It was not sweet but for the frustrated David Nalbandian it was mercifully short, and at least the sun finally smiled on the Rome Masters after a week of rain delays.
Carlos Moya's triumph in the final, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, after one hour and 43 minutes, was so comprehensive that Nalbandian's errors - netted drop-shots and half-volleys, drives long or wide - became embarrassing and eventually prompted derisive whistles from spectators not noted for their sympathy.
At 4-0, 15-15 in the third set, Moya put his racket behind his back and improvised a winning shot between his legs. "He could have hit that shot with his hand or with anything," Nalbandian said. "Whatever he hit the ball with it was going to be in. He had all the lights on today."
Moya has rarely looked so confident since winning the French Open in 1998, and with injuries, illness or a lack of match practice affecting so many leading players, the former world No 1 from Majorca will go to Paris as one of the favourites.
"I've played solid all week," Moya said, "The only match I had trouble with was [in the third round] against [Ivo] Karlovic, because he doesn't give you any rhythm. The conditions were not easy. I was coming here a few days at nine o'clock in the morning and leaving at 11 o'clock at night. But I was very focused and everything was perfect."
Nalbandian has reason to believe he has the talent and ambition to be the world No 1 himself one day, but so far he has met with disappointment at the conclusion of important tournaments. His straight sets defeat by Lleyton Hewitt in the 2002 Wimbledon final was a memorable example, and the energy-draining scheduling caught up with him in the semi-finals at the US Open last year, when he lost to Andy Roddick, the eventual champion, after leading the American by two sets to love.
Yesterday, Nalbandian admitted that he was tired after playing well in difficult conditions en route to the final, and that Moya's expertise and confidence was too much for him to deal with.
"He played really good, and I couldn't do my best," the Argentinian said. "In the big moments he served very well and hit a forehand winner. He played unbelievable points. He played very near to the baseline, so it was not easy for me to come to the net."
Nalbandian's game began to unravel after he tried to be too clever and netted a backhand drop-shot for 1-2, 0-40, in the opening set. He then missed a backhand volley on break point, and Moya went on to complete a run of 10 points in a row.
After breaking in the opening game of the second set, Moya's concentration did not waver. Broken again for 1-4, Nalbandian salvaged some pride by recovering a break in the next game, only to lose his serve at 3-5. Moya pounded the clay without fear of reprisal in the third set, Nalbandian compounding his discomfort by double-faulting to 0-4.
Moya dedicated his victory to his compatriots, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Vicente, who are recovering from injuries.
Another of Moya's countrymen, Juan Carlos Ferrero, the French Open champion, who has recently recovered from chicken pox, yesterday pulled out of this week's Hamburg Masters after damaging a rib in a fall in practice.
This is likely to result in Lleyton Hewitt's promotion to a seeding, in which case he will not play Britain's Tim Henman, the fifth seed, in the first round. Henman has lost all seven of his matches against Hewitt.
Ferrero is one of 13 players to have withdrawn from the Hamburg event in what is proving to be a sorry season for the injury-hit sport.Reuse content