Cedric Pioline Wins Monte Carlo Crown
Cedric Pioline stormed to the biggest title win of his long career Sunday with a hard-fought victory against Dominik Hrbaty in the final of the $2.95 million Masters Series Monte Carlo tournament, winning the Monte Carlo crown.
The 30-year-old delighted spectators with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 victory against Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, making him the first French player to win a title on Monaco clay since Pierre Darmon back in 1963.
Victory in the tournament, third leg of the Masters Series this season, was also Pioline's most prestigious. The Frenchman, winner of four tournaments previously, was contesting his 17th final, a tally that includes Wimbledon and the US Open.
Experience clearly made the difference against 22-year-old Hrbaty, who had only three finals under his belt. Pioline possessed the more varied game and greater consistency in a match lasting two hours 41 minutes.
The win also made amends for Pioline's two previous appearances in the Monte Carlo final, where he bowed to the two best clay-court exponents of the day -- Sergi Bruguera in 1993 and fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya in 1998.
Pioline, a French Open semifinalist last year double-faulted twice to allow Hrbaty to break back to 4-4 in the first set. But the Frenchman took his opponent's serve back straightaway and went on to claim the set.
The Parisian served for the second set after breaking Hrbaty in the ninth game, but the Slovak broke back and earned the reprieve of a tiebreak. Pioline cruised through it 7-3.
The third set was by far the most even. Hrbaty broke Pioline to lead 4-2 but cracked four games later to let the Frenchman back at 5-5.
In the decisive tiebreak, Hrbaty led 4-2, but Pioline earned a first match point on a double fault from his nervous opponent and won 8-6 on the second after a long rally.
“It was very tough today. Dominik played unbelievable tennis and I don't know how I managed to catch any balls,” Pioline said.
“It's a great feeling to win here. I don't even remember how the match went, I just played point after point.”
After 13 years on the circuit, Pioline looks like he has come of age at last. “I'm 30, but I run like a 20-year-old. I'm happy to play. That's what keeps me going” - (Agencies)
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