By Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rafael Nadal was all business on Sunday night as he beat Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in straight sets (6-3, 7-6) to become the first Rio Open men’s tennis champion. Japan’s Kurumi Nara beat top seed Klara Zakopalova (6-1, 4-6, 6-1) on Sunday to claim the women’s trophy and pick up her first WTA title.
Dolgopolov’s surprise victory over second seed David Ferrer in the semi-finals and Nadal’s shaky win over Paulo Andujar raised expectations of a tight final, but Dolgopolov struggled to recapture the brilliant attacking form he had displayed against Ferrer when confronted with the most determined player on Tour.
Nadal’s semi-final match against Pablo Andujar on Saturday went down to the wire, with the world number one losing the first set and having to save two match points before clinching the match in a tie-break. “I guess the difference from top players to the others is that we have less bad days. When I don’t play well I keep playing, fighting, running for every ball and looking for chances to win anyway,” said Nadal after the match.
Nadal did not display any of the same weakness on Sunday night at the Jockey Club in Gávea as he blasted through the first set in less than forty minutes. The only flicker of real resistance from Dolgopolov came as Nadal was serving for the match at 5-4, when the Ukrainian briefly showed some of the offensive game that had sent Ferrer packing, before finally submitting to Nadal’s dominance.
The Rio Open is Rafa’s 43rd clay court title and brings him closer to Guillermo Villas’s record 46 titles. “I am very happy to win this title. I played much better than yesterday, a solid match, attacked since the very first groundstroke. The most important thing is to compete in high level, to win here after a good recovery,” explained Nadal.
The title match was not Dolgopolov’s only concern and the Ukrainian wore a black patch on his shirt during the game to raise awareness of the events currently transpiring in his home country. “I thought about that today. It was something different. I kept thinking about the political and social moment in my country and I thought it was a good way to call attention to it,” he said.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.