Rios finds his form to deny Schuettler

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The Independent Online

Marcelo Rios captured his second ATP tournament of the year after overcoming the in-form German Rainer Schuettler, 7-6, 6-2, to win the Salem Open in Hong Kong yesterday. The eighth-seeded Chilean claimed his first ATP title since lifting the Qatar Open trophy at Doha early in the year.

Schuettler's winning streak ended at nine matches, having won his second career title at the Heineken Open hardcourt tournament in China last week.

Rios, a former world No 1, has won an ATP event in each of the past seven years but been unable to regain the form which saw him lift seven trophies and reach the top spot in 1998.

The left-hander has struggled with injuries, though, and underwent groin surgery in 1999 that kept him out of action for more than three months.

The 25-year-old retired from his first-round match at the 2000 French Open due to a groin injury, which also sidelined him for the final five weeks last year. He also twisted his ankle three months ago.

With last week's tournament victory, Schuettler broke into the top 50 in ATP Champions Race and is likely to rise even further with his final appearance here.

He has also reached the quarter-finals at Sydney, Newport and Tashkent this year.

In Palermo, Spain's Felix Mantilla won his first ATP title of the season with a 7-6, 6-4 win over the 19-year-old Argentine David Nalbandian in the Sicily International yesterday.

Nalbandian, who eliminated the Spaniards Albert Costa, Fernando Vicente, Carlos Moya and Tommy Robredo en route to the final, put up a brave performance, but was unable to cope with the power of the experienced baseliner.

The 27-year-old Mantilla, who last won an ATP title in his home town of Barcelona in April 1999, had lost twice to Nalbandian this season at the Croatian and Chilean Opens.

It was Mantilla's second appearance in a final this year. In April he lost to his compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero at the Estoril Open in Portugal.

In Leipzig, the top seed, Kim Clijsters, retained her Leipzig Grand Prix title with an impressive 6-1, 6-1 win over Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva in yesterday's final.

Clijsters broke Maleeva in the opening game of the match, and stayed on top until she fired an ace on her first match point to seal victory in just 49 minutes.

The 18-year-old Belgian completely dominated a one-sided contest, overpowering her sixth-seeded opponent with her heavy groundstrokes and strong serve.

Maleeva lacked the consistency and precision that are usually her trademarks, looking helpless at times. Clijsters moved well and, unlike in her semi-final against the Russian Elena Dementieva in which she dropped the second set, she remained focused throughout.

When Maleeva managed her only break in the fifth game of the second set, Clijsters stayed calm and broke straight back.

"I played very well today," Clijsters, the French Open runner-up, said. "I didn't make a lot of mistakes and I felt really comfortable out there. She is a strong player, so I knew I had to play well, and that's what I did right to the end. I really wanted to stay ahead and not let her into the match."

Maleeva was full of praise for her opponent. "I think she played a perfect match. She was moving very well. I kept going for more, but she was too solid." Clijsters played with a tape around a sore right wrist but the injury did not seem to bother her.

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