Outsider Berdych conquers Paris Master
Unseeded Czech Tomas Berdych overcame a severe bout of mid-match stagefright to win the Paris Masters with a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Croatian sixth seed Ivan Ljubicic.
Twenty-year-old Berdych, the world number 50 and playing in only his third career final yesterday, cruised through the first two sets but was then racked by nerves as the title came within sight.
But he conquered his crippling fears, as well as a thigh strain, in the final set to claim the biggest payday of his career, a huge 378,000 euros, on his fourth match point.
"I'm very happy because this was my first Masters final and my first win. It's a great way to finish the year," said the Czech, the second youngest winner in the tournament's 20-year history, behind Boris Becker who was 18 when he won in 1986.
"I was surprised about the first two sets because Ivan played different tactics compared to the other two matches he played when he won. But I expected him to play better and even though three match points went I knew it wasn't the end.
"The win now has changed my goals for next
season. It will be a different season. I will be up to around
"But I have to be ready. I want to make the top 10, but let's just see."
Ljubicic, who now heads to the Masters Cup in Shanghai, paid tribute to the winner but refused to be too despondent despite having lost a second successive Masters final.
"The key to the match was the start. He played really well and I struggled. He was just the better player in the first two sets. I couldn't return anything.
"In the third set, may be he was thinking about the title. Then he had a medical time-out for his thigh and that allowed him to relax.
"But I had a great week. I reached a Masters final, I have finished in the top ten, there's the Masters Cup and the Davis Cup final to come. It's a fantastic achievement for me.
"Possibly, the only other person on the planet who is happier than me at the moment is Tomas."
It was Berdych's second career title having won on clay in Palermo last year.
The victory also confirmed his growing reputation as a player who enjoys facing the big names.
He knocked Roger Federer out of the Olympics and beat world number two Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Cincinatti Masters this summer.
Berdych showed no signs of nerves early on against the more experienced Croatian, who had gone into the final having won 20 out of his last 20 matches and who had picked up two titles in Metz and Vienna.
He grabbed the first crucial break with a sweet volley to lead 3-1 and clinched the opening set 6-3 with an ace on second serve.
Berdych broke again in the ninth game of the second set with a soaring forehand, before securing the advantage with a deft backhand volley.