Novak Djokovic captured his third ATP title of the year at the China Open yesterday, outlasting giant-killer Marin Cilic of Croatia, while Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova breezed to the women’s title.
The Serbian second seed capitalized on a 90-minute rain delay at 2-2 in the first set, returning to center court at the Beijing Olympic tennis venue with renewed focus to win the blistering baseline battle with Cilic, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).
The big-hitting Cilic — who beat fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko and top seed Rafael Nadal en route to the final — pummeled Djokovic with a barrage of huge backcourt shots but the Serb successfully mixed up the pace to throw him off.
After holding serve to go up 3-2 in the first, Djokovic broke Cilic straight away and then a second time to take the set, with the 21-year-old Croatian the victim of two unlucky net cords in the final game.
In the second, Cilic — a wild card entry — and the 22-year-old Serb traded breaks three times to force a tiebreak, with the Croatian failing to serve out the set twice.
Djokovic took control mid-tiebreak, winning a rally after Cilic slipped and fell to go up 4-2. The Serb closed it out on his second match point when the Croatian sent an inside-out forehand sailing wide.
Djokovic, by reaching the final, was assured of taking over the world No. 3 ranking next Monday, surpassing injured Scot Andy Murray.
Kuznetsova, the reigning French Open champion and sixth seed in Beijing, used her powerful ground strokes and extra experience to run Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska around the court, winning 6-2, 6-4.
Also yesterday, American twins Bob and Mike Bryan won the men’s doubles final, defeating Andy Roddick and Mark Knowles in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
Taiwan’s Hsieh Shu-wei and China’s Peng Shuai won the women’s doubles on Saturday.
It was the third WTA doubles crown the duo has won this year and the most prestigious yet of Hsieh’s professional career.
Hsieh said she had Peng to thank for the victory, because throughout the tournament, she felt that she herself had been playing “so bad that it was impossible to get any worse.”
She said she did miserably in the singles qualifiers, but that with Peng’s encouragement and help in the doubles tournament, and the instruction of Peng’s coach Ma Weikai, the duo managed to bag the championship.
In addition to the 1,000 points the win adds to Hsieh’s WTA rank, she and Peng also share the US$260,000 prize. Hsieh, who has played intermittently this year, has made a total of US$250,000 in the year up to the China Open.
“My dad said he wants to build a tennis center, but that goal’s too high,” Hsieh said. “I just want to build a little house in the countryside where the whole family can live together.”
Hsieh and Peng have entered 11 tournaments this year, winning in Sydney, Rome and now in Beijing.
They also made it to the semi-finals at the French Open and are ranked the the fifth-best women’s doubles team this year.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga outgunned Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-3 to win the Japan Open with a dazzling mix of guile and brute force yesterday.
The world No. 7 and tournament second seed took 69 minutes to blow Youzhny off the court and capture his third title of the year and fifth of his career.
A first title since winning in Marseille in February moved Tsonga closer to securing a place in the season-ending World Tour Finals in London, exclusive to the world’s top eight.
Victory at the Tokyo hardcourt event was worth US$300,000 to Tsonga, who now has a 5-1 record in ATP Tour finals.
Youzhny offered no excuses after losing his 10th career final.
“I can’t say I played badly but he was too good,” the Russian said.
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