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Qualifier Becker Clinches Maiden Title

's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Benjamin Becker© AFP/Getty ImagesBenjamin Becker

German Benjamin Becker became the first qualifier to win an ATP World Tour tournament this season as he dashed the hopes of Dutch wild card Raemon Sluiter 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday to clinch the title at the Ordina Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

In reward for his achievement, the No. 82-ranked Becker will receive 250 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points and €71,700, while World No. 866 Sluiter earns 150 Ranking points and €37,700.

Afterwards, Becker said he had not focussed on the lowly ranking of his opponent going into the final: "If you think too much about it you can get tight. Everybody can play tennis, especially on a grass court – it closes the gap a little bit. Raemon is a great player. Obviously it was a chance for both of us, I was a qualifier so he went into the match too thinking that he has a great chance."

At the age of 28, Becker captured his first ATP World Tour title in his second final attempt – having finished runner-up at Bangkok in 2007 (l. to Tursunov). The Merzig native is the first German to triumph in ‘s-Hertogenbosch since Michael Stich lifted the trophy in 1992.

The right-hander is the one of three qualifiers to reach an ATP World Tour final in 2009, joining Russian Evgeny Korolev – who finished runner-up at Delray Beach (l. to Fish) in February – and today’s runner-up in Eastbourne, Frank Dancevic of Canada.

After a dream run through to the final, including victories over top seed Fernando Verdasco and No. 4 Rainer Schuettler, Becker found it had to break down the resilient Sluiter in the first set of Saturday’s final. However, after squandering two break points in the sixth game of the 42-minute first set, Becker capilatised on his opportunities at the second time of asking in the 12th game as he broke Sluiter to claim the one-set lead. The German then pressed home his advantage early in the second set, breaking Sluiter in the second game before going on to close out victory after one hour and 15 minutes.

"I really played well and I was surprised I started off well too today," commented Becker. "It was a big thing for me to come out and serve well, hit my forehand aggressively and feel confident right from the start."

Becker was effective on serve, only surrendering five points behind his first serve, and did not face a single break point in the championship match. He becomes the first qualifier to lift the Ordina Open trophy after Guillaume Raoux lost to Richard Krajicek in the 1997 final and Peter Wessels finished runner-up to Ivan Ljubicic in 2007.

Becker, who reached his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season last week in Halle (l. to Rochus), improved to an 8-3 match record in 2009 – with seven of those wins coming on grass. Coming into the Ordina Open, he had jumped 48 places in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings since the end of 2008 courtesy of winning four titles on the ATP Challenger Tour.

The 31-year-old Sluiter was bidding to make history by becoming the lowest-ranked player ever to win an ATP World Tour singles title and is already the lowest-ranked player to reach a final.

"It was a crazy week, like a dream but without a happy ending," said Sluiter. "I'm very disappointed about the defeat. I didn't really have my chances. Becker was just better. I played well in the first set, but went down in the second.
 
"I noticed that playing against that kind of player is really something else than what I was used to during the last few months. Thanks to my performance here I will be able to skip future tournaments and go play ATP qualies soon," added the Dutchman.

The Rotterdam native was hoping to win his first ATP World Tour title in his fourth final after finishing runner-up in three previous attempts – all of which came on home soil at 2000 Amsterdam (l. to Gustafsson), 2003 Rotterdam (l. to Mirnyi) and 2003 Amersfoort (l. to Massu).

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