his Zagreb Indoors title, beating unseeded German Michael Berrer 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 to clinch his fifth career title.
The top seed was pushed hard by Berrer, taking over two and a half hours to overcome the 29-year-old who put in one of the finest performances of his career.
After upsetting Serbians Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki and compatriot Philipp Petzschner to reach his first ATP final, Berrer’s returning game gave Cilic problems throughout the contest.
Cilic won the first set after recording the only break, but after failing to find a breakthrough in the second was pegged back as the world No.65 fought for his life.
But a break in the fourth game for Cilic took him clear, and the 21-year-old saved two break points before sealing a hard-fought victory with an ace to continue a strong start to 2010.
The Croatian reached the world’s top 10 for the first time this year after winning the Chennai Open last month and reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.