James Blake’s topsy-turvy week at the Estoril Open ended with a bagel, as the American fell 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-0 after squandering two match points against eventual champion Al Montanes on Sunday in the final at Portugal.
It was the second match of the day on Sunday for Blake, who finished off a rain-delayed contest in the morning with a 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3 win over French Open semifinalist Nikolay Davydenko.
The 28-year-old Montanes saved two match points at 4-5 in the second set, and also saved a match point against top-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon earlier in the event. Montanes improved to 2-4 lifetime in tour finals.
The 29-year-old Blake squandered the first match point with a backhand return long, and the second point with a backhand error. he was attempting to become the first American to win a European claycourt event since Andy Roddick at St. Poelten in 2003.
Montanes swept through the deciding set in 35 minutes as Blake ran out of gas and nerve after failing to win the second-set tiebreak, with the American dropping to 0-2 career in finals on dirt.
“It was an incredible match. It was very close,” Montanes said. “James was playing very aggressive and when I saved both match points it gave me some confidence. I had already saved one match point against [Gilles] Simon, so I just kept fighting. In the third set I felt he was tired and I took advantage of that.
Blake attributed the win to his opponent gaining confidence in the third.
“Tennis is a game of inches,” Blake said. “If he missed the line by one inch on one of the match points, I would have won. It didn’t and he gained confidence. It happens to every player. Today, it happened to me in the final. With the exception of one bad set I played some high-level tennis all week. Of course I’m disappointed in a loss. But I’m going to try and look back in the next couple of days and think about it positively. I came in here with very little confidence on clay, having lost my last two matches.”
In the doubles final, Americans Scott Lipsky and Eric Butorac won in their first tournament teaming, beating No. 4 seeds Martin Damm of the Czech Republic and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden 6-3, 6-2.
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