Berdych beats Cilic to end title drought

UNWANTED RECORD::Tomas Berdych was the only player in the top 10 not to win an ATP Tour title last year after he lost in the finals in Marseille, Dubai and Bangkok

AFP, ROTTERDAM, Netherlands

Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - Page 18

Tomas Berdych credited his steady serve for helping him end a 16-month title drought with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Marin Cilic in the Rotterdam World Tennis tournament on Sunday.

The Czech third seed could not contain his satisfaction after finally lifting a title.

“It feels so amazing, it’s been so long, To win the title here is a real bonus. I’m extremely happy with how I handled things throughout the week,” Berdych said.

The world No. 7 handed Croatia’s unseeded Cilic his first loss after nine straight wins that took him to the Zagreb title the previous weekend.

It was the ninth career title for the new champion, off to his best start to a season with a 12-2 record.

Berdych had not lifted an ATP Tour trophy since Stockholm in October 2012.

He suffered through last year as the only player in the top 10 not to win a title, losing finals in Marseille, Dubai and Bangkok.

“I’ve been serving well all week, it was the strongest part of my game. My mental strength also saved me. This shows me that my tennis is not based on just one factor. I had a good all-round performance,” he said.

The victory in 75 minutes lifted Berdych to 5-2 over the 37th-ranked Cilic, a former top 10 player who served a ban last year over a technical anti-doping infraction.

Berdych is the first Czech to win the Rotterdam honors since his Davis Cup teammate Radek Stepanek eight years ago.

Cilic admitted to fading a bit after his recent efforts.

“It was a tough one today, I felt a bit tired after 13 days of matches and he was serving really well,” Cilic said.

“At the start, I had some small chances, with three break points in the third game, but I could not take advantage of them. I made some strange unforced errors, but it’s understandable due to my fatigue,” he said. “Overall, it was a good tournament for me, I played good tennis, I had a good run.”

Berdych overcame early bad luck, missing on two Hawk-Eye challenges and replaying a point after a ball went dead.

Berdych stayed on top of his game with a break of Cilic for 2-1, taking the first set in 45 minutes.

The seed seized control with a break to start the second set as a Cilic backhand flew long. A fourth double fault from Cilic handed over another break for 5-2, with Berdych finishing off the contest a game later on his first match point.

Berdych lifted the title after losing serve only once this week, in the quarter-final against Jerzy Janowicz.

He is due to play in Dubai next week.

US NATIONAL INDOOR

AP, MEMPHIS, Tennessee

Kei Nishikori of Japan successfully defended his title at the US National Indoor Tennis Championships, beating Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (7/0) on Sunday.

Nishikori won his fourth career title, along with the US$103,100 winner’s check and 250 points on the ATP Tour by making the event at The Racquet Club his first successful title defense.

He became the first back-to-back winner since Tommy Haas won in 2006 and 2007.

Karlovic came in having not been broken even once this week and looking for his sixth career title, but the big-serving Karlovic and his 20 aces could not counter Nishikori’s precision.

Nishikori saved both break points he faced while winning 86 percent on his first serve (38 of 44).

Karlovic had gone 42 games at The Racquet Club without being broken, but Nishikori broke him in the third game of the first set. Karlovic kept going to the net and Nishikori popped a backhand past the Croat into the corner for the advantage after pushing the game to deuce. Then Nishikori broke him with a backhand passing shot for a 2-1 lead.

Nishikori played very efficiently, not losing a point off his serve until the eighth game of the first set when up 30-0.

He fought off two break points before serving up an ace for the advantage and Karlovic hit a return long as Nishikori held serve for a 5-3 lead.

Karlovic did not make it easy as Nishikori finally converted on his fourth set point to take the first set in 40 minutes on a Karlovic backhand into the net.

In the second set, Karlovic found himself again having to hold his serve. He faced five break points and double-faulted twice before finally taking advantage of a Nishikori return that went wide, before Karlovic won the game with an overhead shot.

Nishikori dominated the tiebreaker from the start, hitting a passing shot past Karlovic for the mini-break. Karlovic hit forehands long on the next two points. Nishikori beat Karlovic with a passing shot off his forehand putting up him 5-0 that he celebrated with a fist pump.

Nishikori finished off the match with a forehand into the corner before Karlovic hit a return long.

COPA CLARO

Reuters, BUENOS AIRES

David Ferrer won his third consecutive Buenos Aires ATP Tour clay-court title and the sixth in a row by a Spaniard, when he beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3 in the final on Sunday.

Ferrer had not planned to return this year, but stood in at the last minute following world No. 1 Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal through injury.

The 31-year-old was to climb to fourth in the world rankings yesterday.

“This title was very important to me after seven finals without a victory,” Ferrer said after claiming his 21st career win.

Fognini had won 10 matches in a row, including helping Italy beat Argentina in the Davis Cup and victory in the Chilean ATP tournament at Vina del Mar the previous weekend.