Martin Klizan pulled out another come-from-behind performance to win his fourth career title on Sunday with a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-1 win over Gael Monfils in the Rotterdam World Tennis final.
The swashbuckling world number 43 from Slovakia came into the final having saved eight match points in his previous clashes against Roberto Bautista Agut and Nicolas Mahut.
Klizan becomes the first Slovak to win the Dutch event, while fifth seeded French star Monfils now stands 5-18 in career finals.
“This is the best result of my career by far. I hope I can be an inspiration to young Slovak players,” said the champion.
“I still cannot believe this has happened, it was my dream to be on the board of tournament winners.
“Every day I was fighting, I had three-hour matches every time. I did all that I could, I saved so many match points, I just can’t believe it has happened.”
World number 18 Monfils, whose last title was two years ago in Montpellier, looked to be in a winning position as he claimed the opening set in a tiebreaker after an hour on court.
But after his multiple fightbacks this week, his inspired Slovak opponent was not to be denied at the final hurdle.
“There is always a chance to win matches even if you lose the first set,” Klizan said. “That was what I was doing, fighting to the last point
“I had a lot of forehand winners, I was serving well and moving well also.
“My backhand was working, there were a couple of tactics which paid off today and in other matches. I’m just looking forward now to playing my next tournament.”
Klizan secured a break for 5-3 in the second set and pulled level at a set apiece moments later.
The comeback gained momentum as Klizan broke the fading 29-year-old Frenchman to start the third set and ran out to a 5-0 lead.
While serving for victory, Klizan suffered a blip by dropping serve but that was remedied in the next game with a break-back to secure the win, his eighth of the season against four defeats.
Klizan was out-aced 12 to 7 by Monfils, who was forced to save 11 of a barrage of 16 break points. The champion was broken only once.
“Martin played a very good match,” Monfils said. “He just played a brilliant match, better than me, so well done to him.
“I had good matches, but still it’s tough to lose in the final.”