CORDNEONS, August 19, 2018 (by David Provan)
With the scene set for the final of the Acqua Dolomia Tennis Cup in glorious early evening mediterranean sunshine, prior to which national anthems were even played, a packed house of close to two thousand sat down to enjoy a thrilling affair between Paolo Lorenzi and Mate Valkusz.
The match started as a tense and nervy affair with both players failing to produce their best tennis. Valkusz, so impressive in his past three outings, looked tentative in his first ever final at ATP Challenger level, and the experienced Lorenzi equally found winners hard to come by.
With the first set poised at 4-3 on serve in the Italian’s favour Valkusz then produced a woeful service game and gifted the break to his opponent. The veteran Lorenzi needed no invitation to take full advantage and comfortably served out the first set 6-3.
Valkusz fights back
The start of the second set then got worse for the young Hungarian as he continued his dire service form and gave away the early break through a host of unforced errors. The match was in serious danger of slipping away altogether for Valkusz as Lorenzi took a 2-0 lead and created a promising situation for a potential commanding and perhaps unassailable 3-0 lead. However, Valkusz rallied and suddenly started to produce his best tennis when needed most. As the winners started to come with regularity, he gained the vital break back and looked transformed. Lorenzi was suddenly being pressured and as he attempted to maintain a lead on serve he was broken again, allowing his opponent to serve for the set.
The final, which had looked like it might be over quickly, had suddenly burst into life. Up stepped the Hungarian to serve out the set and, despite Lorenzi’s best efforts, he succeeded to leave the home support stunned into relative silence at the turnaround they had witnessed. Indeed, this was the first set Lorenzi had dropped all week.
Experience pays off for Lorenzi
However, Paolo Lorenzi is not a 20 time champion at Challenger level for nothing and he responded to the task at hand by digging in and holding serve before halting Valkusz’s momentum with the early break in the decider. At 3-0 the Italian looked in control but the twists and turns kept on coming. Service holds were now at a premium and a series of breaks ensued, with Valkusz producing an incredible lob, that would’ve graced any court at the highest level, to break for 3-4.
As the finish line approached it looked like a case of who could outlast the other and with the Hungarian serving to stay in the match he finally cracked under intense pressure and trademark consistency from the racquet of Lorenzi. It appeared latterly Valkusz may have been struggling physically, but Lorenzi was ultimately a worthy winner.
Afterwards the champion paid tribute to his opponent stating: “Congratulations on a great week, you played some great tennis, but I think you were a bit tired today.” Vakusz admitted the long week, including qualifiers, had taken its toll. “I’m very happy but I felt quite tired today.” Ultimately it may have indeed been one match too far for the youngster, who lit up the week and, who looks set to be a permanent fixture on the tour, if he can stay fit.