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Watch highlights of the 2017 VTB Kremlin Cup final, featuring Damir Dzumhur versus Ricardas Berankis. Photo: VTB Kremlin Cup

Russia A Charm? Dzumhur Wins Second Title

Two-time titlist to rise into Top 35 for the first time

Damir Dzumhur made tennis history for Bosnia and Herzegovina last month in Russia. So why not do it again?

The first Bosnian and Herzegovinian ATP World Tour champion captured title No. 2 on Sunday, defeating Ricardas Berankis, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 to win the VTB Kremlin Cup in one hour, 39 minutes.

"I really don't know, but there is something special here in Russia. Maybe the crowd, I don't know," said Dzumhur after the match, eliciting a roar from the crowd.

For Dzumhur, it was his third final in his past seven tournaments after never previously reaching a final. The St. Petersburg Open champion moved to 10-0 in Russia this season. He will climb to a career-high in the Emirates ATP Rankings of No. 31 on Monday.

It was a back-and-forth tilt against Berankis, who had beat him in two of their three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. After winning the opening set in 32 minutes, Dzumhur dropped the second in 35. And when he faced a 0/40 deficit at 3-4 in the deciding set, it appeared that the Lithuanian might be in perfect position to break and serve for his first title.

But Dzumhur saved all three break points, with a service winner and two backhand winners, winning five points in a row to hold serve. He broke Berankis in the very next game to put himself in position for his second title. And while he once again faced a 0-40 deficit, this time, winning five points in a row on his serve finished the match and earned him the championship. But the key was Dzumhur's hold at 3-4.

"I didn't think about it. I was just trying to play good serves and it worked well. Some amazing backhands," Dzumhur said. "[I was] a little bit lucky. I was close to the line two times. But that's tennis, you have to be lucky to win some games."

Luck may not have been on Berankis' side Sunday, but hard work certainly was. The Lithuanian has been both on top of the world and spiraling toward the bottom in his career. The former junior World No. 1 was recently at a low, beginning his season in May after recovering from hip surgery, which caused him to drop as low as No. 244 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since February 2010. Just five months later, Berankis' recovery efforts showed in reaching his second ATP World Tour final, and first since 2012, when he lost to Sam Querrey in Los Angeles.

"He deserves to win today," Berankis said of Dzumhur.

Berankis had lost two of his past three matches before arriving in Moscow, each on the ATP Challenger Tour. "I am really happy with this result, especially compared to my results in the last few weeks, so I hope my game is starting to come back. I really wish that I can continue in a similar way the rest of the year."

It won't be the last that Dzumhur and Berankis see each other, as the pair will meet in the opening round of the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna. For now, Dzumhur's celebration will have to wait, saying he wants to focus on his next tournament.

"After that it's going to be a really hard celebration," Dzumhur laughed.

It was a banner week for Bosnia and Herzegovina in Moscow, with Dzumhur and compatriot Mirza Basic playing in the first all-Bosnian ATP World Tour semi-final.

Dzumhur earned 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points with his victory, and a prize check of $132,990. Berankis captured 150 points and $70,045 for his efforts.