Former world No.10 Pablo Carreno Busta ended his two-year title drought with a commanding performance against Kazakhstan’s rising star Alexander Bublik here at the Sichuan International Tennis Centre to pick up his fourth career title in the Chengdu Open.
Having struggled with a shoulder injury that inhibited his performances during the early season, the 28-year-old looked back to his best in a thrilling 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(3) comeback victory in two hours and eight minutes.
The Spaniard did not drop a single game during the final, facing and saving a solitary break point that came in the very first game of the match.
At 5-4 on serve in the first set, the current world No.63 had two break opportunities to close out the set, but could not convert and subsequently lost the opener when, at 5-6 down in the tiebreak, an astute Bublik correctly read his cross-court return and rushed the net to execute a superb cross court slice.
In the second set, Carreno Busta missed two break chances in the first game but converted the third that came in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and held on to force a decider.
After Bublik once again saved two breaks in his first service game of the third set, neither player dropped serve and set the stage for a tie-break in which Carreno Busta raced to a 4-0 lead. The Spaniard completed the win on his second match point at 6-3 up with a sublime cross court backhand that perfectly encapsulated his stunning performances throughout this week.
“It was an incredible week here in Chengdu. It was a pleasure for me to back here. During the week, I felt really comfortable on court. The surface was fast but I was very good with my serve during all my matches and I think that was the key to me being the winner of the tournament. This year has been quite tough for me because of injuries at the beginning of the year. It’s really tough when you cannot play and cannot enjoy this sport. But I just tried to continue working hard because I know when you work and you do as much as possible, normally you will get the prize. Look, now we are here with the trophy and winning my fourth ATP title, for me this is the reason to continue fighting and continue playing this sport,” said the Gijon native, who was a doubles runner-up in his last Chengdu Open outing in 2016.
The 22-year-old Bublik was despondent after his defeat but paid tribute to his opponent and took heart in his strong performances during the week, highlighted by a comeback win over fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals.
“It’s been a great week. I got to the final by a breaker and I went down by a breaker in the final match. I’m happy to have made my second final and I’m happy for Pablo, he played an unbelievable match. The match with Grigor (was probably my most memorable). I came back from losing a set and saved a couple of match points. That was a good match,” said the world No.71, who can expect to surpass his career high of No. 69 next week.
In doubles, the dream run of Serbian best friends Dusan Lajovic and Nikola Cacic came to a victorious conclusion here at the Chengdu Open as they romped to a well-deserved 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-3 win in one hour and 41 minutes over former world No.5 Jonathan Erlich and this year’s Roland Garros finalist Fabrice Martin.
In a tense and exciting end to the first set, both pairs saved set point twice during the tiebreak before the Serbian duo got a crucial mini-break at 9-9 when Erlich sliced a net shot wide and Cacic got the winning point when Martin hit his return into the net.
Lajovic and Cacic started strong with an opening break in the second set but they then failed to hold serve in their first two service games and conceded the set.
The Serbians started the super tiebreaker with intent and aggression and raced to a 7-0 lead, partly due to a string of unforced errors and uncharacteristically sloppy play from their opponents. The Israeli-French combo of Erlich and Martin eventually got off the mark and won three of the next four points to make it 3-8, but Cacic would not be denied his maiden doubles title.
The 28-year-old’s second serve was returned directly to a waiting Lajovic at the net, who sliced it down towards Erlich’s feet. The Israeli’s attempted return did not make it over the net and the Serbians embraced in celebration.
“I think today we played a very good match, except that we lost some focus in the beginning of the second set. In the super tiebreaker we were really aggressive and focused from the first point, I don’t think we made one unforced error. Overall, it has been a really great week. We’ve known each other for 20 years and we’re best friends, so sharing the court is a special thing,” said 29-year-old Lajovic, who is picking up his second career doubles title in his first final since his maiden title at Istanbul in 2015.
Cacic is ranked at a career high of No. 127, which enabled him to make the draw in Chengdu together with his close friend and compatriot, who is more focused on singles. The win here is likely to push Cacic into the Top 100 and raise Lajovic’s ranking from his current No. 135 as well, enabling the duo to qualify for more Tour level tournaments.
“This week is the best week so far for me in my career. I am really happy that I won my very first ATP title with Dusan. This is a special moment for me and I am really grateful and thankful for what he does for me. He tries to help me as a friend to push me up the rankings and be able to play the big tournaments. Luckily this week we made it here and now I can break the Top 100 with these points,” said Cacic.
The close-knit duo plan to play at more ATP 250 events in the coming weeks to raise up their rankings with the goal of playing in Masters and Grand Slam events together in future.
The tournament is owned by IMG and is organized by the Chinese Tennis Association and Chengdu Municipal Government, is co-organized by Chengdu Sports Bureau, Shuangliu District Government and Chengdu Culture Tourism Group and is promoted by Sichuan Investment International Tennis Centre Development Co., Ltd., CCTV IMG (Beijing) Sports Management Co. Ltd. and WME IMG China Culture Development Co. Ltd.
The Chengdu Open is also very proud to have the distinguished support from ATP Tour’s Premier Partner Emirates, the official player hotel St. Regis Chengdu, which fast became a favourite of the players, Dunlop tennis balls, the official water VOSS, the official car BMW / Reach Now, the Sichuan Tennis International Hotel, which is conveniently located adjacent to the courts and provides efficient services to the tournament, the exclusive official digital media partner Iqiyi Sports, the official stringer Yonex, the official public transportation platform Tian Fu Tong, the official gym equipment Impulse and the official tea Sichuan Mengding Tea Co. Ltd.
The official tournament website www.ChengduOpenTennis.com has additional information about the tournament.