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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title

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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title


IMG_9003_SerenaBy choosing South Florida as her base and lifting the trophy on seven prior occasions, the Miami Open is Serena Williams’ home. Consequently, this afternoon, first time finalist Carla Suarez Navarro needed to play the match of her career to steal the title from the two time defending champion. Williams romped Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-0 for a third successive Miami Open trophy, her eighth overall.

After coasting through the early stages, Serena averted close calls in the quarterfinals and semifinals. First, Williams fought off Sabine Lisicki 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, the player who ended her bid as defending champion for a sixth Wimbledon prize in 2013.

Next up, the world number one clashed with Simona Halep, the 2015 titlist at Indian Wells. Ironically, the Romanian received a walkover into the final from Williams at that event because of an inflamed knee. A match fit Serena battled herself, her opponent and the Romanian partisans but eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

The opening game was a glimpse of how the proceedings would unfold as Serena held at love. For a short time, Suarez Navarro managed to keep up and in the fifth game was at 30-30. However, with two aces, Serena moved ahead 3-2.

After the Spaniard dismissed double break point, Serena provoked a few errors and capitalized on her third break point. The American easily consolidated for 5-2. With another break, 17 winners, 8 unforced errors and in just 32 minutes, Williams secured the set.

Prior to the second set, Suarez Navarro conferred with her coach. His advice was to “change the rhythm, serve better, get the shots deeper”. Consequently, the first game of the second set, the Spaniard arrived at break point. But, with an ace, Serena dismissed the sole break point she stared at the entire match. Swiftly, Suarez Navarro surrendered the next game. The Spaniard won only two more points in the remainder of the match.

Suarez Navarro has yet to capture a set from the world number one in their five meetings. Moreover, this was Serena‘s fifth love set.

There were mixed feelings for Suarez Navarro after she shocked Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, then dispatched world number nine Andrea Petkovic to advance to the biggest final of her career, at one of only four mandatory premier tournaments.

The 26 year old expressed “ I came into the final with the firm belief that she could win.. . It was difficult to compete with her, I tried to be solid, however, with her strength it proved to be impossible.”

Still, Suarez Navarro affirms that “Serena is not unbeatable, she has more experience and success. People are aware that she beatable. But you have to play at a high level. My plan is keep believing and to work hard.”

Despite the score, Suarez Navarro attested that “ I enjoyed the tournament. it’s worth the pain, I fought till the end, you learn from these moments”. For her efforts, when the rankings are released, Suarez Navarro will be rewarded with the number 10 spot. Furthermore, she is the first Spanish female in the top ten since Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Every time Serena step on the court, she climbs a new benchmark. This week, she joined the exclusive 700 wins club, only the eighth female player to reach that mark.

In 2013, she surpassed Steffi Graf‘s all time record of five trophies at the Miami Open. Following her tenth final at the Miami Open, with losses only to Venus in 1999 and Victoria Azarenka in 2009, Serena cited “it feels really good to have eight under my belt. Can’t say I thought I would win, especially at the beginning of the week. . .each one is special. Some finals are long; some finals have been shorter. At the end, each one is a lot of hard work. ”

Yet, Williams’ celebration was muted “I was so focused out there today. When you’re winning 5-Love, 40-Love, it’s not a surprise. . .you’ve kind of accepted that you’re going to win . . . It’s different if it’s 5-All or 7-5. You don’t know which way it’s going to turn.”

Serena is only the fourth WTA competitors to bank the same title at least eight times. Will she be aiming for twelve at the Miami Open? Martina Navratilova won Chicago that many times “I hope not. Because I would still be here  I would be how old? Let’s pray that I don’t get to 12.”

With her 66th career prize, Serena is one title away from knotting Billie Jean King at number six on the roll call. Serena’s goal for the clay season “ I just want to stay consistent and get a little more fit. . . you have longer matches. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking to have fun.”

By collecting her 19th major at the Australian Open, Serena is for the sixth time in a position to pull off the calendar grand slam. Furthermore, Jennifer Capriati was the last person to hold both the French and Australian in 2001 “I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve never done it. . .I don’t think it’s necessarily tough. I just think that sometimes the tournament’s hard and you fall at the wrong time.”

For now, Serena will relish her recent triumph in Miami. Who knows one day instead of stadium court, it will be Serena Williams Stadium.

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Serena Schools Bellis to Get to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Serena Schools Bellis to Get to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open


IMG_8162_Serena_BWAfter her second round win, Catherine Bellis was asked how she would approach an encounter with Serena Williams “it’s going to be really fun. I’m just going to play my game and see what happens. . .it’s just another opponent”. The 15 year old got the memo today that Williams is not ‘just another opponent’. The world number one required only 41 minutes to crush the youngster 6-1, 6-1 and stay on track for her eighth Miami Open title.

The 19 time major winner said in reference to her teenage counterpart “If you break down her age, her ability, how well she handled the moment and how well she played, I think it was good.. It wasn’t like, Oh, I’m so happy to win this match. . .it was tough. . .she’s young and her being an American, you want to see people like her do well. So when you’re up against them you have to kind of put that aside. Even though I’m always cheering for her.”

Williams was sympathetic toward her competitor “I never played that well at 15 to play the professionals, I was at school. I wasn’t good enough. . I turned pro at 15 and lost 1-1 to Anne Miller . . .I didn’t play for another two years. So, yeah, I think she’s doing really well.”

Bubbly and smiling after the match, Bellis reflected “I was pretty nervous, she’s number one in the world and the best of all time for a reason. It was just a really good experience for the future. . . I have never played her before, never seen her in person, just on TV, she’s my idol. . .the stadium is huge. I like that kind of stuff, it was fun. . .She definitely hits really hard. . .[this match] was an eye opener for sure>”

In the fourth round, Williams collides with Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian hung on against Angelique Kerber to win in three sets.

World number three and 2014 French Open finalist Simona Halep kept her dream of a back to back premier event trophy alive with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Camila Giorgi.

This grandstand match was a roller coaster ride. At two all in the initial set, the Italian committed three double faults on three of four points in the fifth game to gift Halep the break. Although Giorgi quickly reestablished parity, a sleuth of miscues in the ninth game resulted in another break which was the difference in that set.

In the second set, Halep and Giorgi traded multiple breaks. At 5-4, Halep served for the match and could not shut the door. Subsequent, to benefiting from a seventh break courtesy of various mistakes by Giorgi including an 11th double fault, on her second try, Halep got the win.

Following her first meeting with Giorgi who shocked Maria Sharapova last year at Indian Wells, Halep commented “it was a strange match because she hits very strong and very fast. . .I didn’t have time sometimes to adapt. . .But I just tried to move my legs more and just to be aggressive. . .I’m happy that I could win. She’s a tough opponent.”

Halep hoisted the most prestigious trophy of her career last week at Indian Wells. Today, the Romanian got her maiden fourth round berth at the Miami Open “I like to play here. . .I come from Indian Wells . . .and I have more confidence. I’m just trying to keep my mind very focused and to recover my body every day. . .I feel a little bit tired, but it’s normal. . .I’m just looking forward to improve more in my shots, and I just want to hit the serve better and better day by day.”

Halep’s fan club is growing daily. Despite Giorgi’s Argentinian connection, her parents are from there, the Romanian loyalists were the most vocal “everywhere I go I have many Romanians supporting me. I can say it’s amazing . . .I can hear my name on court. So it’s really nice. . .gives me more power to fight.”

On stadium court, Victoria Azarenka faced 2014 Indian Wells champion Flavia Pennetta. In the seventh game, with some bold play, Pennetta salvaged two break points to push ahead 4-3. Later, by smoking a forehand crosscourt pass by the Belarusian on triple break point, Pennetta was at 5-3. However, serving for the set, Pennetta faltered. The set’s owner was decided by a tiebreaker. The Italian capitalized on her third mini-break to pocket the set.

The second set was almost a mirror image to the prior. Pennetta banked on triple break point in the seventh game for 4-3. Still, Azarenka managed to recover and get to a tiebreaker. But, it would not be the two time champion’s day as a composed Pennetta went on to prevail.

In the next round, Halep collides with Pennetta. Eighteen year old Belinda Bencic joins the fourth round for the first time at the Miami Open. She takes on Sloane Stephens who was victorious in straight sets. Garbine Muguruza fell short against 2013 French Open finalist Sara Errani. Errani will play either Sabine Lisicki or Ana Ivanovic.

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Nadal Axes Almagro at the Miami Open, Murray Also Moves on

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Nadal Axes Almagro at the Miami Open, Murray Also Moves on


IMG_3458_NadalThe twelfth contest between fellow Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Almagro went the way many of the others have gone. Nadal posted a 6-4, 6-2 victory to advance to the third round at the Miami Open.

Almagro came in with a ray of hope after banking his maiden victory over the world number 3 last year in Barcelona. Today was the competitors’ third meeting on hardcourt and Almagro’s triumph materialized on clay a surface he excels at. Moreover, the latter’s 2014 season was marred by a foot injury requiring surgery. Almagro began 2015 on the right foot with a successful South American swing which culminated with a semifinal appearance in Buenos Aires.

Nadal hasn’t been sizzling on any surface of late. His 46th clay court prize in Buenos Aires a few weeks ago was his first since the 2014 French Open. The world number three’s best on hardcourt in 2015 has been quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Australian Open. Consequently, Almagro came in with a ray of hope.

With a flubbed forehand volley by Almagro, Nadal converted on break point in the initial set for 2-1. The 14 time major winner stared down three break points on his serve before securing the set.

In the second set, Almagro dumped a forehand into the net on double break point to place his opponent in the lead at 2-1. Shortly thereafter, Nadal bolstered his edge with a love hold. Later on, with a forehand winner, Nadal cushioned his position with an additional break for 4-1. At that stage, it was clear that Almagro would have to wait another day for the hope of a second victory over his compatriot.

In analyzing his performance, Nadal believes “I played a solid match. . .I had to put the balls in and play with no mistakes today with very tough conditions. . .my forehand worked well. . .I’m happy, Almagro was not an easy opponent for the first round”.

Nadal was disappointed with some aspects of his game with his loss at Indian Wells. Today, he was determined to “play with no mistakes on the important points. . .last week, I had a lot of opportunities in the quarterfinals. . . I didn’t have a lot of mistakes, he played well. But I lost the opportunities to convert. It’s important to change the dynamic of these things quick. Doing it in this match is important for me”

Commenting on the deluge which followed a few minutes after he was done, “sure important to finish the match before the storm arrived. . .But that can happen here in Miami. It’s nothing new”.

Four times the groomsman, never the groom, the Miami Open has been less kind to Nadal than Indian Wells, he possesses three of those trophies “it is true that Indian Wells has been a tournament that has worked better historically for my game. . .the bounces are higher. . .I like playing in [Miami]. . .some days can be very humid and hard for the body. But in general, they are the conditions I like to play tennis. . .Sea level, hot, no problem, I like to play tennis”.

With the weather delay, Nadal’s third round counterpart has yet to be established. It will be either countryman Fernando Verdasco against whom he has 13-1 mark or 23 year old Australian James Duckworth ranked 97th in a first meeting

Earlier in the day, two time Miami Open champion Andy Murray disposed of Donald Young in two sets 6-4, 6-2. Murray improves his record against the American to 5-1. After surrendering the opening set in a tiebreaker, world number eight, Stanislas Wawrinka knocked out Carlos Berlocq.

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Nadal Wins an Unprecedented Eighth French Open Crown

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Nadal Wins an Unprecedented Eighth French Open Crown



At the French Open, there is no doubt who reigns supreme. With a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over countryman David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal pocketed his eighth title at Roland Garros becoming the first man in history to capture the same major that many times.

In route to his maiden major final, 31 year old Ferrer dispatched all comers in three sets. The world number five even thumped hometown favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals after the latter dismissed Roger Federer.

To the contrary, Nadal needed 4 hours and 37 minutes to overcome world number one Novak Djokovic in the semifinals in a five set thriller where Djokovic led 4-2 in the last set.

The first final since 2004 to feature two men from the same nation, when Gaston Gaudio tussled with fellow Argentine Guillermo Coria, debuted promisingly with Ferrer opening the proceedings with a love hold.

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Serena Williams Soars Winning her Second French Open Title

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Serena Williams Soars Winning her Second French Open Title


In the battle between the top two players in the Open Era, number two has bested number one, seven out of eleven times. Moreover, in the last twenty years, the world number one has conquered Roland Garros only twice. Consequently, Maria Sharapova could have taken solace from those statistics. However, the defending champion had Serena Williams across the net. Williams prevailed 6-4, 6-4 to capture her second title in Paris and her 16th major overall.

A staggering twelve successive losses, a nine year drought was the ghost that Sharapova was attempting to banish against Williams who made no secret of her hunger to hoist the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Since Serena defeated sister Venus in the 2002 final, no American had advanced to the ultimate match in eleven years.

From the first game, Sharapova demonstrated despite a 2-13 record against her rival, she was not willing to gift wrap her title. The Russian overcame love-40 and saved a fourth break point to hold. Sharapova then took advantage of errors from Williams to bank a break for 2-0.

But, Sharapova’s lead was short-lived. Soon, with an overhead winner, Williams got the set back on serve. Later, in the fifth game, with Sharapova flubbing a forehand, Williams sealed the break for a 3-2 edge. Despite being tested, Williams consolidated for 4-2.

With Sharapova capitalizing on miscues by her opponent in the eighth game, the first set was leveled at 4 all. Once again though, Williams turned up the screws, forcing Sharapova to muff a backhand up the line for double break point. Promptly with a forehand crosscourt winner, Williams moved ahead 5-4. The world number one comfortably guarded serve to pocket the opening set.

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Serena Williams Silences Sharapova for a record Sixth Sony Open Title

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Serena Williams Silences Sharapova for a record Sixth Sony Open Title


IMG_5617_Serena
Serena Williams repelled Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 to win her sixth trophy at the Sony Open surpassing Steffi Graff with whom she was previously tied.

Williams had already made Sony Open history in the semifinals with the most victories on the women side, 60. Now, she wanted to stand in a league of her own by also capturing the trophy.

But, it was Sharapova in search of her first Sony Open crown, after failing four previous times, who handled the breezy conditions and the bright sun well early on. Subsequent to wasting three break point chances in a marathon eleven minute game, Sharapova fabricated a fourth in the fifth service game.

On that occasion when Williams’ backhand found the net, Sharapova converted the break for 3-2. However, the world number one applied the necessary pressure to bank the next game and square the set at 3 all.

Williams was not at her best on serve, frequently catching her toss and shading her eyes. In the ninth game, Williams double faulted to gift Sharapova a break point. When on the following point Williams dumped a forehand crosscourt into the net, Sharapova was in front 5-4.

With a love game replete with miscues by Williams, Sharapova sealed the first set. At that point, a visibly annoyed Williams slammed her racket against her chair, her wakeup call.

With an ace, Williams capped a love hold to start the second set. Then, by pushing Sharapova around, she got the break for 2-0.

Yet, a bevy of mistakes by Williams led to an ephemeral lead as Sharapova fabricated triple break point. As Williams fumbled another forehand, the players were back on serve.

Later, Sharapova set up triple break point once more with a backhand winner. By winning the fifth game, at 3-2, Sharapova was three holds from grabbing the elusive title and completing the rare feat of hoisting both the Indian Wells and Miami trophies. It has only been accomplished three times, last by Kim Clijsters in 2005.

Again though, Williams found the emergency brake. With two consecutive winners and a stellar return, Williams was at triple break point. As Sharapova’s stroke kissed the net’s bottom, the second set was leveled at 3 all.

Later courtesy of a double fault, Williams had a break point. She took a 5-3 lead when Sharapova committed another forehand error. Williams closed out the second set with an ace.

The decisive set became a nightmare for Sharapova. In the opening game, the world number two could not stave off double break point. Subsequent to Williams consolidating for 2-0, Sharapova threw in two successive double faults to provide her rival with an insurance break.

Williams pushed the cruise control button, capitalizing on a seventh break point to make it 100% conversion for the match and 5-0. Williams went on a ten game in a row tear to close out the championship.

Sharapova has gone down to Williams now in eleven successive encounters. She last triumphed in 2004. Today, in their maiden meeting in the final in Miami, Sharapova felt she wasted too many chances particularly in the second set “ I still had opportunities to get back at 3-4. I was up 40-15 and Love-30 in the next game. . . those are the games that you really need to keep challenging out there and keep being in them. . .those are the chances that you will have to take . . .if you want to win the match”.

Despite her heavy schedule up to this point, Sharapova cited fatigue was not a factor “ I feel fine. I’m very happy, very fortunate that I’ve been able to play. . . I have had a really great month and I think I can only take positives out of it, really”.

Clay is the next stop for the women’s tour. As the defending French Open champion, Sharapova is looking forward to Paris “when you experience such a nice moment in your career, to be able to come back there and to play on that court again where you lifted the trophy, it’s always special and meaningful. Especially for the amount of years that you’ve worked so hard to get to that point. I’ll treat it as any other title that maybe I haven’t won and really want to win because I would love to win it again”.

For the match, Williams’ first serve percentage was 51. She fired 35 winners and 32 unforced errors and was behind 4-6, 2-3. Sharapova connected on 64% of her first serves, struck 13 winners and 23 unforced errors.

The statistics explain Williams’ surprise in pulling off the victory “I honestly can’t say right now [how I turned it around]. I just feel everything was going so fast. . . I was just making so many errors. I just was like, Serena, are you really going to get to the final and not play up to your potential? I don’t think I had enough energy. I think I may have done too much work yesterday, may have hit too long, done too much gym”.

Williams’ strategy to get back into the match “at one point, I was just like, conserve your energy and try and relax and play better”. The serve was not a weapon today. Williams was hitting the first ball at times at 79 mph “I honestly have not served great this whole tournament, if you look at the stats. It hasn’t been my best week serving wise. Usually in the later rounds, I’m able to pick it up and do a little better. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that today, so I had to rely on other parts of my game”.

Williams has eyed that sixth trophy since 2009 when she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the final. This week, she even biked to the tournament to assure she would make her third round match.

Now, Williams will shift her focus to the clay in search of a companion for her lonely 2008 French Open trophy, the only major she possesses just one of. Clay is perhaps Williams’ most challenging surface. But, she does not view it as such “I think it’s only as hard as you say it is. I happen to love Roland Garros and I’m happy to play there. Hopefully I can just take it one match at a time. That’s in the future. I’m just going to do it one step at a time”.

Today’s performance by Williams qualifies as “winning ugly”. If on her worst day, Williams can walk away with the Sony Open, her 16th major, a second French Open may not be far behind.

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Nadal Stands Alone with his Historic Seventh French Open Title

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Nadal Stands Alone with his Historic Seventh French Open Title


Roger Federer learned the lesson in 2006 and again in 2007. Today, it was Novak Djokovic’s turn. With clay virtuoso Rafael Nadal around to dream of a calendar grand slam or owning all four majors at once is pointless. Nadal prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 over Djokovic to earn his 11th major and a record seventh French Open trophy.

Regardless of the outcome, history would be made at Roland Garros. World number one Djokovic was vying to be the third player in three years to attain the career grand slam and the first since Rod Laver to hold all four majors simultaneously. For his part, Nadal was seeking to surpass Bjorn Borg and become the winningest male.
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Sharapova Survives Li to Retain Rome Title

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Sharapova Survives Li to Retain Rome Title



Despite a persistent drizzle, spectators stayed glued to their seats at the Foro Italico. In the final of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia defending champion Maria Sharapova roared back from a 4-6, 0-4 hole to vanquish Na Li 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.

In the first set, Sharapova got the initial break to go up 2-1. However, Li quickly captured the next game to get back on serve.

With Sharapova serving at 4-5, some critical service miscues allowed Li to bag the first set.
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Nadal Still Reigns in Monte-Carlo with Eight Straight Title

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Nadal Still Reigns in Monte-Carlo with Eight Straight Title


Seven successive defeats had been the number for Rafael Nadal at the hands of Novak Djokovic. Today, however, on clay, Nadal dominated Djokovic 6-3, 6-1 to bank his first title of the season and his eight consecutive trophy at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

It’s been a difficult week for Djokovic who was informed of his grandfather’s death hours prior to playing his round of 16 match. Yet, Nadal must have had doubts coming into this final considering he had not beaten his rival since the Barclays ATP World tour Finals in November 2010.
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Stepanek Thwarts Monfils for Title in Washington

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Stepanek Thwarts Monfils for Title in Washington


For the second day in a row, rain disrupted the proceedings at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. But this afternoon, even that was insufficient for top seed and wildcard Gael Monfils to prevail. Unseeded Radek Stepanek bested Monfils 6-4,6-4 to win this ATP 500 tournament, the biggest prize of his career.

With a record of 5-2 against Stepanek, Monfils seemed in good stead to become the first Frenchman to triumph in the nation’s capital since Arnaud Clement beat Andy Murray in 2006.

For his part, Stepanek was on a quest to end his nation’s 29 year drought at this venue. Petr Korda, Stepanek’s coach, was the last victorious Czech in 1992.

The preamble to a disastrous afternoon for Monfils came in his initial service game. Monfils had two successive double faults despite holding.

Subsequent to guarding serve, Stepanek struck a backhand crosscourt winner for break point. When Monfils dumped a forehand into the net, Stepanek took a 2-1 lead.

In trying to consolidate, Stepanek went down 0-30. However, Monfils obliged with a sleuth of errors to allow the Czech to consolidate for a 3-1 advantage.

Later with Stepanek serving, the skies opened up and a thunderous downpour followed. Once Stepanek returned and completed the game for 4-2, showers came anew.

When play resumed, Monfils appeared more willing to fight and comfortably maintained serve. Yet despite Stepanek’s horrendous 30 percent first serve, Monfils could not capitalize on his second serve.

With Monfils stuck ten feet beyond the baseline and his returns falling short, an aggressive Stepanek proficient at volleying thrived at the net. Consequently, Stepanek easily bedded the first set.

For Monfils, the following set was a duplicate of the previous one. With a backhand volley winner, Stepanek had break point in the initial game. With Monfils’ forehand crosscourt pass finding the net, Stepanek converted.

Next, with an emphatic love game punctuated by his maiden ace, Stepanek raced to a 2-0 lead.

At times, Monfils uncorked his frustration on his racket. The crowd did it’s utmost to lift the Frenchman, however, without success. Despite losing solely two points his subsequent four service games, Monfils could not fabricate a single break point.

Stepanek’s first serve percentage picked up slightly this set at 46, winning 12 out of 12 points. With Monfils’ return not clearing the net, Stepanek had triple championship points.

When Monfils flubbed a backhand, Stepanek claimed his first title since San Jose in 2009. He also became the second oldest titlist. Jimmy Connors hoisted the trophy in 1988 at age 35.

With yesterday’s semifinals completed in the wee hours of the morning, Monfils did not go to sleep until four. Thus, the Frenchman felt the lack of rest made him “a fraction of a step slower. . . [so I] caught the returns late”.

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