Muller’s First Title ‘Like A Movie’
The wait was worth it for Gilles Muller. Thirteen years after he played in his first ATP World Tour final, the left-hander won his first ATP World Tour title on Saturday, beating Brit Daniel Evans 7-6(5), 6-2 at the Apia International Sydney.
The Luxembourg native had been 0-5 in ATP World Tour finals, including two in 2016. The title will propel him to inside the Top 30 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time in his career. Muller, currently No. 34, is projected to climb to No. 28 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
As if it could get any better, Muller was presented with the trophy on court by all-time great Rod Laver. “I wasn't expecting that. It was a great honour. Just unbelievable. Everything that happened tonight was like in a movie. Rod Laver there, standing on centre court with the trophy, my kids in the stands, can't ask for more,” Muller said.
Before Saturday, he had been the highest-ranked player in the Top 50 of the Emirates ATP Rankings without a singles title. He broke down in tears during the trophy presentation when he paid tribute to his wife, Alessia, and sons Lenny (5) and Nils (4).
“It means a lot. Like you can see, I was pretty emotional out there on the court,” Muller said. “For the past two or three years, it was probably my biggest goal to win a title. I always dreamed of that, and I was so close last year... So I was very scared and worried that I was going to be one of those players who never win a title. Now I have it, and it just feels great.”
Muller, as he has all tournament long, served his way to the win. He hit 12 aces to finish with 81 for the week, a tournament best. He claimed 75 per cent of his service points in the final, including almost 90 per cent of the points that started with his first serve (33/37).
The 6'4” left-hander also erased the only break point he faced against Evans. For the week, Muller dropped his serve only three times (57/60). “I couldn't get anywhere near his serve,” said Evans, who was playing in his first ATP World Tour final. “I said yesterday he's got a great serve. He showed it today.”
Muller acknowledged that his serve was crucial on Saturday, but he said staying calm in the sometimes windy conditions was even more important for him. He had been oh so close to winning his first ATP World Tour title in the past. Last July, Muller had three championship points against Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the Newport final.
“The most important thing was not to let the frustration come up too much and just focus on what I had to do. I think I did pretty good,” Muller said.
Muller will receive 250 Emirates ATP Rankings Points and $77,980 for winning the title. Evans will receive 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $41,070. The Brit is expected to rise 16 spots to a new career high of No. 51 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“There's so many good players... It's always tough,” Evans said of winning a title. “I hope it takes me six years if I get one. I'd sign for it taking that many times if I got one. He got [a title] in the end, and good for him. It was his day today.”