Lopez lifts SA Tennis Open title
8 February 2010
Feliciano Lopez became the first Spaniard to win the South African Tennis Open when he defeated Frenchman Stephane Robert 7-5 6-1 in the final at Montecasino in Johannesburg on Sunday.
At the start of the tournament, most people were expecting a Frenchman and a Spaniard to fight out the final, and that is exactly what they got. However, it was not the two everybody expected.
In Saturday's semifinals, third-seed Lopez put out top-seed Gael Monfils of France, winning a tight tussle 3-6, 6-1, 7-6. Robert, meanwhile, ousted number-two David Ferrer 7-5, 6-4.
In the final, the first set was pretty tight, but the left-handed Lopez never faced a break point in the entire match while Robert was often struggling to hold.
However, when the break came it was somewhat fortuitous for the third-seed. With Robert serving in the 12th game, Lopez moved to 0-40 before Frenchman fought back to hold a game point. But Lopez kept coming back and finally, on his sixth set point, his forehand clipped the top of the net and dribbled over.
"You know, I was under pressure all the time," said Robert. "My only chance was to get to a tie-breaker and hope I could win the set that way. It was unfortunate how the break happened, but that is tennis."
Once the first set was behind him, Lopez was in full flight while much of the stuffing had been knocked out of Robert. The Spaniard raced into a 5-0 lead and at that point already had one hand on the R600 000 winner's cheque.
Robert faced his first championship point in the next game but managed to snuff it out with an ace. Lopez clinched the title a game later on his second opportunity to claim his first tournament victory since Vienna in 2004.
"In the first set I was a little nervous. I had so many break points, but I wasn't taking my chances," said Lopez. "Once I took the first set I felt confident and my game started working."
'One of the best'
Lopez also had words of praise for the tournament and its organisation. "We play a number of 250 series events around world," he said, "and I think this is one of the best. The hotel was good, the organisation was excellent, and the courts were great.
"I just hope that a Spaniard winning here is a good omen for our soccer team later this year when the World Cup starts," he added.
The doubles title went the way of Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan who beat the Slovakian/Israeli duo of Karol Beck and Harel Levy 2-6 6-4 10-5 (champions tiebreaker).
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