Istomin Claims Maiden Title
Closing out your first ATP World Tour title is never an easy task. Denis Istomin learned that first hand on Sunday in Nottingham.
The 28-year-old Uzbek survived a furious comeback from Sam Querrey to claim his maiden crown 7-6(1), 7-6(6) at the Aegon Open Nottingham. Istomin is the fifth first-time champion on the ATP World Tour this year, joining Jiri Vesely (Auckland), Victor Estrella Burgos (Quito), Jack Sock (Houston) and Dominic Thiem (Geneva).
Neither player would secure a break of serve in the first set, which Istomin captured in a tie-break. With the title in his grasp, the World No. 92 surged to a 5-2 lead in the second set, but Querrey would not go down without a fight, breaking the Uzbek twice while serving for the match - at 5-2 and 5-4. The American saved a match point en route to forcing another tie-break. The encounter appeared to be destined for a third set as Querrey reeled off five of the first six points, but in a dramatic twist of fate it would be Istomin who claimed seven of the last eight to emerge with the trophy.
"I worked for it," said Istomin. "I'm not coming here to win two rounds. I always come to try to win the tournament. I passed this step and will try to do the next step in going up in the [Emirates ATP] Rankings.
"In the (second set) tie-break, I forgot about the score and I just tried to play and fight. In the end it worked... It would have been unprofessional from my side to lose from 5-2."
He converted on his third match point after one hour and 42 minutes, firing seven aces and saving four of six break points faced. He converted on two of four of his own.
Istomin, who walks away with €79,345 and 250 Emirates ATP Ranking points, is also the sixth titlist outside the Top 50 this year. Only Nicolas Mahut (No. 97) triumphed with a higher position in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He is the first player to save a match point en route to a title in 2015, having saved one against fourth seed Leonardo Mayer in Thursday's quarter-finals.
Querrey, meanwhile, fell to 7-7 in finals on the ATP World Tour. He was bidding to become the first American to triumph on grass since 2012, when Andy Roddick won the Eastbourne title (d. Seppi) and John Isner prevailed the following month in Newport (d. Hewitt).
"I was down and out of it, then I brought it back, then I was I up and he came back," said Querrey. "It was an emotional rollercoaster towards the end. He came up with some good shots. Generally I'm pretty happy to make the final but I'm sure when I wake up tomorrow I'll be a little happier.
"Any tournament that has crowds like this is fun for the players. It's flawless. The court is great, the crowd is great, the player lounge is pretty nice. Everyone involved in the tournament has been great. It's been a nice and easy week for the players."
Both players will next head to Wimbledon for the third Grand Slam of the year. Istomin will look to ride his momentum against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, while Querrey opens against qualifier Igor Sijsling.