Read & Watch: Cecchinato Wins In Umag
Given what Marco Cecchinato has accomplished over the past few months, it’s incredible to think that the Italian owned just four tour-level match wins prior to 2018.
Cecchinato continued his strong run on Sunday by defeating Argentine Guido Pella 6-2, 7-6(4) to triumph at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. It is the Italian's second tour-level victory, after earning his maiden title earlier this campaign in Budapest.
Cecchinato, who was outside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings as recently as March, will climb to a career-best No. 22 on Monday. That surge was helped by his win at the Gazprom Hungarian Open, a surprise trip to the Roland Garros semi-final (l. to Thiem) and his performance this week in Umag. Croatia's president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, presented the Italian with his trophy.
"I think it's the best moment of my life," Cecchinato said. "This year I've won two titles, I made the semi-finals at Roland Garros. I feel good, because tomorrow I'll be No. 22 in the ATP Rankings. I'm very happy, because I'm playing very, very well."
This string of success all started at the Gazprom Hungarian Open, where Cecchinato lost in the final round of qualifying and only got into the main draw as a lucky loser. But the 25-year-old has used his all-court game, including a one-handed backhand and plenty of variety, to take the ATP World Tour by storm. Cecchinato overcame a 2-4 deficit in the second set on Umag's red clay to clinch his 250 ATP Ranking points and €89,435.
"I'm working very hard because I think, especially my backhand and also the drop shot, is good for me," Cecchinato said. "Every time I played a good forehand, I won the point with a drop shot, so it's good for me."
The Italian has just 103 points to defend the rest of the season, leaving the door open for Cecchinato to continue his climb. He says that right now, his sights are set on the Top 20.
"I need to work every day and focus. I think this is the motivation for me," said Cecchinato, who will be just 60 points behind World No. 20 Kei Nishikori on Monday. "That's good for me."
Pella fell short in his third ATP World Tour final, also losing in the championship match at Rio de Janeiro two years ago and in Munich last season.
"It was a good week, but here I am. In tennis, if you don't win, it's tough to get good feelings even if you make it to the final," said Pella, who takes home 150 points and €47,105. "You always have the pressure to win, so this is not an exception. I don't feel happy at all."
Did You Know?
One year ago, Cecchinato arrived in Umag with two ATP World Tour match wins. This time, he leaves Croatia with 23.