Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Baghdatis captures fourth career title

CYPRIOT SUCCESSWhile Marcos Baghdatis claimed victory in Sydney, Fernando Verdasco was a winner in Melbourne and towering John Isner triumphed in Auckland

AFP , SYDNEY

Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus plays a shot against Richard Gasquet of France during the Sydney International men’s singles final at the Olympic Park Tennis Centre in Sydney, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis capitalized on a poor tie-breaker by Frenchman Richard Gasquet to claim the Sydney International title yesterday.

The 42nd-ranked Cypriot won a rain-interrupted final 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) in 1 hour, 43 minutes to capture his fourth career title just days before the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Baghdatis, who lost the 2006 Australian Open final to Roger Federer, broke Gasquet’s opening service game and went on to take the first set in 45 minutes, before rain suspended play during the first game of the second set.

After a 90-minute delay, Gasquet broke Baghdatis’ serve for the only time in the fourth game, when the Cypriot double-faulted on break point and led 5-3, but he had a shaky service game in the ninth when he went down three break points and Baghdatis broke back, leveled and took the set to a tie-breaker.

Gasquet got the first mini-break in the tie-breaker to lead 2-0, but Baghdatis reeled off the next seven points to take the set and the championship.

Gasquet served two double-faults and made two forehand errors to virtually hand the set and the match to Baghdatis.

It was the first meeting at senior level between the two players, although they played each other as juniors.

Baghdatis is fighting his way back up the rankings after climbing from 100 at the end of 2008 to No. 42 last season, highlighted by his third career ATP World Tour title in Stockholm in October.

Gasquet, currently ranked 53, was bidding to become the first Frenchman since Guy Forget in 1991 to win the Sydney title.

Although he thrilled the crowd with his signature one-handed backhand, he succumbed to ill-opportune errors at crucial times during the second set to lose the initiative.

■KOOYONG CLASSIC

REUTERS, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Spain’s Fernando Verdasco issued a warning to his rivals ahead of the Australian Open with an emphatic 7-5, 6-3 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to clinch the Kooyong Classic yesterday.

World No. 9 Verdasco, who pushed defending champion Nadal to five sets in an epic semi-final at Melbourne Park last year, broke the 10th-ranked Frenchman late in the first, then twice early in the second to seal the win in blustery conditions at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.

Verdasco played solidly in all three matches at the eight-man invitational, a strong return to form after he was bundled out of the ATP Tour Finals in London in November after three consecutive defeats.

The Spaniard beat world No. 8 Roger Soderling of Sweden in straight sets prior to demolishing third-ranked Serb Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-2 on Thursday at Kooyong, a tournament seen as a form guide for the Australian Open.

Verdasco, a three-times winner on the ATP tour, meets Australian wild card Carsten Ball in the first round at Melbourne Park, which begins tomorrow.

Tsonga, who upset a string of more-fancied opponents to reach the final at Melbourne Park in 2008, has been paired with Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Stakhovsky upset 25th-ranked Sam Querrey of the US in an exhibition match on Friday.

Earlier yesterday, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic was upset by Australian teenager Bernard Tomic 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in another exhibition match.

■HEINEKEN OPEN

AFP, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Towering John Isner of the US clinched his first ATP title yesterday, firing a barrage of aces to clinch a nail-biting victory over Frenchman Arnaud Clement in the final of the Heineken Open.

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