After months of getting near but never happening, 2012 finally has a first time ATP title winner. After 11 missed chances to see it happening, we were sure that the 12th time would be a charm, as both finalists in St. Petersburg were fighting for their maiden crown.
By ranking, Martin Klizan started as the slight favourite (45 vs 53), but only by ranking. By experience, Fabio Fognini was the logical choice to win this final, especially considering that he played the first semi-final on Saturday and that the match opposing Klizan to Mikhail Youzhny was a 3:48 marathon and that the Slovakian played doubles afterwards.
However, Klizan showed no signs of fatigue, or of nerves, as he entered the court to take part in his first career ATP final. He broke an erratic Fognini twice in the first three games, coming within a few points of taking a 5-0 lead when the Italian ended up saving four break points to finally win his first game of the match.
The deed was nonetheless done and despite a good fight from Fognini in the last four games of the set, Martin Klizan took it, 6-2, in a little over half an hour.
When the Slovakian lefty broke early in the second set, it seemed as the end was getting closer. However, this was only the first of five consecutive breaks of serve (which reminded a lot of the second set of the semi-final between Klizan and Youzhny, where there has been a total of seven breaks of serve), as each player gifted break after break to his opponent.
The break in the seventh game of the set finally sealed the deal for Martin Klizan, who won this game and the next two to win his first career ATP title, 6-2 6-3, in 1:09, and the first Slovakian to win a title since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 (Marseille).
Suffering from a right foot injury, Fognini couldn’t do himself justice. Nevertheless, only blaming what happened in the first set, or in the match, to Fognini’s injury would be doing Martin Klizan a big injustice, as he played a very good, aggressive match. He might not have served his best, but he showed that his performance at the U.S. Open, when he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round and reached the round-of-16 (l. to Marin Cilic), his best Grand Slam performance, was not, so far, just a one-time deal.
Since that U.S. Open run, Klizan has played with a lot more confidence, gaining experience that was, today, rewarded with his first title, on a surface which is not his best (just like Fognini, he is a better clay than hard court player). Something hints that it will definitely not be the 23-year-old’s last, either, and that we will see more of him over the next months and years.
This St. Petersburg crown brings Martin Klizan close to the top 30 in next week’s rankings at n° 33, and the Slovakian already hinted that he might withdraw from the Kuala Lumpur tournament, which starts tomorrow. If he does so, we cannot blame him, as this was a pretty exhausting week for him.
In 2011, two players had their maiden title on the same day, the 6th of February, and the year finished with no less than 10 first-time winners. This year, we had to wait until the end of September for having a first. With only eight weeks left in the season, and the last two not really counting (as they are the World Tour Finals and the Davis Cup final), it is to wonder if we will see more than one in 2012…