Tue, Jul 24, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Nadal made to toil hard in Stuttgart

MERCEDES CUP CHAMPRafael Nadal dropped serve for the first time in the tournament but went on to prevail and improve his career final record to 23-5

AP AND AFP , STUTTGART, GERMANY, LOS ANGELES, AND MASON, OHIO

Rafael Nadal dropped serve three times on Sunday and had to sweep five straight games to beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-4, 7-5 to win the Mercedes Cup.

The top-seeded Spaniard hadn't previously dropped serve in the tournament, but he had to rally from 5-2 down in the second set to claim his sixth title this year and his 93rd win in 94 matches on clay.

He is now 23-5 in career finals, the highest winning percentage in the Open era.

"I had a little luck, but I'm very happy I played well here," Nadal said. "After losing the Wimbledon final to [Roger] Federer, it was hard to have a good tournament."

The 50th-ranked Wawrinka had only won one match in eight attempts heading into the tournament after returning in May from a knee injury.

"I had almost no self-confidence before coming into this tournament," Wawrinka said. "I'm just enjoying it at the moment. I played a really good match against the best clay-court player in the world."

Wawrinka said he received a text message from Federer, who beat Nadal at Hamburg on May 20 for the Spaniard's only loss on clay in his long streak.

STEPANEK BEATS BLAKE

Radek Stepanek toppled second-seeded American James Blake 7-6 (9/7), 5-7, 6-2 in Los Angeles on Sunday to capture his second career ATP title in the final of the US$525,000 Countrywide Classic.

Ranked 101st in the world, Stepanek converted two service breaks in the deciding set to claim the victory over the world No. 9.

Stepanek came into the match fresh, after Germany's Nicolas Kiefer withdrew from their Saturday night semi-final with a knee injury.

CHAKVETADZE WINS

Top-seeded Anna Chakvetadze won her third title of the year when she downed seventh-seeded Akiko Morigami 6-1, 6-3 in the final of the Cincinnati Women's Open on Sunday.

The 20-year-old from Moscow now has a 5-0 finals record after winning titles in Guangzhou, Moscow, Hobart and 's-Hertogenbosch.

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