Alexandr Dolgopolov had a very poor start of the season, winning just 1 match in 4 events, but here in Buenos Aires everything was just about perfect for him, showing some powerful tennis to lift his 3rd ATP crown, the first since Washington in distant 2012! In the final, Dolgopolov saved all 3 break points to defeat the top seed Kei Nishikori 7-6 6-4 in an hour and 40 minutes, delivering the 6th straight final loss to Kei since he won Memphis 12 months ago.
Nishikori was the dominant figure in their previos 5 matches,taking all of them without a set lost, but today he was overpowered by Dolgopolov, who served amazingly and endured the rallies with world number 5 to celebrate a very important triumph.
It was a masterclass performance from the Ukrainian on his first serve, finding the sweet spots away from Japanese's returns and winning 84% of the points (37 from 44). His second serve was decent as well, facing only 3 break points that were all fend off, and he scored a crucial break in the 7th game of the second set to bring the victory home.
It was very important for Alexandr to pass the opening few service games without bigger problems, to find the good rhythm of his shots and avoid easy errors. He faced a challenge already in the opening game, when he had to play against 2 break points, but he didn't lose his head, saving the first with a service winner and the second with sick drop shot winner to hold with another good drop shot.
In game 4 Nishikori had to save a break point, and he did that with a service winner, to level the score at 2-2. More problems were just around the corner for the Japanese, as Dolgopolov created 5 break chances in game 8, only to waste all of them (he made 2 unforced errors but Kei hit 3 service winner on the others) and miss a nice chance to move in front.
Alexandr could have been punished very soon, as Kei had a break point in game 9 (his liast in the match), only to be denied by a great forehand winner from Dolgopolov, and after that they easily reach the tie break. Ukrainian won all 5 points on serve and that was all he neded to bring it home, making the first mini-break with blistering backhand winner for a 2-1 lead and another with a cross court forehand winner for a 7-4.
After those 9 break points in the opening set, we saw more fluid service games in set number 2, with no break chances until 3-3. Then, Dolgopolov hit amazing backhand return winner to steal opponent's serve in game 7 for a 4-3 lead.
In the next game Nishikori found some light at the end of the tunel, reaching deuce on return but Alexandr was not to be denied today, taking the next two points with a touchy volley and good serve to cement the break and go 5-3 up.
Ukrainian raised his arms in celebration when Kei netted a backhand in game 10, winning his first ATP trophy after so many years. After that Washington final he made 8 ATP semi-finals and 2 finals but the title was just running away from him, all until now, and it will be great if he can keep up this level of tennis, as he is a joy to watch when he brings his A game to the court.
Final result: Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) vs Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7-6(4) 6-4 ALSO READ: ATP ROTTERDAM: Tsonga comes from behind to upend Goffin, lifting his 13th ATP title