BEIJING (Reuters) - Second seed Novak Djokovic was rejuvenated by a rain break and came back on court to beat Croatian Marin Cilic 6-2 7-6 and win his third title of the season at the China Open on Sunday.
French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova managed to avoid the rain and dealt swiftly with the challenge of Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-4 to claim a second China Open title in the first year of its elevated status as one of the WTA’s “crown jewel” events.
Djokovic, who will move up to number three in the world later this month, kept his 100 percent career record against world number 15 Cilic intact in a contest long on rallies but short on quality.
“Even though it was a straight sets win, it could easily have gone the other way,” said the 22-year-old Serbian, who will take home $500,000.
“I think I was a little bit saved by the rain delay. I got my nerves together and managed to play well.”
Djokovic imitated Rafa Nadal by biting the trophy he was awarded but that was the only resemblance between the two players in their matches against Cilic, who demolished the Spanish world number two in the semi-finals.
Cilic had been inspired in his victory over Nadal and looked the more dangerous of the finalists on Sunday before the rain break but struggled to pick up the pace after the 90-minute interruption.
Eighth seeded wildcard Cilic, who had never lost a tour final, rallied immediately after losing the first set by breaking Djokovic with his whipped returns to open the second.
That turned out to be only the first of six breaks in a topsy turvy set punctuated by long rallies, with Cilic serving twice in an attempt to level the match before Djokovic claimed the last break to bring up a tiebreak.
U.S. Open semi-finalist Djokovic always looked the most likely winner and secured his third victory in eight finals this year when Cilic made the last of his 25 unforced errors by going wide with a forehand.
“Today I failed, I’m a little bit disappointed but after I’ve slept on it, I think I’ll feel better,” said 21-year-old Cilic, who has won two titles in his breakthrough year.
“I started pretty good but when I came back out, the conditions were a little bit different, it was a bit cooler and I missed my shots.”
From the moment she broke Radwanska’s first service game to moment the 20-year-old Pole netted a return to give her victory 79 minutes later, Kuznetsova was in almost complete control of the women’s final.
Radwanska had never tasted defeat in three previous tour finals, while Kuznetsova had lost two at the China Open alone, but on Sunday the Russian was a class above the world number 11.
“I like the tournament very much, especially that the prize money is higher than the men’s, I think we deserve it,” said the 24-year-old Kuznetsova, who will pocket a cheque for $775,500.
It was only the 2006 China Open champion’s own errors that prevented the contest being completed even more quickly on a chilly evening at the Olympic tennis centre.
“Svetlana is a great player ... she was just too good tonight,” said Radwanska.
“She had nothing to lose, she’s already in Doha so she was very comfortable tonight,” added the Pole, who will play two more events this year in the hope of securing the final available spot in the women’s year-ending championships in Qatar.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org