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Almagro Captures Third Title Of 2011

Nice, France

Almagro© Yohan BrandtNicolas Almagro won his 10th ATP World Tour title.

World No. 12 Nicolas Almagro confirmed his status as an outside contender for Roland Garros when he won his third ATP World Tour clay-court title of the season on Saturday. The Spaniard came from a set down to defeat Romanian Victor Hanescu 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur.

“I think I’m ready for Roland Garros," declared Almagro. "I want to rest a little bit now, tomorrow I want to practise, and we’ll see what happens on Tuesday. It’s the most important clay-court tournament of the year and I go with a lot of confidence in my tennis and we’ll see what I can do in Paris.”

Almagro has enjoyed a career-best start to the season, highlighted by breaking the Top 10 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings for the first time on 25 April. In February he went on a 13-match winning streak during the Latin American “Golden Swing”, taking in back-to-back titles in Costa do Sauipe (d. Dolgopolov) and Buenos Aires (d. Chela) before finishing runner-up to David Ferrer in Acapulco.

As winner of the ATP World Tour 250 clay-court tennis tournament in Nice, Almagro received 250 South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings points and € 72,600 in prize money.

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The Murcia native goes into Roland Garros as the No. 11 seed and opens his campaign against Poland’s Lukasz Kubot. He is a two-time quarter-finalist in Paris, losing out to Rafael Nadal both times in 2008 and 2010.

Almagro was made to work hard for victory in his fourth meeting with the No. 69-ranked Hanescu. After three service breaks were exchanged, the Romanian clinched the opening set on a tie-break. Almagro hit back strongly in the second set, though, breaking serve twice and only dropping four points on his own delivery to level the match.

Hanescu struck first in the deciding set, breaking in the first game. However, Almagro immediately levelled and went on to break the 6’6’’ Romanian’s serve decisively in the sixth game before claiming victory in two hours and 18 minutes.

“I feel good. I’m very happy with the victory today," said Almagro. "I think I didn’t play my best tennis at the beginning of the match, but in the second set I started to play better, hitting my forehand with more confidence, and finally I was able to win the match."

The 25-year-old Almagro captured his 10th ATP World Tour title in his 13th final and became just the third player this season to win at least three tour-level titles (Novak Djokovic – 7, Robin Soderling -3).

The 29-year-old Hanescu was contesting his first ATP World Tour final since finishing runner-up in Casablanca last year. He dropped to a 1-4 record in ATP World Tour finals, with his lone title coming on clay in Gstaad in 2008.

“He was running a lot, hitting good shots; I think he deserved to win," reflected Hanescu. "He was better than me in some important moments. I came here to play some matches and get used to the conditions, so I’m happy to play the final.”

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