World number 92 Marco Cecchinato has come to Budapest with just five ATP wins under his belt, looking to qualify for the main draw and continue where he left in Monte Carlo last week. It wasn't to be for him, though, losing in the second qualifying round to Jurgen Zopp but he still found himself in the main draw as a lucky loser after Laslo Djere was forced to withdraw. Marco grabbed the opportunity with both hands, going all the way to clinch his first ATP title despite never playing in the semi-final at this level before.
Cecchinato is the ninth player in the Open era who won an ATP title as a lucky loser and the third in the last two seasons after Andrey Rublev and Leonardo Mayer in Umag and Hamburg last July. The title match has been the most important in a career for both him and John Millman who had an initial disadvantage, having to complete his semi-final match against the 5th seed Aljaz Bedene earlier today to even get a chance to compete in the final.
He had to save three match points in the 12th game of the third set before ousting the Slovenian but he couldn't repeat that against Cecchinato as well, losing 7-5 6-4 in an hour and 47 minutes to stay empty-handed. Marco and John have played twice before but back in 2011 on the Futures level, with Cecchinato winning both matches, which gave him the boost in today's match too to some extent.
The Italian won just four points more than his rival, saving five out of seven break points to keep the pressure on his opponent. Millman gave his best but his serve was broken four times from eight opportunities he gave to Cecchinato and he failed to win at least a set despite a set point in the opening set and a 4-2 lead in the second! Cecchinato drew first blood in the third game when Millman sprayed a forehand error and he saved a break point in game six to move 4-2 ahead.
Still, John found the way to break him next time around, hitting a backhand return winner to level the score at 4-4 and taking charge on the court, creating a set point on the return in game 10. Marco saved it with a nice smash and that proved to be very important when he won four points in a row in the following game to break Millman after a poor backhand from the Aussie.
Cecchinato held in game 12 to close the opener after a great running forehand and he was just a set away from his first ATP crown. John fought off two break points at the start of the second set and he earned a break in game two to open up an early lead, looking good to send the match into a decider after two more break chances in game six that could send him 5-1 up.
Cecchinato saved both with good serves and he closed the game with a forehand winner that kept him in contention in this second set. The Italian broke back in the very next game and he was not to be denied from that point, scoring another break in game nine and sealing the deal after a lucky net cord in the following game to start a huge celebration of what has been his most important win in a career so far.