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Dolgopolov Denies Cilic To Capture First Title

Umag, Croatia

Dolgopolov© Getty ImagesAlexandr Dolgopolov was the sixth first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season.

Second seed Alexandr Dolgopolov became the seventh first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season when he defeated home favourite and fourth seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in Sunday’s final at the ATP Studena Croatia Open in Umag.

The 22-year-old Dolgopolov had finished runner-up to Nicolas Almagro in his first ATP World Tour final on clay in Costa do Sauipe in February. By winning the ATP World Tour 250 clay-court tournament, he received 250 South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings points and €72,600 in prize money. He is the second Ukrainian winner in Umag, following Dimitri Poliakov's victory 20 years ago.

The six other first-time winners captured their titles in the first six months of the season, with Kevin Anderson winning in Johannesburg, Ivan Dodig winning in Zagreb, Milos Raonic winning in San Jose, Pablo Andujar winning in Casablanca, Ryan Sweeting winning in Houston and Andreas Seppi winning in Eastbourne.

"I was first in the rankings in Ukraine, but I hadn’t won a title and everyone was talking about that a bit," said Dolgopolov. "So I’m really happy that I eventually did win it, because I was playing pretty well for a year, but still I couldn’t manage to win a title. It’s a good moment. I’ll keep on working and try and get higher and higher in the rankings."

World No. 26 Dolgopolov came into his second Umag appearance on a poor run of form, having lost his past four matches. However, the right-hander hit his stride in Croatia, not dropping a set en route to the final, including victory over defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semi-finals.

In his first meeting with Cilic, Dolgopolov was strong on serve in the first set, winning 90 per cent of points behind his first serve, and converted one of his four break points to take the opener. With his sights set on winning a third ATP World Tour title on home soil, Cilic hit back to take the second set, but quickly fell behind a break in the third set. The fourth seed drew level at 3-3, but Dolgopolov soon regained the advantage and reeled off the final three games of the match to prevail in two hours and 14 minutes.

"It was a tough match," reflected Dolgopolov. "I got a bit nervous at the end and it was a nervous third set, so I’m happy I could win it. The key of the match was that I was playing my game, not waiting for him to make errors and I was doing that pretty well until I got a bit nervous. I think I was playing the right game, attacking a lot, making him run and it paid off."

Kiev-born Dolgopolov began the year at No. 48 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings, but has made significant strides in the past seven months thanks to a quarter-final exit at the Australian Open (l. to Murray) and semi-final efforts in Acapulco (l. to Ferrer) and Nice (l. to Hanescu) to add to his final showing in Costa do Sauipe.

The 22-year-old Cilic was bidding to become the first Croatian winner in Umag since the tournament’s inaugural edition in 1990, when Goran Prpic defeated Goran Ivanisevic. The right-hander dropped to a 5-5 mark in ATP World Tour finals; he was looking to win his first trophy since winning the second of his two titles in Zagreb last February (d. Berrer).

"I’m really pleased with the way things went this week," said Cilic. "We haven’t had a Croatian in the final here for 21 years and it was a relief I think for all the tournament organisers and also for me to reach the final and be playing well at home."

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© Neven Gerencir

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