Almagro Retains Nice Title; Stops Baker's Dream Run
Spain's Nicolas Almagro successfully retained the Open de Nice Côte d'Azur title on Saturday without dropping a set all week. It is the third time in his career he has won an ATP World Tour tournament in successive years (also Valencia Open 500 in 2006-07 and the Abierto Mexicano Telcel at Acapulco in 2008-09).
The third seed improved to 12-5 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals after he beat American qualifier and World No. 216 Brian Baker 6-3, 6-2 in 70 minutes on the French Riviera.
"I played my best tennis in two years here," said Almagro. "I am very happy with my serve and my forehand. I moved on the court very, very well. Today, was one of those matches you want to keep in your mind for the rest of the season, because I couldn't have played much better. Today was amazing. I am happy with my form, my tennis and my team. We will aim to keep working hard, so I play, in future, as I did today."
Almagro, who is currently No. 14 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, improved to 35-11 on the season, which includes one other trophy success at the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo (d. Volandri).
The 26 year old received €71,900 in prize money and 250 South African Airways ATP Ranking points, while Baker took home €37,860 and 150 points.
"It was a really tough match," admitted Baker. "He always seems to play pretty well. He didn't make many unforced errors and I think he seemed to have a high first serve percentage. He wasn't just trying to get them in, he was going for a lot. I was struggling to return his serve. I didn't feel like I played that poorly. I was a little sore and a little tired, but he was definitely the better player.
"I should have changed where I stood in the court [to return serve]. I should have returned further back to give him another look. I did it at the end of the second set and it worked better. It was tough out there and he played really well."
Bake saved two break points en route to 3-3 in the first set, but Almagro won the next three games to wrap up the 35-minute set. Almagro won 80 per cent of his service points in four games.
Almagro broke Baker's serve in the fourth and eighth games of the second set and went onto clinch victory. He hit 11 aces overall and converted four of nine break point opportunities.
First-time ATP World Tour finalist Baker, aged 27, was sidelined for nearly six years after five surgeries (three hip, one elbow, one sports hernia) before returning to competitive tennis in July 2011 at the Pittsburgh Futures event while unranked.
"It was a great week," said Baker. "Every time you go onto court you want to win. I am a competitor, I hate losing. But, when you look at the week as a whole, it has been an unbelievable week. I hoped to qualify at the start of the week and win a match or two, before going to Roland Garros. I obviously did much better. I think even in the qualifying, I felt as if I was playing pretty well. I won my three matches easily and knew I was playing good tennis."
Almagro said, "[Baker] lost the final today, but he is back, he is playing very good. I think if he plays as he did this week, then he will win many, many tournaments."