Marin Cilic of Croatia ended Indian wildcard Somdev Devvarman’s dream run on home soil to win the ATP Chennai Open crown on Sunday.
The lanky world No. 27 beat the 202nd-ranked Devvarman 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in a morale-boosting victory ahead of the season’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, starting in Melbourne on Monday.
Cilic, 20, earned US$73,000 and 250 ATP points for his second career title after winning the New Haven final last August.
Devvarman, denied a chance to become the first Indian in more than a decade to win an ATP event, took home US$37,000 and 150 points for reaching the final in only his fifth career tournament.
“It is great to start the year with a win,” Cilic said. “I worked very hard during the off-season and it paid off for me this week.”
“I will certainly feel confident going into the Australian Open,” he said. “I don’t think I played my best tennis in the final, but did well in the crucial points which helped me to win.”
Cilic heaped praise on his unheralded 23-year-old rival, saying Devvarman had a bright future.
“Somdev is obviously a very good potential,” he said. “He has a pretty good forehand and is an aggressive player, so I knew I had to be as aggressive and keep him on the backhand as far as possible.”
Some 6,000 home fans at the jam-packed Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium cheered Devvarman’s bold effort to emulate his Davis Cup captain Leander Paes, whose win in Newport, Rhode Island, in July, 1998 was the last title triumph by an Indian.
The US-based Devvarman, born in the north-eastern state of Assam, had beaten Spanish veteran Carlos Moya in the second round and world No. 25 Ivo Karlovic in the quarter-final.
He qualified for the final after fifth-seeded Rainer Schuettler of Germany withdrew from the semi-finals with a wrist injury.
“This match was definitely a learning experience for me,” the Indian said.
“It does not feel good to come out of a loss, but I will go from here knowing I can compete with the best. There is a lot in my game I need to improve,” he said.
Cilic survived six break points in the first seven games and held on to win the first set in 52 minutes when Devvarman, down 4-5, double-faulted at 30-40 in the 10th game.
The big-serving Croat could have wrapped up the match earlier than it’s two-hour duration, but he was broken by Devvarman while serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set.
Cilic held his nerve in the tie-breaker before winning the final with a forehand winner down the line.