Tireless Bosnian qualifier Basic clinches maiden title in Sofia


SOFIA — Bosnian qualifier Mirza Basic needed all his skill and determination to beat big-serving Romanian Marius Copil 7-6(7-6), 6-7(4-7), 6-4 in a nerve-wracking final of the Sofia Open and win his first tour title on Sunday.

Basic showed no signs of fatigue, playing his seventh match in Armeets Arena, and became only the second Bosnian to win a title after Damir Dzumhur's triumph in St Petersburg in September.

The 26-year-old, who outclassed top seed Stan Wawrinka and fourth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber on the way to the biggest victory of his career, wore down his opponent with a punishing ground-stroking game and strong service returns.

World No. 93 Copil, who fired 19 aces during his first final, also enjoyed an amazing run in Sofia, recording four straight sets wins. The Romanian will match his career-high ranking, climbing up to No. 74 on Monday.

Undaunted by his first final, Basic, ranked 129th in the world, was stronger on the key points and moved brilliantly around the court. He wrapped up the thrilling encounter in two hours and 21 minutes before collapsing to his knees in front of the roaring fans.

More familiar at the Challenger level of play, Basic — whose victory earned him nearly $110,000 and 250 points for the world ranking, topped his career-best effort of a semifinal finish in St Petersburg last year.

"It's a special day for me," Basic, who will climb up more than 50 places in the ranking to reach No. 76 on Monday. "I won a tournament and I moved up into the top 100. "I've always dreamed of a place in the top 100 and I managed to fulfill my dream today."

Slow & steady recovery road for Wawrinka

Wawrinka is not considering his possible clash with Roger Federer at the Rotterdam World Tennis event as a dramatic checkpoint as the Swiss continues his knee surgery recovery.

"Of course, playing Roger is something special," three-time Grand Slam winner Wawrinka said on Monday in the Dutch port city as the fifth seed prepared to face an unknown first-round opponent in Dutch wildcard Tallon Griekspoor.

Should Wawrinka and Federer reach the quarterfinals this week, a Federer win into the semis would send the 20-time Grand Slam champion to the top of the ATP rankings next Monday.

"Becoming No. 1 again would be special for Roger, like everything he's done in the past," Wawrinka said. "He's completely amazing. "It would be really special to see him back at No. 1."

But that goal is not of concern to Wawrinka: "The quarterfinals might be an important match, but it's more important for me to focus on my first round."

Wawrinka, who underwent July knee surgery and missed the last six months of 2017, is pleased with his recovery progress and plans to continue his European February tour as he plays three events in a row.

After winning a round at the Australian Open, he then returned to battle last week in Sofia, reaching the semifinals before losing to eventual champion, qualifier Basic.

Wawrinka is taking his recovery slow and steady. "A comeback takes time for sure, it was a big surgery, it takes months and months. So far I'm happy, I'm doing everything well, practicing, playing matches, practicing again.

"I'm not at my top level, I need time for that. But I'm happy to be here, I'm playing three weeks in a row for the first time in six months. I want to be ready for this event.

"You always want to be better and better, but there is no need to rush. The most important thing for me is the next few years, not the next few weeks. I don't compare my self with amazing players like Roger — it's most important for me to do the right thing for my career." — Agencies