The third time proved to be a charm for Lukas Rosol on Saturday at the Winston-Salem Open.
After reaching two previous finals this year, the 29-year-old from the Czech Republic got his first title of the year with a dramatic 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory over Jerzy Janowicz in the championship match on Center Court.
Rosol fought off two championship points serving at 4-5 in the third set, then came back to break Janowicz in the next game and held serve from there for the second ATP World Tour title of his career.
He had lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the finals in Bucharest in April, then lost a tough three-setter to Roberto Bautista Agut in Stuttgart in July, and that served as his motivation on a scorching hot day with temperatures as high as 120 degrees on the court.
“In Bucharest I lost to Dimitrov and he was playing very strong tennis, so that match, OK, good final for me,” Rosol said. “Next match when I play Stuttgart there was a car for first place, and I really like cars, and it was really nice motivation, and I lost three sets. So I said it’s not going to happen three times in a row. I just really wanted a title this year.”
Rosol came into the WSO ranked a career-best No. 33, and with this win he is projected to move up to No. 27 when the new ATP World Tour rankings come out on Monday.
He joins John Isner (2011 and 2012) and Jurgen Melzer (2013) as a WSO champion.
“I’m tired,” he said. “My body is destroyed right now, but I’m pretty happy with the result. Jerzy’s a great player, he was Top 20 already so he has a big game, big shots. I was just focused on my games when I was serving, because when he served I really had no chance. That’s the way I felt. The thing was to just wait patiently until the end of the match and see if he gave me a chance. I didn’t start out good, but I finished strong.”
Janowicz, a 23-year-old from Poland who came to the WSO ranked No. 52 after being as high as No. 14 late last year, seemed well on his way to his first career ATP title after taking the first set.
Janowicz couldn’t convert on two break opportunities in the first game of the second set, and then in the 10th game he let three break points slip away, as Rosol fought back from love-40. That may have been the turning point of the match, because with new life Rosol dominated the tiebreak.
“Second set, I was really down,” Rosol said. “If he break me, it’s going to be 6-3, 6-2 maybe because I was really struggling with the hold. I was under pressure, he was playing pretty strong. But then I think maybe he was a little physically down. It helps me if I see his body language. It gives me power, and then I was stronger.
“Third set, I found the power.”
He saved championship points twice while serving at 4-5 in the third, in a game that wound up going 14 points. The key, he said, was just to keep fighting.
“I just said, you need to play solid,” Rosol said. “If he makes a shot, he’s the champion. If he miss, then too much worry about what’s going to happen. In that moment, I just wanted to play solid. He didn’t make it and then maybe he was thinking about it in the next game.”
Janowicz was two for two on break points in the first set, then zero for eight in the final two.
“It happens,” he said. “He served well. I didn’t do anything stupid. He just played well there.”
For Rosol, it was the end to a charmed week. After getting a first-round bye as the No. 7 seed, he won his second-round match against Ryan Harrison when Harrison was forced to retire with a shoulder injury, up a set. Rosol then beat Pablo Andujar in the third round, and received a walkover in the quarterfinals when Isner was forced to withdraw because of an ankle injury.
Rosol then beat Yen-Hsun Lu in the semifinals on Friday afternoon, before Janowicz went three tough sets to rally past Sam Querrey in the semis on Friday night.
“I think the biggest thing was the difference between my six matches and his three matches,” Janowicz said. “He played only three matches, so there’s a huge difference there. It happens. Lukas was quite lucky. He got two walkovers. So it happens.”
Rosol was hardly apologetic.
“Of course it helps a player to have less matches,” he said. “Like the seeded players, you save the power. Jerzy had some pretty tough matches, three-set matches, and maybe I had a little advantage against him because he played the late match yesterday and I finished a little bit earlier.”
Janowicz, the 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist whose only previous final came at the Paris Masters in 2012, now sets his sights on the US Open.
“It’s not my first and I hope not my last final,” he said. “I thought I played good tennis. I was a bit unlucky here. I look forward to next week. I am playing well.”