Monday 1 October 2012
Last Update 1 October 2012 12:48 am
KUALA LUMPUR: Argentina’s Juan Monaco clinched his fourth title of the year yesterday as he beat Julien Benneteau 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to win the Malaysian Open and maintain his hopes of reaching the ATP World Tour Finals.
The match lasted three hours and came a day after Monaco, the second seed and current world number 11, came through a tight semifinal against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Monaco’s first ever hardcourt win, after six previous victories on clay, keeps alive his campaign to reach the Tour Finals in November as one of the eight top-ranked players.
But it meant heartbreak once again for France’s Benneteau, 30, who appeared hampered by injury and has now lost seven ATP finals.
“It was an excellent game and I will never forget the Malaysian Open as it has brought me my first hardcourt title,” said Monaco, 28.
“I saw Benneteau receiving treatment... but he still fought hard and never gave up. I had to come out more aggressively in the third set and it helped me to get my first hard court title.” Benneteau started the match with his right forearm heavily taped, but he got off to the perfect start as he broke the Argentine’s first serve.
Monaco broke back in the fourth and ninth games but Benneteau refused to give up and tied the first set 5-5.
The 12th game was a thriller that lasted 20 minutes and saw 12 deuces before Monaco broke Benneteau’s serve to take the first set 7-5.
Benneteau, who looked uncomfortable throughout the match, called the trainer for attention to his right leg. But he came out strongly in the second set, breaking Monaco twice to take it 6-4.
However, it was Monaco who had the extra burst of energy in the third as he broke the Frenchman’s serve in the sixth game to clinch the set 6-3, and with it the title.
Monaco took home the trophy and $153,440 first prize, while Benneteau had to be content with the runner-up award of $80,815.
In Bangkok, second-seeded Richard Gasquet won his first tournament of the year when he beat former champion Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-1 in an all-French final of the Thailand Open at the Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani yesterday.
The No. 14-ranked Gasquet, who last won a title in Nice in 2011, routed the fourth-seeded 2009 champion in just 68 minutes, for his seventh career victory. He became the third Frenchman to win in Bangkok since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s victory in 2008.
“He’s French player and a friend of mine. It’s a bit strange. I have won tough matches this week. It’s good for me because I had to come back to win twice in a week,” Gasquet said. “It’s my seventh title. I’m really happy.” Playing with a right-knee injury Simon, who has never beaten Gasquet, started brightly by securing an early break but failed to capitalize on his advantage. Gasquet proved more accurate with his groundstrokes, breaking the error-prone Simon in the sixth game to lead 4-2. Gasquet then held his serve and broke again to take the opening set when Simon hit a forehand wide.
Simon stretched his knee before the second set and again started by breaking Gasquet. But he appeared sluggish and tended to falter first in longer rallies. Trailing 5-1, Simon saved two match points but Gasquet hit a backhand crosscourt winner to wrap up the match.
Simon said the injury affected him during throughout the game.
“It happened right before the match. It was OK this morning. But when I started warming up before the match, I started to feel something there,” Simon said. “It was harder to push for my right play every time. When you have so many injuries, it’s difficult because you just don’t know. You have to play with it. You don’t know if it’s gonna be worse if you push. ”
Relief for Li Na
In Beijing, China’s Li Na was a relieved woman yesterday after thrashing her fellow ex-French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the China Open’s first round — a year after a humiliating defeat at the same stage.
Asia’s top women’s player, who needs a strong showing this week to qualify for the WTA Championships in Istanbul next month, dominated the match to win 6-2, 6-3.
A year ago Li, after beating defending champion Schiavone in Paris to become Asia’s first singles Grand Slam winner, had slumped to an embarrassing straight-sets defeat to Romania’s Monica Niculescu in front of her home fans.
However the road ahead does not get any easier for Li, who will now play Pan Pacific Open winner Nadia Petrova in the next round.
Earlier, Britain’s Laura Robson took another step forward in her quest to break into the top 50 when she battled past an opponent more than twice her age.
The world No. 57, who reached the final of the Guangzhou Open just over a week ago, continued her Asian adventure by defeating Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-4, 6-4 to ease into the second round of the Premier Mandatory event.
But it was far from plain sailing for the 18-year-old Robson, who fought back brilliantly from three games down in the first set, winning five without reply against Date-Krumm, 42, as youth ultimately overpowered experience.
Date-Krumm raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set as Robson struggled with her serve and made a number of unforced errors.
But several big forehands gave the young Briton confidence and the Japanese was no match for Robson’s power. Robson, who ended last year ranked 131st, took the second set with relative ease, maintaining her recent momentum.
The mixed doubles silver medalist at the London Olympics has shot up the world rankings this year, in large part due to a fourth-round appearance at the US Open and her exploits in Guangzhou, and now has the top 50 in her sights.
Robson will play Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino, who defeated Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, in the next round of the compulsory event which ranks just behind the Grand Slams and the WTA Championships.
Elsewhere, ninth seed Marion Bartoli of France beat Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanovski 6-3, 6-3, while sixth seed Sara Errani from Italy was forced to retire with an injury, meaning compatriot Camila Giorgi went through.
Former world number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia knocked out her doubles partner, Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 6-2, 6-4.
Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina also took their places in the second round with straight-sets victories against Maria Kirilenko and Mona Barthel respectively.
Unseeded Niculescu enjoyed another good start to the tournament when she upset the Czech Republic’s 16th seed Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-0.
Ayumi Morita of Japan knocked out Spain’s Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3, 6-0 and China’s Peng Shuai beat Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.
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