Big men captured the final two ATP events prior to the kick-off of the Australian as giants Juan Martin del Potro and John Isner swept to titles over the weekend.
Del Potro gave Bernard Tomic a likely preview of what it will be like facing world No. 1 Rafael Nadal next week in Melbourne, thumping the unseeded Australian 6-3, 6-1.
“I think Bernard was a little frustrated after seeing me very focused on the match and hitting the ball so well,” Del Potro said. “He is still young in some moments of the match, but he has everything to win titles, and he will reach finals very, very soon…The finals never are easy, but I was surprised by my level tonight. I think I played great. My forehand worked perfectly, I made a lot winners, many aces, I played good slices.”
Tomic dropped to 1-1 in career finals after capturing the Sydney title last year. Del Potro improved to 18-7 in finals. “Juan played too good. There was nothing I could do,” Tomic said. “I knew it was going to be like that where either he plays very good or gives me more chances…Tonight showed why he’s that quality of a player. So there was nothing I could have done. I tried to keep up, but he kept playing the way he was playing. I haven’t seen a guy play a second set like that. It was too good.”
Isner had a much tougher time in the final at the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand, with the No. 3-seeded American toughing out a 7-6(4), 7-6(7) win over unseeded Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei.
“I wish it didn’t have to be so close at the end, it gives me a lot of grey hairs,” said Isner, who collected his eighth career title at the site of his first career title in 2010. “Sometimes you come in with low expectations, the pressure’s off, and things tend to work out. That was the case this week.”
The 30-year-old Lu was competing in his first career ATP final, gained when he upset world No. 3 David Ferrer in the semifinals.
“He just served incredibly,” Lu said of the big American. “There was one period of time when I couldn’t read his serve. Even sometimes, when I guessed right, I still couldn’t really get the ball back.”
Qualifiers won titles at both WTA events over the weekend.
Spanish qualifier Garbine Muguruza won her first career title in her first final at the Hobart International, dominating No. 7 seed Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-0.
“I didn’t expect to win a lot of matches in the second tournament of the year, but I knew that I’d just worked so hard before,” said Murguruza, who didn’t drop a set through eight matches of qualifying and main draw. “When I was at home I was thinking to myself, ‘If I go to the tournament I’m going to fight so much,’ and that’s what I did. I was like a big bull out there.”
The big bull is now 1-0 in career finals, while Zakopalova fell to 2-11 in career finals. The Spaniard is projected to rise to a career-high No. 38.
At the APIA International Sydney, another qualifier won her first career title in her first final when Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova upset No. 5-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-4, 6-4.
“I was nervous but tried my hardest not to show it,” said the former Wimbledon semifinalist. “I was trying to concentrate so hard that I only saw the ball — I was only watching the ball. I was like, ‘Okay, just watch the ball and follow every point.’”
Pironkova beat three Top 10ers en route to the title in Kerber, Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani, and dropped Kerber to 3-6 in career finals.
“She was playing unbelievably well and she deserved to win the match and the tournament,” Kerber said. “I was just trying to play my game and find my rhythm — I gave everything but she was too good.”
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