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Richard Gasquet (centre) of France receiving the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Trophy from H E Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah (left), the Chairman of the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority, at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex yesterday. Nasser Ghanim Al Khelaifi (second right), President of Qatar Tennis Federation, Andrew P Swiger (left), Senior Vice President of ExxonMobil Corporation, and Bart Cahir, ExxonMobil Qatar President and General Manager, were also present. Gasquet defeated Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the final. (Salim Matramkot)
DOHA: World No. 10 Richard Gasquet came back from a set down to defeat Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 to win the Qatar ExxonMobil Open final here yesterday.
Davydenko, who beat top seed David Ferrer in the semi-finals, broke Gasquet in the first game.
World number 44 Davydenko then saved three break points early in the second set and broke to lead 3-2 before the second seed found his rhythm.
He eventually levelled things up and then broke the Russian three times in the final set to seal victory.
Davydenko, who struggled with injuries last season, was forced to take an injury time out in the third set for treatment on a hip problem.
The tournament win in Doha was the eighth of Gasquet’s career and kept himself on the track of breaking into the top five.
The 26-year-old Switzerland-based Frenchman had said at the start fo the tournament that he has set two New Year targets.
The first one is to break into the top five of the ATP rankings and the other is to improve his performance at the four Grand Slams.
Yesterday’s gusty fightback raised hopes of a climb towards the top five during 2013.
“I’m really happy with the way I played and fought,” said Gasquet.
“He was playing fast in the first set. I just try to keep focused and to fight a lot, and I did it. I’m really happy with the way I won. It’s important for me to win the final,” he added.
The victory marks Gasquet’s third hard-court triumph.
He is the fourth Frenchman to win the title in Doha, joining Fabrice Santoro (2000), Nicolas Escude (2004) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2012).
Davydenko, the 2010 champion, looked to be in command, holding a 6-3, 4-2 lead and two break points.
But Gasquet managed to recover and Davydenko was then broken for the first time in the tournament. After levelling the match, the second-seeded Gasquet went on to break the Russian three times in the final set to prevail in two and a half hours.
“I think I was a little bit fresher than him in the third set, but he was playing so fast [that] he could break me in the second game in the third (set), so (anything) could happen,” Gasquet said.
“He could win, too. We were so close together, so it was a big match, a big fight.”
The 31-year-old Davydenko was bidding to win his first title since 2011, when he was victorious at the BMW Open in Munich.
He dropped to a 21-7 record in tour-level finals.
The former World No. 3 upset fourth seed Mikhail Youzhny and fifth-ranked David Ferrer en route to the title match.
“I tried to concentrate, but I did some mistakes and already it was tough,” said Davydenko. “The third set, again (I was) trying, but my legs (were) not moving good. He played very well. Physically, he (was) much better.”
“This is a big success for me, and it was very tough,” Gasquet of the two-and-a-half hour struggle.
“Nikolay was tired and I fought as much as I could. It was a good win against him because he plays so fast.
“It’s also incredible to win here where so many famous players have won in the past.”
Past fields included Rafael Nadal, who belatedly had to withdraw this year, and Roger Federer, both of whom Davydenko beat to win the title three years ago.
Federer has won the title three times in 2005, 06 and 11.
Andy Murray, Petr Korda and Stefan Edberg all have won the title twice in Qatar.
Gasquet, meanwhile, will take a break instead of competing in Sydney next week, preferring to rest a sore elbow in time for the Melbourne Grand Slam event.
The Frenchman earned $180,600 and 250 ATP Ranking points for his win. The runner-up collected $95,130 and 150 ATP Ranking points.