Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro won his 12th career title on Sunday by defeating qualifier Grega Zemlja of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3 at the Erste Bank Open.
It is only the second indoor title for the Argentine, who was playing his first event since returning from a right wrist injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
“It’s been a fantastic week,” the eighth-ranked Del Potro said. “Coming back to the tour and being seeded No. 1 put me under pressure. I am so happy now. Winning a tournament means a lot. It’s important to have a good end to the year.”
The victory makes Del Potro, who improved to 12-5 in the finals, a strong favorite to pick up one of the remaining berths at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
“That was on my mind coming here,” he said. “I am looking even better now ... but I still have two big tournaments and must do well in Basel and Paris.”
A losing finalist last year, Del Potro survived a shaky start against the 70th-ranked Zemlja, who was the first player from Slovenia to reach a final after upsetting Janko Tipsarevic in the semi-finals.
At 2-2 in the opening set, Del Potro lost serve for the first time in the tournament. However, from 2-4 down, he won 11 of the next 15 games to close out the victory.
“It wasn’t a good start, I was nervous because it was a final,” Del Potro said. “In the second set, I broke him early and that gave me confidence to play the final like everyone expected me to do.”
Zemlja’s defeat left Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen as the only qualifier to win an ATP Tour event this season, after winning in Sydney.
“I am satisfied,” Zemlja said. “My first semi-final, my first final, is was a great week. I am happy with my tennis, I know now that I can beat everybody.”
Zemlja started well in the final, but only converted one of his five break points to let Del Petro escape. He missed three chances with the Argentine serving at 4-4.
“In the first seven games, I was aggressive,” Zemlja said. “I thought I was ahead of him regarding my game plan. It didn’t work out in the closing stages of the first set and from then on he was the better player. Del Potro raised his level and his forehand is the best in the world.”
Tomas Berdych won his second ATP title this year by rallying to beat top-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the Stockholm Open final on Sunday.
The sixth-ranked Czech saved seven of nine breakpoint chances in the hard-fought match to improve to 3-1 against Tsonga and add to his win in February in Montpellier, France. Berdych now has eight career titles.
For the first time in his career, the talented Czech has now won more than one title during a season.
“It feels pretty good ... this season has been really solid,” he said.
Berdych saved a break point to hold serve for 5-4 in the deciding set. In the following game, Tsonga then saved two match points by hitting an ace and a winner, but ultimately lost on a double fault.
“I just tried to stay positive until the end and tried to take points one by one,” the Czech said.
“I’m happy to turn it [the match] around, it makes the win even more special,” added Berdych, who is aiming to make it into next month’s London Finals, after which he will be part of the team to take on Spain in the Davis Cup final.
“To qualify into London is special, this is the one where you have to play well all year to get into the tournament. I’m hoping to make it for the third year in a row,” he said.
In the first set, thanks to some patient baseline play, Tsonga forced the hard-hitting Berdych into making mistakes and eventually broke the Czech to 3-2 on his fourth break point.
With some powerful serving and aggressive play, Tsonga went on to clinch the opening set 6-4.
He proceeded to break Berdych in the opening service game of the second set and then held his serve until 4-3. Berdych gradually found his groove and finally broke back to 4-4 before reeling off the next two games to take the set.
In a tight deciding set, both players fought off several break points, with both managing to hold serves until the tenth game, where Tsonga’s serving finally let him down.
“I feel bad,” said a disappointed Tsonga, the stronger player for a set-and-a-half. “I think we played a great match and I had many opportunities. I did some wrong things, but I gave my best tennis and I lost, so I have nothing to regret.”
AP, VALENCIA, Spain
Marin Cilic of Croatia recovered from a shaky start to beat Slovakia’s Martin Klizan 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 in the first round of the Valencia Open on Sunday.
Klizan saved five break points while breaking Cilic’s serve twice to easily take the first set on the indoor hard court at the City of Arts and Sciences.
The seventh-seeded Cilic, who has won two tournaments this year, turned things around to roll through the second set before clinching the decider.
Top-seeded David Ferrer, second-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and last year’s runner-up Juan Monaco have yet to play in the first round.
Former No. 1-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero will retire after the tournament. The hometown favorite faces fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in round one.