Australia’s Bernard Tomic saved four match points as he beat world No.13 Fabio Fognini to win his first ATP title since 2015 at the Chengdu Open.
The 25-year-old dug deep to snatch a brave 6-1 3-6 7-6(7) win over world No.13 Fabio Fognini.
There was also a surprise at the Shenzhen Open where another qualifier, Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5 2-6 6-4 to win the title.
Nishioka dropped seven straight games from a set and a break up but recovered to win in a deciding set.
“To get here, it was seven matches. It is not easy,” said Nishioka.
“I am very tired right now but my strength is my mentality, my stamina and never giving up. Those are my weapons.”
Tomic had not played someone ranked as high as Fognini in a year, let alone claimed a win against such a player, but he finished off a long week in Chengdu in fighting style.
Coming into the tournament as a qualifier ranked 123rd in the world, Tomic won seven consecutive matches to take out the title.
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Clearly emotional, Tomic dropped to the court after the win before getting up to make the sign of the cross.
“I think all week I was lucky,” he said.
“I was supposed to lose in the qualifying in the second round to (Egor) Gerasimov. I was down 3-0, 4-0 in the third set tiebreak.
“I was down on centre court here first round. I was down match points in the second round. So for me I saved, I don’t know how many match points this week.
“I played really well the whole week – I’m so happy I won.”
Tomic is projected to rise to around No.77 in the world and looks to have safely secured automatic entry to next year’s Australian Open, a tournament he failed to qualify for in 2018.
A major outsider against the top-seeded Italian, Tomic consistently frustrated his opponent with excellent ball placement and a surprising willingness to stay in points.
Tomic raced through the first set 6-1 before the Italian found his feet in the second to level the match.
The third set became an arm wrestle: Fognini breaking to start the decider before Tomic won the next three games. Fognini then levelled again.
From there the match stayed on serve with Fognini seemingly grabbing control of the tiebreak when up 6-3 on serve.
But showing a new found resolve, Tomic battled back with two service breaks before eventually serving out the match.
It was was the fourth title of his career and first since Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2015.
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