Qualifier Gonzalez wins first ATP title

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The Independent Online

Qualifier Fernando Gonzalez won his first ATP Tour title on Sunday, beating fellow Chilean Nicolas Massu 6-2, 6-3 in the championship match of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships.

Gonzalez, 19, needed just 78 minutes to beat the sixth-seeded Massu in a matchup of players who live in the same apartment building in Santiago.

From 2-2 in the first set, Gonzalez broke Massu three times in running off six consecutive games to move to a 6-2, 2-0 lead.

Ripping winners from both sides, particularly the forehand, Gonzalez consistently put pressure on Massu's serve while holding his own with ease. Gonzalez, the 1998 French Open junior champion, did not face a break point on his own serve in the entire match.

Gonzalez's service break to open the second set epitomized the match. With Massu, 20, trying to make a stand, Gonzalez hit six outright winners, including two blistering forehand returns of first serves clocked at well over 120 mph.

Gonzalez finally clinched the game on his fifth break point with a forehand winner down the line and the match was essentially over, as Massu never seriously threatened Gonzalez for the rest of the afternoon.

After securing the victory - and the dlrs 46,000 first prize - with a lunging cross-court forehand return of serve on match point, Gonzalez said improved concentration was the key factor in his breakthrough week.

"Maybe I've played better before this, but only for one day," Gonzalez said. "Then the next day I could lose to anyone. This week I played eight matches and I played very well. The difference was in my mind. I enjoyed every match."

Gonzalez, who came into the tournament ranked 357th, barely made his way into the tournament, entering as the very last player allowed into the pre-tournament qualifying event.

In his second qualifying match, Gonzalez had to survive four match points against Giorgio Galimberti of Italy before moving on 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (8-6).

The Gonzalez-Massu final was the first men's major tour final between two Chileans since Jaime Fillol defeated Ricardo Acuna in Brazil in November 1982.

Massu had won the only previous match between the two, three weeks ago at a Challenge series tournament in Mexico.