Mon, Oct 30, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Mario Ancic wins St Petersburg Open

CRUCIAL WIN The Croat gave himself a chance of overtaking Spain's Tommy Robredo for the eighth and final spot in the season-ending Masters Finals in Shanghai

AGENCIES , ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA AND LYON, FRANCE

Croatia's Mario Ancic returns the ball to Sweden's Thomas Johansson during their St Petersburg Open ATP tennis tournament final match in St Petersburg, Russia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Mario Ancic of Croatia won the St Petersburg ATP tournament yesterday, defeating Thomas Johansson of Sweden 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) in the final.

The Croat, making his debut in Russia's northern capital, broke Johansson's serve in the 11th game to take the first set.

The second set was just as close with the players trading breaks to force a tie-break which Ancic won 7-2 to deny the Swede his third St Petersburg crown.

The victory earned Ancic a US$142,000 first prize and a chance of reaching next month's lucrative season-ending Masters Finals in Shanghai.

He now has 387 points, just 23 points shy of Spain's Tommy Robredo who currently holds down the eighth and final qualifying spot with only next week's Paris Masters Series tournament to come.

Already qualified for Shanghai are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Ivan Ljubicic and Andy Roddick with Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian, James Blake and Robredo next in line.

Chilean Fernando Gonzalez was lying ninth and stood a chance of moving up to seventh by defeating Federer in the final of the Basel ATP tournament yesterday.

Richard Gasquet and Marc Gicquel both survived three-set marathons on Saturday to set up an all-French final at the US$850,000 ATP event in Lyon.

Fourth seed Gasquet, once the No. 1 junior in the world, dropped the first set on a tie-break but came back strongly to beat compatriot Arnaud Clement 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-1.

Gicquel survived a mid-match collapse before coming through against flashy Belgian Xavier Malisse in a final set tie-break 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/5).

Malisse was suffering from a groin problem in the first set but found his rhythm in the second while his opponent, who had faced some tough three-setters in previous rounds, wilted.

Gicquel recovered in the third against the 2004 finalist and led 5-2 before Malisse hit back to force a tie-break.

Gicquel breezed out to a 6-3 lead in that before finally securing the win on his third match point to qualify for the first ATP final of his career.

Clement, a winner here in 2000 and finalist in 2003, took the first set against Gasquet but thereafter the youngster's greater class shone through.

"I fought right to the end. It was frustrating to lose the first set in the decisive game having had two set points," Gasquet said.

"I got stronger, returned well and let fly with some backhands and forehands in the second set.

"This will be a great final against a confident opponent," he added.

Gasquet was looking for his fourth ATP Tour title in yesterday's final.

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