(DENNIS B MALLARI)
Feliciano Lopez stole victory from the jaws of defeat on Friday to win 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 – and a place in Saturday’s final of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
The Spaniard broke the serve of world No5 Nicolay Davydenko when he was down 5-3 in the third set.
With the game tied at one set all, he kept his composure to take the next three games and win a tension-filled semi-final.
“As I said on the court, I think I was lucky because I was down 5-3 and Davydenko made a few mistakes in the ninth game,” said a delighted Lopez (pictured above). “Then I took my chances and from there I won the match.”
Ranked 41st in the world coming into the tournament, Lopez admitted to being surprised that he has made the final in Dubai for the second time. “When you see the draw before you come here you see eight of the best 10 players in the world and think ‘wow, what a draw’.
“But, once you win the first match, you progress and then anything can happen.
“It’s a great tournament. It’s not normal to beat three top 10 players in a week so I’m really happy,” he said.
Having beaten such an established field on the route to the final, the Spaniard hinted that he should hold a higher ranking himself.
He put this year’s inconsistent results down to his aggressive style, but said he is working with recently retired compatriot Albert Costa to put things right.
“It’s just the way I am,” explained Lopez. “My game is up and down, but maybe it’s because I’m a player who likes to attack and take risks – so that’s probably why I make more mistakes.
“I need to play more tournaments at this level.
“Me and Albert are working on that and we practice a lot on that part of my game. This is something I have to improve – and I know that – so I try my best to do that,” Lopez said.
Davydenko, once again missing out on a final appearance, put the loss down to making a number of mistakes at crucial times in the final set.
“At 5-3 I thought I’d win the match, but I made a few mistakes on my serve and he played pretty well from then,” said the Russian.
“It was pretty tough; it should’ve been my match but he was really positive after 5-4 to come back at 5-5 and played well.”
On why Lopez has failed to fulfil his early potential, the tournament’s fifth seed said he thought his reliance on a slice backhand prevented him from matching fellow Spaniards Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.
“Without a strong backhand you can’t be a top player,” he explained.
“Lopez has a good serve, a good volley and his forehand’s OK. But if you only slice on your backhand I don’t think you can become a top player.”
“He needs to play well in every part of his game to beat top players and win some big tournaments,” confirmed Davydenko, who will move up one place in the rankings after the tournament finishes on Saturday.
Lopez proves his worth