Lapentti beats Hewitt to take title

Sixth-seeded Nicolas Lapentti beat Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in straights sets today, in the final of the Lyon Grand Prix in France, taking a big step towards the season-ending World Championships.

Sixth-seeded Nicolas Lapentti beat Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in straights sets today, in the final of the Lyon Grand Prix in France, taking a big step towards the season-ending World Championships.

Currently ninth in the Road to Hannover standings, Lapentti's 6-3, 6-2 victory over the 27th-ranked Australian solidified his chances of moving in on a match on carpet and had only two career indoor wins before arriving in Lyon, had to struggle to reach the final, coming back from a set down in each of his four previous matches, and saving two match points.

"No one expected me to do anything indoors," said Lapentti, ranked a career-high 14th, up from 69 at this time last year. "I was so close to losing twice this week.

"But I think being match point down and winning is not just a question of confidence but also of fight and luck," he said. "But I don't know if I'd call it a miracle."

Going into the contest, the two players seemed evenly matched, both having won two career titles - including one each this year - and both seeking their first career indoor title.

What Hewitt lacked in ranking, he made up for with freshness.

Dropping just one set on way to the final, Hewitt's journey was much smoother than the South American's.

However, it was Lapentti who got off to an unexpectedly strong start, breaking Hewitt's opening serve to take a 3-0 lead.

His confidence building as the Australian's sputtered, Lapentti surrendered just two more points on his own serve, easily holding to take the set.

The South American began the second set in the same fashion, breaking Hewitt's serve twice in a row to take a 3-0 lead.

Hewitt managed to regain one of his serves, narrowing the gap to 3-1 but a forceful Lapentti immediately broke back, scoring four consecutive points to pad his lead.

"I got off to a bad start and lost my serve in the second game which didn't really help," said Hewitt, whose performance in the French City strengthened his chances of replacing injured compatriot Patrick Rafter in Australia's Davis Cup final against France in Nice this December. "I think I came out there and tried to be too aggressive from the start.

"Just reaching the final was a bit of a surprise," concluded Hewitt, who had never played indoors as a child in Australia. "But to be honest, I don't think playing indoors is very different from outdoors, it's probably just that it happens at the end of the year."

Lapentti's triumph shared uncanny similarities with last year's champion, clay court specialist Alex Corretja.

Just like Lapentti, the Spaniard had won in Indianapolis a couple of months before coming to Lyon, and like the South American, Corretja had never won two consecutive matches indoors before capturing his title here.

Encouragingly for Lapentti, with the win, Corretja had secured his berth in Hannover before going on to win the coveted title.

"First of all I want to get to the Masters, and I think I have a good chance," said Lapentti. "But if I do make it I'll keep it in mind."

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