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Novak ends Spanish domination of Gstaad

Novak came smiling through the rain

(Keystone)

Czech outsider Jiri Novak overcame Juan Carlos Ferrero and some miserable weather conditions to win the Swiss Open tennis tournament on Sunday. Novak is only the second non-Spaniard in ten years to triumph in Gstaad.

"I'm very happy because I think this is my biggest ever victory," Novak said with a grin after completing the 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 win. "It was such a strong tournament both in regards to the prize money and the quality of the field."

Novak certainly proved himself in that field, having overcome local favourite Michel Kratochvil in the quarter-finals, before seeing off fourth seed Alex Corretja in the semis and Ferrero in the final.

The weather also required some beating on Sunday, with persistent drizzle bringing delays and interruptions. After a late start the two players were able to get through just three games, before the rain returned to force a further postponement.

Returning to court more than two hours later, Novak was clearly the more focussed of the two contestants, the world number 40 outplaying the Spanish second seed to take six games in a row - an impressive spell that was enough to clinch the first set 6-1 and put Novak 2-0 up in the second.

When asked by swissinfo what he had done to maintain his concentration during that lengthy break, Novak explained that he had been focusing on sport - but not his sport.

"I was just watching the Formula One Grand Prix on the television in the player's lounge and relaxing," he said.

After letting the game slip almost beyond his control in that disastrous period, Ferrero ensured that Novak was a little less relaxed in the following games.

Breaking back to level the second set at 3-3, the Spaniard went on to win the subsequent tie-break, forcing the match into a deciding set.

When that went with serve for the first 11 games it seemed as if Novak might have missed his big chance. But with another tie-break apparently looming, the Czech turned the match around for a final time.

Playing his trademark deep shots from the baseline, Novak forced two match points out of his illustrious opponent. Moments later, the Czech was celebrating his fourth tournament victory without having to play a shot.

A double fault from Ferrero saw the frustrated Spaniard hurl his racket across the soggy clay, and leave Novak close to singing in the rain.

The Czech's progress this week from rank outsider to Swiss Open champion certainly appeared to warm the chilled hearts of the few hundred tennis fans who stuck around to see a long-drawn out but ultimately entertaining final.

by Mark Ledsom, Gstaad


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