Tomas Berdych wins Halle final
Having lost last year's final to Federer, the 21-year-old Czech wins in straight sets, ruining Baghdatis' 22nd birthday.Updated: Jun 17, 2007 21:15 IST
Fourth seed Tomas Berdych was delighted to win the ATP Halle tournament on Sunday at the second attempt, but apologised to beaten finalist Marcos Baghdatis for ruining his birthday.
Having lost last year's Halle final to world number one Roger Federer, the 21-year-old Czech defended two break points at the end of the first set on his way to a 7-5, 6-4 straight sets win which ruined Baghdatis' 22nd birthday.
It was Berdych's third ATP title - his first since 2005 - and the Czech punched the air after victory gave him the 96,000 euros winner's cheque and left Baghdatis regretting his two wasted set points in the first set.
"I know it was a special day for Marcos, I know he was hoping he could win and I am sorry for beating him," said Berdych.
"We know each other well and we are good friends, I wished him well before the game, but it's tennis, so we can't let these things bother us on court."
After Federer withdrew from Halle on Monday, citing general fatigue and a groin strain, Berdych acknowledged the absence of the Swiss maestro - undefeated on grass after 48 consecutive wins - was a huge factor.
But although Federer went on to win Wimbledon after picking up each of his four Halle titles, Berdych refused to talk up his chances in London having never got further than the fourth round.
"It's a nice feeling to win here, but the biggest advantage is that Roger Federer wasn't here," said Berdych.
"I was given my chance and I took it, so I am very happy to have won.
"I knew I had a chance to win after I defended the two set points at the end of the first set and Marcos seemed to lose his concentration from there.
"Before Paris, I was talking about reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros, but I was beaten in the first round, so I don't want to jinx myself again at Wimbledon."
Baghdatis admitted he was hoping to have a double celebration on his birthday, but was pleased to have a Halle final under his belt before Wimbledon.
"That's life," said Baghdatis, "it's still my birthday and I'll still call my mother.
"Tomas played well, I couldn't read his serves and I struggled a bit at key points.
"I didn't take my chances and I lost the match in the first set when I was 5-4 up and didn't take the two set points I had.
"It affected my game in the second set and I was left kicking myself and dwelling on the mistakes I made."
Having been in great form all week, Wimbledon semi-finalist Baghdatis had little to celebrate on his birhday as Berdych totally dominated him in the second set and used his strong serve to smash five aces.
With Berdych serving for the match, crowd-favourite Baghdatis rallied, but the Czech never looked like letting his iron-grip slip.
But having lost last year's Wimbledon semi-final to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, Baghdatis said the week had helped him prepare for another assault on the All England tournament which starts on Monday June 25.
"I don't know if I am a favourite for Wimbledon, but I have a chance to win it, that's for sure," said Baghdatis.
"With every game I am getting stronger on grass and the experience of reaching the final here will definitely have helped."
Berdych, ranked 13th in the world, had a walk-over in Friday's quarter-final after Russian Mikhail Youzhny pulled out on Thursday with a back injury, and beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen in straight sets in Saturday's semi-final.
In contrast, Baghdatis, 18th on the ATP rankings, had a tougher run to the final, although neither seed encountered another top eight player before Sunday.
Twice Baghdatis had to beat both his opponent and the passionate Halle crowd when he took out German number three Florian Mayer in straight sets in Friday's quarter-final.
And then he repeated the feat against number two German, and local favourite, Philipp Kohlschreiber, in Saturday's semi-final.