Tennis: Costa wins title by default

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The Independent Online
ALBERT COSTA, of Spain, celebrated his return to the world's top 20 yesterday by winning the seventh title of his career in Hamburg, although his opponent, Alex Corretja, retired ill in the third set.

Costa only had to complete three matches to win a German Open from which three leading players retired in the later stages. The unseeded Costa therefore gained a curious kind of record as well as the biggest title of his career when his compatriot retired, seemingly suffering the from the effects of a virus, with the score at 6-2, 6-0, 1-0.

It was the first time in a leading ATP Tour event that a player had won without having to complete either of his last two matches. In Saturday's semi-final Costa had to play for only 14 minutes before the Czech Karol Kucera retired with a blister on his foot. And to think that Costa had twice been match point down in his first-round match against Andrei Medvedev, the holder.

Corretja finished his 2hr 11min semi-final with Felix Mantilla by saying. "I do not know how I won - this is the most tired I have ever felt on a tennis court."

It became clear almost from the start of the final that the fourth seed had lost his chance while winning the previous day. From the moment Corretja dropped his serve to go 2-4 down he was never in it. His drives lacked weight, his movement was sluggish, and from the last game of the first set through to the middle of the second he lost 15 points out of 16. Had it not been a final he might have quit earlier. The end came after 66 minutes when his trainer ran over to look at the wilting Spaniard.

After a short consultation Corretja shook his head and walked over to Costa and embraced him. "I knew before the match that Alex was sick, and I could also see it from his face." said Costa.

"He is my friend and I feel a bit sorry for him. But I had been playing well this week and I still feel like a winner."

Corretja's illness casts doubt on his ability to defend his Italian Open title in Rome next week, where he has been seeded to meet Pete Sampras in the third round.