(March 29, 2015) CALABASAS, Calif.– It was all about the serve Sunday in the final of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas.
Former UCLA star and No. 2-seeded Dennis Novikov did it just it just a little bit better on Sunday to beat unseeded Francis Tiafoe, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), to capture his sixth USTA Pro Circuit Futures championship at the USTA $15,000 Pro Circuit Futures event played at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.
Novikov’s serve was never broken and he rocketed 13 aces, double faulted just once and only faced a break point against him once the entire match. Tiafoe also served strong with nine aces, two doubles faults, and never lost his serve while saving two break points.
“It was a little bit warm out here so the conditions really suit serving,” said Novikov, who will break into the ATP World Top 200 when the rankings are releases on Monday. “It was just a battle of serves today. Like Sampras against whoever …. (Ivo) Karlovic or (Mark) Philippoussis.”
Novikov will get his name placed on a banner just like former champs Karlovic and Philippoussis, and has a goal to be in the top 100 by the end of the year.
Novikov led 5-4 in the first-set tiebreaker but was able to get two mini-break points against Tiafoe’s serve to close out the set, 7-4. The second set was much of the same story with Tiafoe unable to get close to breaking Novikov, but serving well enough to extend to another tiebreaker.
“That was tough,” said the 17-year-old Tiafoe, who has not turned pro yet. “I stayed cool and kept holding and I was serving great. I was returning OK but wasn’t able to get the break.”
Novikov made $2,160 prize money and gained 27 valuable ATP World ranking points while Tiafoe earned $1,272 for the week and 12 ranking points. “So far it’s been a good year for me,” Tiafoe said. “I took the fall off and in January I played better than I thought I would.”
Added Novikov: “I like warmer conditions and played well at Indian Wells qualifying there a few weeks ago.”
In the doubles final on Saturday night, Fabian Matthews and Hunter Nicholas beat Adrian Forberg Skogeng and Wil Spencer, 6-1, 2-6, 10-6.
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Sunday’s Final Singles Scores
Dennis Novikov, U.S., (2) def. Francis Tiafoe, U.S., 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6)
Saturday’s Final Doubles Score
Fabian Matthews, U.S. / Hunter Nicholas, U.S., def. Adrian Forberg Skogeng, Norway / Wil Spencer, U.S., 6-1, 2-6, 10-6
By Steve Pratt