2014/04/23

France Edges USA in Fed Cup World Group Play-Offs

 

Caroline Garcia photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Caroline Garcia photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

 

(April 20, 2014) The Fed Cup World Group Play-off tie between France and the USA came down to the final match – the doubles rubber. The doubles team of Caroline Garcia and Virginie Razzano led France to a 3-2 victory over the United States on Sunday with 6-2, 7-5 over Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys at the Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University.

“She was totally amazing, unbelievable,” France captain Amelie Mauresmo said of Garcia who also won both of her singles rubbers. “She really rose to the occasion and was fearless.”

“Again with both singles and doubles, with the help of Virginie in the doubles. “I think she loved Fed Cup.”I’m happy for her.”

“She really stood up to the occasion, she rose to this occasion being fearless completely, being great, and supported by the whole group, the whole team.”

 

“She was the star of the weekend,” USA captain Mary Jo Fernandez said pf Garcia. “I never thought that she got nervous in any of the matches. She’s really aggressive and it’s all coming together.”

 

“I like her game a lot. I’ve liked it for a long time. She’s much more disciplined now with her shot selection.

“She’s a great athlete. She didn’t miss many returns today in the doubles, and in the singles she was really aggressive. So I like her game. I’ve always liked her game. Now it’s all coming together.”

 

In Sunday’s first match of the day, Sloane Stephens, the United States’ top-ranked player, faced Virginie Razzano, who replaced Alize Cornet in singles after Cornet suffered a leg injury. Stephens won her first-ever Fed Cup singles match, defeating Razzano, 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and seven minutes. Stephens and Razzano had never played each other before this tie. Stephens is now 1-2 in singles play in Fed Cup competition and Razzano is 10-5.

 

The second singles match featured Madison Keys, 19, and Caroline Garcia, 20, where Garcia won her second singles match this weekend, defeating Keys, 6-4, 6-3. Garcia won her first WTA singles title last weekend in Bogota, Colombia, as well as the doubles title. Keys is now 1-2 in Fed Cup singles play.

 

France’s win means they have qualified for the World Group in 2015 and will compete for the Fed Cup championship. The U.S. will compete in World Group II in 2015 for just the second time since the World Group format was instituted in 1995 (the U.S. competed in the World Group II in 2012).

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Canada Wins Historic World Group Playoff Tie Against the Slovak Republic

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(April 20, 2014) QUEBEC CITY – It wasn’t as easy as the final score looks to be, but Canada managed to sweep the first three singles rubbers in order to defeat higher ranked Slovak Republic On Sunday in the Fed Cup World Group playoff in Quebec City, Canada. After the two long three set battles of Saturday went Canada’s way, Eugenie Bouchard finished things off against Jana Cepelova not without saving a set point in the first set.

Indeed, it was Cepelova who was playing the best tennis early on, getting numerous break points in the first three Bouchard service games. While she wasn’t able to convert on her first five tries, she did do so on her sixth, getting a 5-3 lead with the first break of the set. But for the fourth time of this tie, she then failed to serve for a set, getting broken at love. It didn’t stop her from getting a set point in the next service game, but the Canadian erased it with a clear forehand winner. While both players held to force a tiebreak, it was then Bouchard who drew first blood, taking a quick 4-1 lead, then a 6-4 lead with an ace. But it was then her time to falter, as she double faulted on her first set point, then missed on the second. Somehow, she did manage to win the next two points and, once again, Canada came out on top of a set they probably shouldn’t have won.

The loss of this close first set seemed to affect Cepelova mentally, but also physically, as she seemed to get stiff in the neck area and was constantly rolling her shoulders to release tension. Her serve, which isn’t her biggest weapon to start with, suffered from it and became easy attackable for Bouchard, who then went on to win five straight games and what seemed like an insurmountable lead.  One game way from an historic win, Bouchard did start missing a touch more, while Cepelova started giving a last effort in order to get back. It did work, and after the Slovak won her serve for 5-1, then broke and held again, Genie saw her lead melt off to only one break. The crowd, which was getting quite excited at the prospect of a quick second set, started getting worried when Bouchard got down 15-30 in that 5-3 game. But strong serving and a few misses from Cepelova helped Genie sweep through the last three points, and send Canada into the World Group in 2015.

There was a lot of attention on Bouchard this weekend, as she has been rising up the ranks and is becoming quite the celebrity in her home country. But there was a small glitch in her armor, as she ruffled a lot of feathers with her Handshake-Gate on Friday at the draw ceremony. Indeed, she then refused to shake her opponent’s hand in front of the cameras, describing the photo-op as ‘’lame’’. Whether or not it affected her on court is tough to say, but her performance all weekend, and her overall body language throughout both matches, were off.

But Bouchard’s strong self-confidence is well-known, and she proved it again during this tie. Despite having issues finding her range with her groundstrokes and spirited opponents, she managed to raise her level when she needed to, a sign of greater things to come. She saved set points in both first sets of her matches, then closed them out in tiebreaks, and found ways to reel off series of games to close out the matches. Champions step it up on important points, and she proved again that she might be becoming one quicker than expected.

This win was remarkable from Canada, as they had been struggling to get out of the America Zone in the past years. Before this weekend, they had not reached the World Group since 1994, when the top 16 countries were present; it is therefore their first trip into the Elite 8. They have defeated Ukraine, Serbia and the Slovak Republic in the past 12 months, three countries with better Fed Cup résumés and will now be waiting to see who their first round opponent will be in 2015 out of Germany, the Czech Republic, Australia, Italy, Poland, Russia and France.

On a side note, the doubles match, a dead rubber, saw Slovakian team of Schmiedlova/Husarova beat Canadians Fichman/Dabrowski 6-4 5-7 11-9, leading to a final score of 3-1 for Canada.

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Stan Wawrinka Tops Roger Federer for Monte Carlo Masters Title

Wawrinka in press

(April 20, 2014) World No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka stopped Swiss countryman Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6(5). 6-2 to win the Monte Carlo title, his first ever Master Series title. It was just Wawrinka’s second win over Federer in 15 meetings, the first came in the third round of Monte Carlo in 2009.

“It’s always special to play Roger,” Wawrinka said. “We know it’s always a strange match, especially being in the final here. He’s my best friend on the tour. We respect each other so much. I’m just trying on the court to win the match. Before and after, we are still very good friends. During the match, we just try everything to win. Today I’m really happy to take that one.

“I can see that when mentally I’m there and I’m fighting, I can play tennis, I can beat all the players. I did an amazing job. I’m really happy after winning my first Grand Slam to win a Masters 1000 so quick. I didn’t expect to. When I came here, for me it was more like a test. I knew I was playing good tennis, but I didn’t expect to win because the draw was so strong.

“I did see I was playing good tennis. It was few little changes to take the advantage. I started to play more aggressive, trying to push him more. When you win a match like this, it’s only one or two points, especially in the tie-break. But I think I did a great tie-break. I was serving big and being really aggressive. Then I took the advantage at the beginning of the third set. I saw that he was a little bit tired. Me, I was playing better and better, especially moving better.”

 

“I think it’s one of the those finals that I could have won,” Federer said. “But Stan was tougher at the end. I think he deserved it just a little bit more. Clearly it would have been nice to win that second set tie-break. I didn’t necessarily play a bad one, but also at the same time I didn’t quite ever get into the lead where things went my way.

“Of course, I’m very happy for Stan. It’s a huge win for him after winning his first Grand Slam this year, also to win his first Masters 1000. To take the opportunities when they’re there, that’s key in a tennis player’s career. So I’m very happy for him.

“I would have loved to have won a second title [this season] because I’ve come close a few times. That’s my next objective, that I get to the very end more frequently. But clearly I’m happy that the clay court season started so well for me.”

On Monday, Wawrinka will rise to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Race To London, which is based solely on results this season.

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Teenager Donna Vekic Upsets Top Seed Dominika Cibulkova for Malaysian Open Tennis Title

AEGON Classic - Day Six

(April 20, 2014) Seventh seed Donna Vekic of Croatia won her first WTA title on Sunday after defeating top seed  and Ausralian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (4) in the Malaysian Open final in Kuala Lumpur.

The 17-year-old Vekic who rallied from 7-5, 5-4 down blasted 11 aces in the almost three-hour match. Vekic had to regain control of her composure after failing to close out the match leading 5-2 in the final set.

At 17 years, 10 months and 23 days, Vekic is the youngest player to win a WTA title since Vania King won Bangkok in 2006 at 17 years, 8 months and 12 days. It’s Vekic’s first top 10 win stopping No. 10 Cibulkova.

“It was a very tough match,” Vekic said. “She played very well throughout the whole match. I was up 5-1 in the third set and she came back out playing insane – so I’m happy I was able to get through in the end.”

“She played really well today,” Cibulkova said. “In the second set I was really close to winning, but she played really well, really strong, and it was just about a few balls out there, really.”

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Canada fights to 2-0 lead in World Group Playoff Tie against the Slovak Republic

Eugenie Bouchard'

Eugenie Bouchard’

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

 

(April 19, 2014) QUEBEC CITY – It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t always pretty, but Canada managed to take a commanding 2-0 lead against the Slovakian squad on the first day of their World Group Playoff tie in Quebec City. While Aleksandra Wozniak had to throw everything but the kitchen sink at young Jana Cepelova in order to get the first point, Eugenie Bouchard probably made Brad Gilbert proud with a textbook example of ‘winning ugly’ in the second match against an inspired Kucova.

On paper, the Wozniak-Cepelova match was the most intriguing: the Canadian is a seasoned Fed Cup competitor with almost 50 matches under her belt, while Cepelova is an up-an-coming star who was still on a high after her dream Charleston run a few weeks ago when she beat Serena Williams en route to losing in the final to Andrea Petkovic. While the ranking gap between both highly favored the Slovakian, the Canadian is coming back from a series of serious injuries, went as high as 21st in the world and thus couldn’t be counted out.

The first set saw both players exchange a large number of breaks, but it was Cepelova who took the early lead, as Wozniak seemed tentative and struggling to find her usual aggressive game. On the other hand, the young Slovak was controlling points with her heavy forehand and kept Wozniak on her toes with a few of her infamous dropshots. While the Canadian started finding her form, it was too little too late as Cepelova broke at 5-4 despite Wozniak having two game points: it was the seventh break of the set.

The first half of the second set followed the same pattern, as Wozniak’s level dropped early and Cepelova kept the pressure on the Canadian’s serve. Down 6-4 5-2, the crowd didn’t have much hope for their home player, but better serving, lower unforced errors, better strategy (everything on the backhand) and a few tight games from Cepelova, who was two points away from the match at both 5-3 and 5-4, helped Wozniak level things off at 5-all. Playing more aggressively, being less tentative and serving much better, the Canadian won the last two games comfortably to force a third.

Oddly enough, the same scenario was repeated in the third set, as Cepelova, who was clearly the most consistent aggressor of the two, took another early lead, only to see Wozniak get back at 3-all. That’s when the match reached its peak, as both players started playing their best tennis and had numerous long, entertaining and varied rallies. Cepelova’s fighting spirit got her through the next two tight games, as she gave herself a second chance to serve out the match…only to get broken again. Serving to stay in the match, Wozniak unleashed a super down-the-line forehand winner to get out of a close game, which resulted in a standing ovation from the crowd of about 2000. Unphased, Cepelova got to a quick 40-0 lead in her next service game, only to see Wozniak reel off 5 straight points, then serve out the match quite easily for a hard-found 4-6  7-5 7-5 win. It was Wozniak’s 39th Fed Cup singles win, and probably the most dramatic of them all. After all she went through in the past few months, Wozniack seemed quite emotional in the on-court interview, as she held back tears of joy.

After such a dramatic match, the crowd expect a walk in the park for Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard, Canada’s top ranked player. While she was ranked more than 100 places higher than her opponent Kucova, it seemed like the roles were reversed at the start. Indeed, the Slovak came out firing with her two-handed shots on both sides, attacking early, hitting deep and flat, taking Genie off guard. The Canadian, on the other hand, looked flat and a bit snappy and struggled to keep the ball in play, getting rapidly in a 0-3 hole. While she managed to steady the ship and get back to 3-all, the Slovak kept her cool, followed her game plan and soon got to set point on Bouchard’s serve at 5-3. That’s when Bouchard decided to raise her level, saving a total of four set points in that game and then breaking to level things off at 5-5. After two holds, the set reached a tiebreak and despite coming from behind all set long, Bouchard managed to reel seven straight points by cleaning up her game and raising the aggression level.

After getting so close and failing to close out the set, one could have expected Kucova, ranked outside the top 100, to give up early in the second. But this would be underestimating the Slovak, who started playing lights out tennis and hitting numerous winners out of everywhere in the court, both as an attacker and when defending. On the other hand, Bouchard was average at best, and never managed to get a grip on a set that rapidly, and surprisingly, went the way of Slovak Republic on a score of 6-2.

The crowd was getting used to changes in momentum, as there were plenty all day, and the start of the third set saw yet another one. Bouchard, who seemed to find better form, took an early 2-0 lead, and even had chances for a double break for 3-0. But Kucova, who gained quite a few fans in the stands today as she showed a tremendous amount of heart, kept on fighting and getting to balls that seemed impossible to reach, and managed to hold for 1-2. That’s when her body started struggling, as she started to stretch between points and seemed to be out of breath. It didn’t take much more for Genie to smell blood and move her around, and while she was playing arguably better than Bouchard for most of the match, Kucova just couldn’t keep up with such a level after over two hours. The Canadian won the last four games, and the match, to give Canada a 2-0 lead.

This match was a great example of a superior player who is struggling against an opponent playing lights-out tennis, but who manages to find a way to win. And while she was clearly frustrated with her level after the match, the situation was well summarized by Sylvain Bureau, Canada’s captain: ”No matter how we did it, in the end, we finish the day leading 2-0. All we need tomorrow is to win one match and we will focus on that”.

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Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Fed Cup in Quebec City for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

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Swiss Countrymen Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka to Meet in Monte Carlo Final

Federer sets

(April 19, 2014) It will be an all-Swiss battle for the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters crown on Sunday as Roger Federer beat an injured defending champion Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka stopped David Ferrer to set up the final.

Federer who came in as a wild card defeated Djokovic 7-5, 6-2. Djokovic was dealing with a wrist injury since the beginning of the tournament and it was heavily bandaged for his match on Saturday. The world No. 2 Djokovic was toe-to-toe with Federer until the end of the first set, after that Djokovic appeared to be in pain.

Wawrinka dominated David Ferrer in first set and held steady at the end of the second set for a 6-1, 7-6(3). Ferrer played an aggressive game hitting 31 winners past Ferrer.

Sunday’s final will be the first all-Swiss final since 2000 when Marc Rosset beat Federer in Marseille. It will be No. 3 Wawrinka versus No. 4 Federer as the pair meet in a final for the first time. Federer leads their head-to-head 13-1 overall, with his only loss coming in Monte Carlo in 2009.

Wawrinka hopes to win his first Masters Series title and third title overall for 2014. Federer is looking for his first title in Monte Carlo, he lost three straight finals to Rafael Nadal from 2006-2008.

 

 

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Canada Early Favorite in World Group Playoff Tie against the Slovak Republic

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(April 18, 2014) QUEBEC CITY – Once again, it seems as though home soil advantage may pay off again for the Canadian Fed Cup squad, as they aim to reach the World Group for the first time in 20 years against Slovak Republic this weekend in Quebec City. While the best available players showed up on the Canadian side in Eugenie Bouchard, Aleksandra Wozniak, Fichman and Dabrowski, the visiting crew will be trying to defend their World Group spot without Dominika Cibulkova, Daniela Hantuchova and Rybarikova, its best three players.

Three Slovakian players are absent – Cibulkova who decided to play a hardcourt event in Kuala Lumpur this week instead and Rybarikova, who withdrew due to back injury right before heading on court in a 6-2, 6-0 win in Katowice last week actually just decided to skip the tie. Similarly to Canada’s last tie played against a depleted Serbian team last February, it thus seems like the crowd favorites might pull off what is, in theory, an upset.

Aleksandra Wozniak, Canada’s oldest player on the team at 26, will start things off on Saturday against Jana Cepelova, who is just coming back from the finals in Charleston, by far the biggest accomplishment of her young career. While the Slovakian might be on the rise, she has limited Fed Cup experience (only 5 matches played, compared to 37 matches in 33 ties for her opponent, a national record) and the fast surface at Laval University is far from the green har-tru of South Carolina. On the other hand, except for a spark of brilliance in Indian Wells, Wozniak has been struggling since coming back from injury last year, and while a former number 21 in the world, she has yet to prove that she is completely back to her old form. This match is probably the most intriguing of the weekend and a must-win for the Slovak Republic: a win by Wozniak could possibly already seal the deal for Canada right from the get-go.

While Wozniak has been quite popular in her native province of Quebec over the years, it is nothing compared to the attention young Eugenie Bouchard has received over the past few months. Named WTA’s Best Newcomer in 2013 and a semi-finalist at the 2014 Australian Open, she is now in the top 20 and arguably one of the most marketable players out on the tour right now. While most players seem to struggle dealing with pressure, it seems like Genie thrives for it: being the number 1 player of the team suits her well, and she should prove it in the second match of the tie against relatively unknown Kristina Kucova. In a surprising move, Slovakian Captain Matek Liptak has indeed preferred Kucova, ranked 137th, to up-an-coming Schmiedlova (68th). While the reasons behind this choice are unknown (injuries, playing styles, favorite surfaces), Genie will be the strong favorite heading into this match.

In the reverse singles on Sunday, Bouchard should face Cepelova first, while Kucova is scheduled to face Wozniak. Depending on Kucova’s performance against Bouchard, don’t be surprised if Schmiedlova is actually sent on court for that one. In the deciding doubles match, Canadians Fichman and Dabrowski should face Cepelova and Husarova, who at 40 is by far the veteran of both teams and was remarkably part of the last Slovakian team to win the Fed Cup title in 2002. While Fichman and Dabrowki are Canada’s highest ranked doubles players, Canadian captain Sylvain Bruneau could well decide to throw Bouchard in the mix for the doubles match with Fichman, like he did last minute last year against Ukraine. A bold move that worked out well then, but that left Dabrowski, understandably, quite frustrated. Let’s just hope she doesn’t hold a grudge.

 

Match Schedule – Canada vs Slovak Republic World Group Playoff Tie

PEPS at Laval University, Quebec City

 

Saturday, April 19th (3pm ET).

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) vs. Jana Cepelova (SVK)

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Kristina Kucova (SVK)

 

Sunday, April 20th (1pm ET).

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs Jana Cepelova (SVK)

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) vs Kristina Kucova (SVK)

Gabriela Dabrowski/Sharon Fichman (CAN) vs Jana Cepelova/Janetta Husarova (SVK)

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Fed Cup in Quebec City for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

Canada Early Favorite in World Group Playoff Tie against the Slovak Republic

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Rafael Nadal Stunned by David Ferrer in Monte Carlo Quarterfinals

Nadal at changeover

(April 18, 2014) Rafael Nadal will not be winning his ninth Monte Carlo this year. The eight-time champion fell to Spanish countryman David Ferrer 7-6(1), 6-4 in the quarterfinals on Friday. The last time the world No. 1 lost in the quarterfinals of Monte-Carlo was in 2003.

For Ferrer it was his first clay court win over Nadal in 10 years. Ferrer will play No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka in his semifinal on Saturday.

Following Nadal’s loss on center court, Roger Federer looked as though he was on his way out of the tournament, rebounding to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1.

Last year’s Monte Carlo champion Novak Djokvic also received a big scare from Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to set up a semifinal match against Federer. Djokovic admitted to starting poorly but said he regained his momentum in the second set.

 

 

RESULTS – FRIDAY, 18 APRIL 2014

Singles – Quarter-finals
[6] D Ferrer (ESP) d [1] R Nadal (ESP) 76(1) 64
[2] N Djokovic (SRB) d G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 46 63 61
[3] S Wawrinka (SUI) d [8] M Raonic (CAN) 76(5) 62
[4] [WC] R Federer (SUI) d [9] J Tsonga (FRA) 26 76(6) 61

Doubles – Quarter-finals
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d [8] J Benneteau (FRA) / E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 61 62
M Mirnyi (BLR) / M Youzhny (RUS) d [2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) 76(5) 36 11-9
[3] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) d R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK) 76(4) 75
[5] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) d [WC] R Arneodo (MON) / B Balleret (MON) 64 63

SCHEDULE – SATURDAY, 19 APRIL 2014

COURT CENTRAL start 11:00 am
[3] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) vs M Mirnyi (BLR) / M Youzhny (RUS)

Not Before 1:30 pm
[6] D Ferrer (ESP) vs [3] S Wawrinka (SUI)

Not Before 3:00 pm
[4] [WC] R Federer (SUI) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB)
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs [5] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB)

 

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Laura Robson Out of Roland Garros and Wimbledon with Wrist Injury

Laura Robson Mirror Court Adidas Event4

(April 17, 2014) British tennis player Laura Robson announced on her Facebook page that she’s having wrist surgery:

The 20-year-old Robson is currently ranked at 64 in the world. She won the girls’ Wimbledon title in 2008.

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Fernando Verdasco Wins Houston Title

 

Fernando Verdasco

Fernando Verdasco

(April 13, 2014) Spain’s Fernando Verdasco ended a four-year streak without a singles title on Sunday by winning the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston over countryman Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 7-6(4). Verdasco if the fifth ATP player over 30 to capture an event this year. His last tournament win was back in 2010 in Barcelona.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve won a singles title,” Verdasco said. It’s a very important day for me to win a tournament after a few years and after the injury in my knee the last couple years.”

“I’ve been happy the way I’ve been feeling the whole week. In general, I think I had ups and downs, but it’s normal. In tough matches on clay you are not always 100 per cent every point physically, and you just need to try to be tough mentally.

“I think the key was my mentality during the week. I kept going every point no matter how tired or how good I was feeling. Didn’t finish perfect since we lost yesterday in the doubles final when we were close to winning, but it was great that I’m able to win the singles title.”

“He played a really good match today, and he’s the winner,” Almagro said. “It was a battle today, and he was really concentrated on his serve. I had many chances and I didn’t [take them], and that’s the key of the match.”

Almagro was the losing finalist last year as well, falling to John Isner.

“You are never happy when you lose a final,” he said. “I had my chances. But I credit Fernando.”

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