American Ryan Sweeting and Pablo Andujar were the unlikely winners during the opening week of the claycourt season on the ATP circuit.
Sweeting, in his debut appearance in an ATP final, beat No. 6 seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6(3) Sunday in Houston to capture the title at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.
The 23-year-old Sweeting fought off three set points in the second set before winning in the tiebreak.
“That game was very crucial,” Sweeting said of holding at 5-all. “It was definitely an important hold for me. I think it was a 20-minute long game. It definitely wore me out a little bit. I knew that I wanted to try and win the second set, obviously, to win the match, but it was a good hold and I felt that it gave me a little bit of momentum going into the rest of the set. It sort of hit him a little harder that he didn’t get the break — he had a lot of break points — but I just fought hard today.”
Sweeting was ranked No. 93 entering the event, and had a losing record on the season at the tour level. En route to the final he beat the 2010 finalist and No. 2 seed Sam Querrey, and past champion Ivo Karlovic in the semifinals.
Nishikori says he tightened up at the prospect of claiming his second career title.
“I was struggling today, missing a lot with easy shots and he was more aggressive than me, so that’s why I was struggling, I guess,” Nishikori said. “It was a final and I really wanted to win today, but I think that made me a little tight.”
Andujar won his career-first ATP title on Sunday at the Grand Prix Hassan II with a 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 5 seed Italian Potito Starace.
“I was very confident before the match,” Andujar said. “I thought about winning and yesterday’s win gave me a lot of confidence. I played in a way that made him tired, being very aggressive and making him run a lot.”
Starace fell to 0-4 in career finals.
“He played a great match,” Starace said. “He was too aggressive and didn’t give me one chance, so congratulations to him. He was playing a very high level.”
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