Tue, Feb 28, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Del Potro wins first title of season

AP, Marseille, France

Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina holds his trophy after winning the men’s final match against France’s Richard Gasquet at the Marseille Open tennis tournament in Marseille, France, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Juan Martin del Potro beat Michael Llodra of France 6-4, 6-4 in the Open 13 final on Sunday to win his first title of the season and the 10th of his career.

The former US Open champion briefly wobbled at 0-30 down when serving for the match, but closed it out when Llodra hit a forehand into the net from the back of the court.

“This is something special for me. I’m very glad to win this tournament in my first [appearance],” Llodra said.

“I’m sorry I beat three French players in this tournament. I feel really happy to win here. I hope I can play again next year,” he said.

Llodra, the 2010 champion, lost his serve once in each set and could not force a single break point chance against the big-serving Argentine, who hit 11 aces to 10 for the Frenchman.

“He played really, really well today and I had no, virtually no, chances, except in the last game when he was 0-30 down,” Llodra said. “It was a great game from him, and for my part, I was a bit more tired than in recent days.”

Del Potro lost to Roger Federer in his last two tournaments, including in the ABN Amro final on Feb. 19 in Rotterdam, Netherlands — where he also beat Llodra in the first round.

The 23-year-old Del Potro raised his hands in the air, closed his eyes and then pumped his fists after beating Llodra.

“I’m getting older, but I -sometimes play more smart than three or four years ago,” Del Potro said. “Today was a really tough match, you need to play 100 percent. It’s very tough when he serves and he plays good volleys, drop shots.”

“Finally, I closed the match with my serve and now I can breathe again,” Del Potro said.

Llodra looked strong on serve in a fast-paced opening set, but Del Potro took a decisive advantage when he broke in the ninth game and held serve to win the first set.

Del Potro broke Llodra in the fifth game of the second set and held for a 4-2 lead, meaning the 31-year-old Llodra had too much to do as he tried to vary his game.

Showing rare signs of pressure when serving for the match, Del Potro quickly fell behind 0-30 — and faced pressure on his second serve on the next point — to briefly raise hopes of the French fans inside the Palais des Sports.

However, a strong second serve pinned Llodra back behind the baseline and Del Potro whipped a fierce backhand inside the line to get back to 15-30, and then served an ace for 30-30 to take the initiative back from Llodra.

The Frenchman tried to be aggressive, charging gamely forward on the next point to hit an aggressive forehand, but the ball sailed wide to give Del Potro his first match point.

After a brief rally, Llodra took an awkward return close to shoulder height and returned it weakly into the net.

“It’s been a good week for me, although it’s always frustrating to miss out,” said Llodra, who has five career singles titles and 23 in doubles. “I’m a bit disappointed, but that’s the way it goes.”

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