In an important battle of youth versus experience, Lucas Pouille out-served Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez to claim his third career title in Stuttgart.
It took the 23-year-old Frenchman just over two hours to claim the 4-6 7-6(5) 6-4 victory over the 35-year-old Lopez, who has claimed three of five career titles on grass.
Pouille fired 29 aces in his come-from-behind victory and capitalised when Lopez double-faulted and hit several errors to hand the Frenchman the break in the critical third set.
“I think I took a little bit more of the opportunities than him,” said Pouille, also a winner of the Budapest title earlier this year. “He had some break points and didn’t make them, and I had only one or two and I made them. So I think that made the difference.”
Pouille’s first grass court victory highlighted his growing maturity; after accepting a wildcard into the event, he saved a match point against German Jan-Lennard Stuff in the second round, with further wins achieved over Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benoit Paire.
Expected to return to world No.15, the Frenchman is determined to maintain form for Halle and Wimbledon.
“Of course if you win the first tournament of the grass season you’re very confident, but I know that every week is different and every player is tough to beat,” he said. “I will need to focus again for next week and be ready to play my first round in Halle.”
Great to get the Title ???? ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/bq5d7Unr7a
— Lucas Pouille (@la_pouille) June 18, 2017
Having waited more than a decade to claim his first ATP title, Gilles Muller now has two of them in a single season, with the Luxembourg native defeating Ivo Karlovic 7-6(6) 7-6(4) to claim ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The meeting between 34-year-old Muller and 38-year-old Karlovic was the most “senior” ATP final since Ken Rosewall, at 42, beat Ilie Nastase, 30, to win Hong Kong in 1977.
Not that it detracted from the quality, with the straight-sets score highlighting the tight nature of Muller’s victory.
“I think we should make a suggestion to the ATP that we just start with the tie-break next time!” he laughed. “It’s always tough to play Ivo and I’m glad I could beat him. I had many friends and a lot of family coming, so it’s been a great week here.”
The best-ever player from his nation, Muller relied on 22 aces to defeat the big-serving Karlovic, who fired 19 aces of his own in the final.
With his career count now standing at 12,003, the Croat became the first man in history to pass 12,000 aces. “It was an excellent week. I’m really happy,” said Karlovic. “Gilles had an unbelievable week and it’s nice he could win on Father’s Day.”
It’s evolving as a dream season for Muller, who contested sixth ATP finals (the first in 2004) before finally defeating Dan Evans to win Sydney.
His latest title made him only the second player, alongside Pouille, to reach an ATP final on all surfaces this season; he was also runner-up to Pablo Carreno Busta at Estoril, which gave him a career-high world no.26 ranking.
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