SA TENNIS OPEN
Lopez Rejoins Winners' Circle At Expense Of Robert
Johannesburg, South Africa
by ATP Staff|
Spaniard Feliciano Lopez rejoined the winners' circle for the first time since October 2004 Sunday as he defeated first-time finalist Stephane Robert 7-5, 6-1 in the final of the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg.
Lopez captured his second ATP World Tour title five and a half years on from triumphing at the Bank Austria TennisTrophy (d. Canas) in Vienna, enduring three runner-up finishes in between, most recently at the 2008 Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships (l. to Roddick).
“I hope that this title now will help me to have more confidence in my game, to believe more in myself, so I can get more titles in my career,” said Lopez, who will fly to Rotterdam tonight to contest the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, where he faces World No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko in the first round.
As winner of the ATP World Tour 250 hard-court tennis tournament, Lopez received 250 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and $75,700, while Robert earned 150 Ranking points and $39,780 in prize money.
In a tight 49-minute first set, the third-seeded Lopez was denied on eight break points before breaking through Robert’s resistance in the 12th game to seal the first set. Lopez was more potent on his break point chances in the second set, racing to a 5-0 lead before closing out victory after 73 minutes.
Lopez was strong on serve throughout, firing 11 aces and facing no break points. In the second set he surrendered just five points behind his service delivery, while creating 12 break points in total on Robert’s serve.
“I think the first set was closer," reflected Lopez. "I was nervous a little bit, to be honest. I had too many opportunities, every game he was serving I had break point and that made me feel a little bit nervous because I couldn’t convert the chances and you never know what’s going to happen later.
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“He had nothing to lose, all the pressure was on my side. So that’s probably why I played in this way in the first set. After I took the first set, everything was completely different. I started playing much better and my shots were working perfectly, from the baseline, net, everywhere."
After struggling with his breathing in the high altitude in Johannesburg during his first couple of rounds, the 28-year-old Lopez eventually acclimatised on his debut at the SA Tennis Open and dispatched top seed Gael Monfils in the semi-finals to reach his sixth ATP World Tour Final (2-4 record).
The No. 39-ranked Lopez improved to a 7-2 mark on the season and has gathered pace in each tournament he has played. After suffering a first-round loss to eventual runner-up Richard Gasquet at the Medibank International in Sydney, Lopez impressed in a four-set, third-round exit to Andy Roddick at the Australian Open.
The 29-year-old Robert marked his career-high South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking of No. 100 this week with a breakthrough performance in Johannesburg. The right-hander had never even reached an ATP World Tour quarter-final before his debut at the SA Tennis Open and knocked out No. 2 seed David Ferrer – his first match against a Top 20 player – in the semi-finals yesterday.
“I didn’t do anything special this week," said Robert, reflecting on his success. "Last week, last month, the past couple of months I was playing really good tennis. I have to admit, my draw was good this week. I was seeded, so when you are No. 100 this week and you are seeded it means it’s a bit of luck for me because I got protected for the first two rounds and it opened some doors. I was there to take this opportunity and I’m very proud of what I did this week."