Pablo Carreno Busta beat approaching wet weather to conclude his buildup to the Australian Open with a 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Matthew Ebden in the final of the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne yesterday.
Carreno Busta, the second Spaniard to win the event after two titles from Fernando Verdasco, staged a steady fightback to overhaul the 76th-ranked Ebden, who stands second on Australia’s national list behind Nick Kyrgios.
Ebden, who sat out half of 2016 with a knee injury, spent much of last season on the lower-level Challenger series and starts the Australian Open against 16th seed John Isner.
Tenth seed Carreno Busta faces another Australian at Melbourne Park, playing Jason Kubler.
The final at the long-time former home of the Australian Open was played under leaden skies in heavy humidity and rain coming in from the west.
It ended just as light drops began to fall and the trophy presentation ceremony was held with the protagonists sheltered under umbrellas.
The finalists qualified for the title match after beating the highest-ranked players in the first round, with Richard Gasquet deciding that two matches were sufficient for his Open preparation.
“This match was tough, I had to come from a set down,” said Carreno Busta. “But it really helped me for the Open.”
“It’s the perfect preparation for the Grand Slam. I feel very comfortable on this court. We had some bad luck with the rain, now we are waiting for the Open,” he added.
Ebden said he was disappointed after failing to hold his lead, but was still pleased with his week on court.
“Thanks for braving the rain,” he told the crowd. “I’m sorry I didn’t get the big trophy, but I tried my best.
“Pablo played well, I’ve had a lot of fun this week.”
The Australian added: “Today I played at a pretty good level, it would be nice to maintain it a bit more, lift it a few percentage points.
“The Open preparation is done, I just need a bit more focus, not rushing, even though today we hoped to get the match done before the rain.”
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland lifted the women’s title 3-6, 6-4, 10-4 (tiebreak set) to beat Andrea Petkovic in a rain-interrupted final lasting just under 90 minutes.
Petkovic, long the tennis entertainer, kept things lively during a weather pause on court, dancing to music piped over the stadium PA system and even getting a match official involved.
“It wasn’t the best day, but we stuck through it,” the German said, “My dancing was probably better than my play today.”
Bencic added Kooyong success to the Hopman Cup she won a week ago alongside Swiss teammate Roger Federer.
“I’ve played a lot of matches, I’m pleased to get match play before the Australian Open,” she said.
“Today was difficult with the rain. But we both stuck around so I’m very happy.”
Hobart: Defending champion Elise Mertens of Belgium reached the Hobart International final with a 6-4 1-6 6-2 win over British qualifier Heather Watson yesterday.
The second-seeded Mertens recovered from a second-set lapse to edge out Watson, who won the tournament in 2015, in one hour and 42 minutes.
The 22-year-old world number 36 will play Mihaela Buzarnescu in today’s final after the Romanian sailed past fifth-seeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 6-2 in the second semi-final.
“She made the same run (from qualifying) as I did last year, but I’m happy to win today,” Mertens said in an on-court interview.
“I gave it all today, and I’m still playing doubles later.
“I tried to play a bit more aggressive in the third set and make her run a little bit more. She was dictating me in the second set, all credits to her. She played an amazing match.”
After a tight opener which was decided by a single break of serve, Watson, ranked 74th in the world, fought back to square the match but her hopes of winning a fourth WTA title were dashed due to unforced errors.
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