© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Radu Albot on Sunday lifts his first ATP Tour trophy in Delray Beach after defeating Daniel Evans in the final.

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Radu Albot

Moldovan lifts first title in Delray Beach

Radu Albot was on the verge of defeat on Sunday in his first ATP Tour final. But the Moldovan saved three championship points against Daniel Evans to triumph at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com.

At the beginning of the year, the 29-year-old aimed to break into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings, and on Monday he will climb to a career-high No. 52. Albot also made Moldovan history, becoming the first player from his country to lift an ATP Tour title. Albot spoke to ATPTour.com after the match to reflect on his maiden moment.

First-Time Winners In 2019

Age Tournament
Alex de Minaur 19  Sydney 
Tennys Sandgren 27  Auckland 
Juan Ignacio Londero 25  Cordoba 
Reilly Opelka 
New York
Laslo Djere 
Rio de Janeiro
Radu Albot
Delray Beach

How does it feel to be holding your first ATP Tour trophy?
It feels unbelievable. You work so much, you work your whole life, your whole career and at the end you win a tournament. This is just a great feeling. I think it’s difficult to put into words.

Was this a goal you had as a junior growing up, working your way up to when you started as a professional? Did you ever think you’d be here one day at 29 holding a trophy?
In my career I’ve had a lot of goals. My first goal was to break the Top 500 of the ATP Rankings, then it was 300, then 150, then the Top 100. Now I had the goal of breaking the Top 50, and I am close to it with this win. I'm closer to the goal than ever.

If you ask me if I was thinking of holding a trophy as a kid, not really. It’s a tough sport. Everybody is playing unbelievable tennis nowadays. You play a guy who is No. 200 and you can lose. You play a guy who is No. 400, you can lose. It’s just so physical and so mental here. I think it’s a surprise for me as well that I won, but I’ll take it. I played great tennis the whole week.

It was your first ATP Tour final against someone who had been in just one final before. Can you talk about that?
I was trying not to think much about it because the thoughts might be there too much in your head. You just try to focus on your game and your gameplan, what you’re doing good and your opponent is doing good so you can adjust. You just make it as simple as possible, like another match. You don’t want to be struggling thinking about how it’s a final. You don’t need to get tight.

You’re the first player from Moldova to win an ATP Tour title and you had the flag after the match. What does that mean?
This means a lot, being the first guy who has ever won an ATP Touyr title from Moldova. It’s a big thing. Nobody is playing professional tennis from my country at the moment. Nobody has an ATP Ranking point.

It’s a tough sport, it’s tough to break through. I say all the time the same thing, I hope that the kids will watch, the kids will get inspired, the kids will practise, get better, come out here and hopefully be better than me. I really hope there will be another player from Moldova who will get another title or go higher in the ATP Rankings than Radu Albot.

You came back from a set down in your last three matches. Talk about your fight all week.
I always try to fight until the last point. Even today, I was three match points down, but I was fighting. I was just being there on the court. Every time I lose a set, I just continue to play. It’s just half of a match. You don’t need to drop your game or let the other set get away from you. That’s what I was focusing on in the last three matches, and luckily it worked out pretty well.

What was it like in the third set when you had the break at the rain delay and then led 4-2, a chance for 5-2 and he broke you back?
This is the sport. This is tennis. It happens a lot. You’re winning, you’re leading and suddenly 10 minutes later you’re down and you’re defending everywhere in the court and saving match points. In the rain delay we did not talk much about tactics. I talked to my coach and we just kept doing what I was doing before, no new tactics. The first game it worked, it worked good later on but I just didn’t convert the second break to go 5-2 up and I think that would have been the key and it would’ve been an easier end to the match for me.

What did you learn during the week in putting together five wins at an ATP Tour event for the first time?
It’s a very good question. I honestly don’t know the answer. It’s difficult to win five matches in a row on the ATP Challenger Tour or in a Futures. To win five in a row at an ATP Tour event against great players, Top 100 players, Top 30 players, this is a different level. I was just 5-0 this week and we keep going.

You’re now just outside the Top 50 only two months into the season, and that was your goal before the year. Do you have any new goals?
It’s a little bit too quick to think about it. I just finished my match. Of course, even if you’re No. 1 in the world, you have different goals. You will not be like, ‘Okay, I’m done. I’m going to put my racquet into the bag and quit.’ Everybody has goals. I am close to No. 50, and for sure there will be different goals I want to achieve in the future.

How about bringing Magnus Tideman onto your team as a coach? How has he helped your game?
We met in December. We hadn’t talked to each other ever. We started to work at the Australian Open. This was the only tournament where I hadn't won a match at a Grand Slam, so this year I won my first Australian Open match.

It’s just a lot of belief, a lot of little things that maybe you don’t pay attention to, but it works. Of course I’ve been working hard even before Magnus. It’s not like something crazy happened, it’s just good timing and good vibes. The connection between Magnus and I has worked pretty well, and I love it.

Is there anyone who you’d like to acknowledge who has helped you get to where you are today?
I would like to say a lot of thanks, first of all, to my parents. Even in the middle of the night they are watching my matches, it doesn’t matter where I play. In Australia, in the United States, any state in the United States, they are watching all my matches. Even though I think they’re awake, I didn’t take my phone out yet to check. For sure, they called me and they texted me.

I’d like to say thanks a lot to the president of the Moldovan Tennis Federation… he helped me a little bit financially when I had trouble in my career. Hopefully he will keep helping me in the future. I also want to say thanks to my ex-coach, who helped me a lot, Leon Smith. He’s helping Gael Monfils now. I want to thank my girlfriend, who is a big, big, big part of the team. She’s not just like a girlfriend. Her name is Doina Chiorescu.

For people who are not familiar with Moldova, tell them what they should know about your country.
Moldova is situated between Romania and Ukraine in Europe. It’s a pretty small country with a population of four million people. The capital is Chisinau, this is where I live, and there is only a population of one million.

My country is very, very famous for cellars under the ground. There are hundreds of kilometres and you cannot walk there. You have to take a car and drive the car underground to see the wine cellars. This is the most famous thing we have in Moldova. A lot of tourists go there and a lot of wine experts. There are a lot of hard-working people and unfortunately they're not really paid well at home.

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