Malisse Crushes Koubek in Chennai Final

Posted on January 7, 2007

Third seed Xavier Malisse of Belgium beat Stefan Koubek of Austria 6-1, 6-3 for his second career ATP title.

Malisse kept his record against Koubek perfect at 4-0 in winning their first encounter since 2003. Malisse now sports a 5-0 mark for 2007, while Koubek is 4-1.

The match lasted one hour and one minute. Malisse converted five of seven breakpoint opportunities, while Koubek was only able to cash in on one out of three. The victor out-aced Koubek six to zero.

Malisse won 74 percent of his first-serve points, compared to 58 percent for Koubek. And the Belgian captured 63 percent of his second-serve points, compared to only 29 percent for the Austrian. Overall Malisse took 59 points, while Koubek garnered only 35.

Malisse, 26, earned the Chennai crown in his first appearance there. He now has a 2-8 career record in ATP finals. His first title came at Delray Beach in 2005 (d. Novak).
Last year he produced runner-up finishes at Adelaide in January (l. to Serra) and at Delray Beach in February (l. to Haas). His first ATP final came at Mexico City in 1998 (l. to Novak).

Malisse had his best year since 2002 last season, ending at 31-24. He closed the year with an ATP Ranking of No. 37, representing his fifth finish in the top 50 in six years. He ended in the top 40 for the first time since 2002, when he was No. 25.

The Belgian took home the doubles trophy too (see below).  In all of 2006 just one player (Jose Acasuso, Vina del Mar) won the singles and doubles titles at the same tournament. 

Koubek, who turned 30 Tuesday, now has a 3-3 career record in ATP finals. He was runner-up at Zagreb in February (l. to Ljubicic), his first final since 2003, when he took home the trophy from Doha (d. Gambill). He also captured crowns at Atlanta in 1999 (d. Grosjean) and at Delray Beach in 2000 (d. Calatrava).

The Austrian was trying to become the first player 30 or older to win an ATP title since Thomas Johansson earned the crown at St. Petersburg in October at the age of 30. Last year, Mark Philippoussis was the oldest title winner, emerging victorious at Newport in July at the age of 29.

In the semifinals, Malisse upset No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal. Koubek ousted No. 5 seed and two-time champion Carlos Moya in the semifinals. Koubek lost a total of only 10 games in upsetting No. 7 seed Paradorn Srichaphan in the second round, No. 4 seed Julien Benneteau in the quarterfinals and then Moya.
 
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID
 Malisse: "For me this is a dream start to the year. It's been a fantastic week. You always want to find your rhythm in the first week of the year. If I can keep playing like this, then I should have a good year. The whole week has come together great. It's been 10 years since I was here, but I promise it won't be another 10 before I come back again.

On added confidence after beating Nadal win in the semifinals: "You're always going to have a lot of confidence after beating a player like Nadal. But you have to watch out as well. In the past I've beaten great players and kind of relaxed the next match. I think I've matured in that way, and I knew I had to be ready for the finals. Maybe Stefan didn't play his best today but I think I had a great start and that made him lose some of the momentum he's had all week."

"Some players mature quickly, and others it takes more time. Last year I think I played really well but just got unlucky with a lot of draws. I played some good matches but didn't win them. Yesterday I played a good match and finally won one. This year I'm going to try and reach my potential. I did a lot more work this off-season so I feel better. I have a good coach [David Felgate] now who knows me well, and if he can keep getting me better like he did this week, then I think I can win a lot of matches this year."

Koubek: "Xavier was playing unbelievable tennis from the beginning. He had a great start and kept on playing unbelievable tennis. I tried to play the tennis I had been playing in the last few days, but it didn't work out as good. I didn't have a chance until the last game when he gave me a chance, but I couldn't take it unfortunately. I wasn't able to turn the match around. He's a great winner. I started out playing aggressive, and then I tried to slow it down. But he had all the answers today." (ATP)