Rotterdam, Netherlands: Juan Martin del Potro underlined his indoor credentials as he overcame a bleeding nose to beat Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 in the Rotterdam Open final on Sunday.
Del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner, claimed his fourth trophy indoors but had to play the last game with a nostril packed with cotton wool after suffering another of his occasional nosebleeds.
In the previous game, Benneteau had saved four match points as he held on in a desperate attempt to pick up his first title in eight ATP finals.
Del Potro, the Argentina second seed, could barely contain his joy after winning in Rotterdam a year after losing the final to Roger Federer.
But this time the Swiss star had fallen in the quarter-finals to an inspired performance from Benneteau, leaving the way clear for del Potro.
“It feels amazing, it was a big goal for me to win this title after losing the final last year,” said Del Potro. “I’m so happy to be the champion.
“I’m feeling very confident with my serve, hopefully for the rest of the season. Today I did lose serve for the first time this week, but finals are tough to play.
“I played perhaps my worst tennis of the week at the start of the match, I came out very nervous, but I fought back. Later on I started feeling very confident and in control all the time.
“I will try to keep on winning, I’m looking forward to my next event. It’s a big challenge for me this season to try and move closer to the number one position.”
Del Potro becomes the second Argentine to win in Rotterdam, more than 30 years after Guillermo Vilas, who lifted the trophy in 1982 and finished runner-up a year later.
Benneteau missed a chance to become the fifth French player to win a Rotterdam title. “I can only congratulate Juan Martin,” he said. “I did my best but he was just too good for me today. He was too strong. I will still fight to finally try and win a trophy.”
Del Potro had to make a quick recovery after losing his opening serve in the one-hour, 37-minute match, breaking straight back and lifting the set after nearly an hour, despite dropping serve again.
But in the second set his confidence mounted as did some frustration for Benneteau, with Del Potro taking a 3-0 lead and seeing out the match after overcoming some late resistance from his French opponent.
Del Potro’s victory marked his 14th ATP title from 19 finals and he has now won 67 matches and lost 32 indoors.
Until the final, he had held his serve in his 40 previous games this week.