DelPo d. Benneteau, 7-6(2) 6-3:
A finalist last year is victorious today.
DelPo won his 14th career title at Rotterdam, defeating Julien Benneteau in straight sets, 7-6(2) 6-3. He wins at the 40th anniversary of Rotterdam, one of the traditional indoor HC tournaments that boasts a sterling list of past champions:
DelPo is also the second Argentinean to win Rotterdam, after Guillermo Vilas in 1982.
DelPo’s route to the Rotterdam title was filled with tricky competitors, including Monfils, Gulbis and then Benneteau, who pulled off the upset of the tournament when he defeated Fed in the QF. Benny now has the distinction of having defeated Fed twice (on indoor HCs), yet is now 0-8 in career finals. DelPo was too consistent against Benny and his earlier efforts this week to play more aggressively also paid off.
After holding 40 times in as many service games, DelPo was broken for the first time in the final against Benny. He broke back immediately and played a splendid point to break Benny at 30 and go up 3*-2.
However, DelPo was broken for the 2nd time when he serving for the first set at 5*-4. He set up a beautiful point with a lovely FHDTL, only to send the drive FH volley wide. He strolled back to the baseline with his shirt pulled over his head and received a time violation from umpire Mo Lahyani:
Benny hit great return of serve to break DelPo at 15. DelPo had a long conversation with Mo at the changeover about the earlier time-violation (Mo said the total time DelPo took was 31 seconds):
DelPo ultimately needed the TB to take the 1st set. Afterwards, DelPo took control and he broke Benny early on and gained three championship points on Benny’s serve at 5-2*. Benny saved all three, the last with an interesting volley that forced a FH error from DelPo. The Dutch crowd cheered on Benny as he saved a total of 4 BPs on his serve to hold at 5-3.
Just before DelPo served for the match, his nose started to bleed. DelPo had nosebleeds last year at Rotterdam as well, in his matches against Karol Beck and Victor Troicki. He knew what to expect, as he promptly walked to his chair and called for Martiniano Orazi (his physio) to hand him a bag of cotton to put up his nose:
Benny could be seen showing a little gallows humor with the umpire, asking if the match was over and if he would be handed the title via retirement:
After the short timeout to take care of his bleeding nose, DelPo returned to the court to serve for the Rotterdam title:
With the combination of the cotton up his nose to stop the bleeding and the unfortunate grey shorts Nike forced him to wear, which made him look like he had wet his pants, DelPo was quite the sight for sore eyes as he served for the esteemed Rotterdam title!
Still, DelPo served out the title to love. He raised his hands in triumph and gave a roar to the crowd.
The happy news of DelPo’s big win is overshadowed in some part by the fact that his opponent, 31 y.o. Julien Benneteau, is now 0-8 in ATP finals.
As Richard Krajiceck solemnly stood guard behind him, Benny stood like a lonely figure on court as he gave a heartfelt speech at the trophy ceremony. Benny thanked his physio and then his coach. He told his coach Loic Corteau, “It’s not enough. [But] we’re getting closer and closer, but I’m sure with you I can win a title.” Rotterdam was the first 500-level final Benny had contested (his previous 7 attempts were at the 250-level).
The image of Benny staring up at the sky as DelPo celebrates his title was a sad one. It was eerily similar to the image of Nalbandian staring up to the sky after DelPo lost the 4th rubber against Spain in the Davis Cup final in 2011.
Benny definitely had a remarkable week and the hope is he can finally win the first title he has so clearly fought in pursuit of during his career.
Richard Krajicek then welcomed champion DelPo to the ceremony, which featured a show of fireworks that momentarily startled the big man:
When it came time for DelPo’s speech, he started with “Ohh, [this is] the worst part!” He then gave a nice speech where he thanked Richard Krajicek and the sponsors for providing a lovely atmosphere that made him feel like home.
DelPo Improves His Record on Indoor HCs:
In 2012, DelPo won his first title on indoor HCs at Marseilles. One year later, he now has a total of four indoor HC titles (Marseilles, Vienna, Basel and Rotterdam). This is DelPo’s second consecutive title at the 500-level, which is a very tangible accomplishment, especially in comparison to his nearest competitors just outside the top 4.
Sebastian Terok at La Nacion wrote an excellent article about DelPo’s efforts to recover from his R3 loss at the AO. Based on his interviews with DelPo and Davin, Terok writes that the R3 loss to Chardy came as an unexpected shock to DelPo’s top 5 aspirations:
“I won my first tournament after Australia, on a fast surface, in a complicated tournament featuring Federer and other great players. This means a lot to me and gives me the calm and confidence for the rest of the season, to keep working to get better.”
“I’m going to try to win more tournaments. It’s a great challenge for me this season and I’m going to try to get closer to no. 1.”
DelPo’s indoor HC record improves to 67-32. Torok notes that three of DelPo’s four victories over Federer have come on indoor HCs (2009 WTF, 2012 Basel, 2012 WTF), while DelPo also defeated Djokovic on that surface (2011 DC SF, via retirement). In addition to DelPo’s win over Djokovic at the 2012 Olympic bronze medal match, it’s major progress to see DelPo up his game on the quicker surfaces.
Davin is pleased with DelPo’s progress. Davin also mentions that one area where DelPo needs to improve is hitting the low balls — this makes sense, as DelPo did face some trouble this week bending his knees low enough to hit volleys. In the final against Benny, DelPo also had trouble hitting the low balls on his BH side, although he was able to take the FH early on the rise.
Following his Rotterdam title, DelPo once again moves closer in the rankings to Berdy. He is still ranked no. 7, but he is now only 75 points behind the Czech. DelPo has 250 points to defend at Marseilles, where he defends his title. So even if DelPo were to overtake Berdy in the rankings for no. 6, it will likely be awhile before that position is consolidated. DelPo will have to play consistently until then.
One surefire positive development is that DelPo has jumped 62 places to take his place as no. 6 in the 2013 Race to London.
Photos and Videos from the 2013 Rotterdam Final:
The Slice (@TheSliceTweets) February 17, 2013
After his win, DelPo poses with the staff at Rotterdam:
- And here’s a fun video DelPo posted, where he hugs Franco, before chasing Franco, Martiniano and his new PR rep down the hall with a bottle of champagne. DelPo received 4 time violations this week at Rotterdam, so it’s only fitting that it takes about 10 seconds longer than it should for the celebratory bottle of champagne to pop !
- Nick Lester and Arvind Parmar provided commentary for the final. One of Lester’s funny lines about DelPo:
“A remarkable character, he really is. Arvind and I arrived here about an hour and a half ago, we walked into the player’s restaurant, and [DelPo] just sits there. He doesn’t move (laughs). He reminds me of one of those animals, when you switch on the TV and you’re watching in Africa and it’s too hot, and they can’t move, and they’re just sort of stuck there, and he just sort of looks like that, doesn’t he?”
(Lester then says he’s spoken to people close to DelPo, including DelPo’s team, who call DelPo an unbelievable competitor).