Pablo Andujar was still ranked in the Top 70 when 2016 season started but some dark clouds were gathering over his career, as he lost six out of the first seven matches he played in January and February. The Spaniard has been struggling with an elbow injury and he decided to undergo a surgery in March, returning to the court in September, ranked outside the Top 700.
He lost the last five matches he played until October and the worst was yet to come, being forced to undergo two more elbow surgeries by April 2017 (three in total in 13 months) and he played just three Futures matches in September and October last year, losing his singles ranking for the first time in 13 years! Recovered and rested, Pablo has started all over in January, searching his form in the first three months of 2018 and winning just one match in Rio de Janeiro.
That all changed in the last two weeks and Andujar made a staggering progress through the ATP rankings after claiming Challenger title in Alicante and an ATP 250 event in Marrakech to return into the Top 160 for the first time in almost two years.
Pablo defeated five solid players in Alicante to lift the trophy and he entered Marrakech in a positive mode, eager to continue his great run. He defeated three players from outside the Top 100 to enter the semis and the place in the final was secured with a 6-4 6-4 win over Joao Sousa, his first since Barcelona 2015 and the eight overall.
Being so close to lifting the first ATP title since 2014 and the third at this tournament (the first two came in Casablanca), Andujar didn't stop there and he went all the way with a dominant 6-2 6-2 triumph over the 2nd seed Kyle Edmund, becoming the lowest-ranked player with an ATP title since Lleyton Hewitt in Adelaide 1998! Competing in his first ATP final, Edmund failed to deliver the level we saw from him in the previous rounds and he never stood as someone who appears to be capable of making a turnaround.
Pablo demonstrated the tennis that almost brought him into the Top 30, controlling his service games, hitting well from both wings and covering the court in a way that forced Edmund making too many errors. The Briton served at only 54% and his initial shot just wasn't there, dropping almost 60% of the points in his games and suffering six breaks from 10 chances he gave to Andujar.
The more experienced player has successfully neutralized opponent's serve and forehand, matching the number of winners that Kyle delivered and taming his shots in an impressive way to leave the youngster far behind. Edmund had the opportunity to at least prolong the match a little bit, earning nine break chances in four different return games but he could break Pablo only tice, once in each set, and that wasn't enough to provide a more positive result for him, staying on the court for only an hour and 22 minutes.
Overall, Pablo had 24 winners and 23 errors while Kyle had only 21 winners (36 against Gasquet in the semis) and a huge 43 errors, spraying them from both wings to plague his chances for a better result and a possible first ATP crown.
Kyle never found a rhythm on both the serve and with groundstrokes, making 25 forehand errors while Andujar committed just eight, outplaying rival in the cross court exchanges and opening the court to impose his strokes and dictate the pace from the baseline.
They had 11 service winners each and Kyle certainly expected to lead in that segment, trailing to the Spaniard in terms of the winners from the field where Pablo had 13 against his 10. This was the perfect ground for the Spaniard before checking the number of errors where he had a huge advantage.
For every unforced error we saw from Andujar there were two from Edmund (28-14) and the Briton also committed 15 forced mistakes while Pablo stayed on nine. Things didn't work well for Edmund in the shortest points up to four strokes were he was hoping to create a gap, winning 27 and losing 38 (he often was in a good position to make the first strike but his forehand just wasn't there) and Andujar ruled in the mid-range points as well, winning 19 out of 31.
The Spaniard completed his dominance with a 10-5 advantage in the rare points that passed the nine-shot mark to round-up his triumph and write one of the best stories of the season so far. Kyle opened the match with four winners but also five errors in the opening game and he got broken after a forehand winner from Andujar who held at love in game two to confirm his advantage.
The Briton has made eight errors in the opening two games, including seven unforced, and he couldn't find his shots in game three either, allowing Pablo to race into a 3-0 and spraying six unforced errors from his forehand so far after he made just five in total against Richard Gasquet in the semis! The fourth game proved to be the longest of the match and Edmund managed to convert his fourth break point, reducing the deficit to 3-1 and writing his name on the scoreboard.
The young Briton opened the fifth game with two service winners but he couldn't complete the game with no errors, adding four more to his tally to find himself 4-1 down and Andujar increased his lead with two service winners in game six for a total control.
Serving for the set in game eight, Pablo hit three mistakes and Kyle had two break points that could at least prolong the set for him. Nonetheless, Edmund lost the balance of his shots again, adding four more errors to drop the opener 6-2 in 40 minutes.
Kyle was 6-5 in front in terms of service winners and 5-4 in the winners from the field but he needed much more in order to stay competitive when we know how many loose shots he played. Edmund had 18 unforced errors (12 from forehand) compared to seven from Andujar and he also made eight forced mistakes to ruin his chances for a better result.
In addition, the Briton served at 52% and he needed much more to stay in touch with the Spaniard. It was a nice start for Kyle in set number two but he wasted a game point to lose his serve following yet another error. Andujar didn't have to do much in the second game after three more errors from the Briton and he hit a volley winner in game five to open up a 4-1 lead, moving closer to the finish line.
Kyle finally pulled a few good shots together on the return in game six, breaking Andujar and reducing the deficit to 4-2 but he lost serve again in game seven to send Pablo 5-2. Andujar had four forehand winners prior to that seventh game and he closed that one with three in a row, moving a game away from the big success.
Serving for the title, the Spaniard had to fend off two break points, doing that with winners, and he wrapped up the triumph after a backhand error from Kyle, celebrating one of his most important career wins. The tables turned and Pablo now had a 6-5 advantage in service winners and a 9-5 lead in the winners from the court as well.
Edmund reduced the number of unforced errors compared to the opening set, hitting just three more than Pablo (10-7) but he again had more forced errors, staying on just two games and wanting to forget the overall performance in his first ATP final as soon as possible.
Point by point result and the number of shots in the rallies: