Aussie becomes oldest first-time ATP winner
Unseeded Australian Wayne Arthurs became the oldest first-time winner since the ATP Tour was formed in 1990, beating third-seeded Mario Ancic of Croatia 7-5, 6-3 in the Tennis Channel Open final on Sunday.
The 33-year-old left-hander, in his 128th ATP Tour-level tournament, dominated his 20-year-old opponent.
“It feels really, really good, really satisfying,” Arthurs said. “Especially now that I’m older, it’s probably even more satisfying to win a tournament this late in my career. I’m going to savour every moment of it, that’s for sure.”
Arthurs, who turns 34 on March 17, is the second-oldest player on the ATP Tour behind 34-year-old Andre Agassi.
The Australian is the first 33-year-old to win an ATP-level event since Tom Gullikson at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1985.
For the second match in a row, Arthurs’s opponent never reached break point. Arthurs held serve for his final 62 games of the tournament, 11 of them on Sunday. The only service break against him all week was by fourth seed Taylor Dent in the first round.
“I felt that I couldn’t miss my serve no matter how hard I hit it,” Arthurs said.
Arthurs’s mix of placement and power on his serve, along with a strong return game, baffled Ancic throughout the 80-minute match on the hard-court surface at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort.
Even when Arthurs faulted on his first serve, he came back with a hard one on the second.
“It was unbelievably difficult,” Ancic said. “I knew he was serving big and I’d have a really tough time, but the way he returned was impressive. I didn’t really expect that. I was expecting many more free points, and he was not giving me any.”
Ancic managed only three points against Arthurs’s serve in the first set, and five in the second.
“I’ve played with a lot of big servers,” Ancic said, “but I’ve never felt like today, that I really couldn’t do anything.”
Both players hit 218kph on their hardest serve. Both held serve through the first 11 games, then Arthurs took advantage of a couple of mistakes to break serve on the 12th game and win the set. With a terrific passing shot past the charging Ancic, Arthurs broke serve in the sixth game of the second set to go up 4-2, and that was all he needed.
Arthurs has 11 ATP doubles titles, but his only other singles final was at Nottingham in 2002, when he lost to Jonas Bjorkman.
What has kept him going?
“Probably love of the sport,” Arthurs said. “You look back and you think, ‘Would I rather be in an office doing something else?’ I don’t think so. I just love being out there.”
The victory earned Arthurs $52 000 and raised his singles ranking from 99 to 64. The performance also earned him entry to the French Open and Wimbledon.
He returned for the doubles final, and he and countryman Paul Hanley lost to top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States 7-5, 6-4.
Ancic also was in his second final, and experienced his second finals loss to an older player. He was beaten by 30-year-old Frenchman Antony Dupois in Milan last year.
Ancic will compete for Croatia against the US in next week’s Davis Cup first round in Carson, California. Arthurs will compete for Australia against Austria before flying all the way back to the US for the Indian Wells tournament.—Sapa-AP