Czech mate as Tomas seals title

Power: Tomas Machac prepares to smoke a forehand return in the men's final.





THE men’s final of the Traralgon ATP Challenger on Sunday saw Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic defeat United States counterpart Bjorn Fratangelo.

Machac broke away after a tight first set went to tiebreak, eventually winning 7-6 6-3.

The 21-year-old secured victory in just under two hours in front of an appreciative crowd that was treated to high quality tennis by two players who came into the tournament as the fourth and fifth ranked seeds respectively.

Power was a feature of the match, as the ball pinged over the net at great speed, and this, coupled with precision placement, was a deciding factor in many points.

Fourth seed Machac ended the match with five aces, while fifth seed Fratangelo fared just as well, nabbing four.

Both players saved more than 60 per cent break points, although Machac’s ascendency in second serve points won – 50 to 38 per cent – proved to be decisive.

The Czech seemed extremely calm throughout the match, hardly showing any emotion, while there was a great deal of respect shown by Fratangelo, who politely signalled an applauding gesture to

his opponent at times following a well-executed shot.

Arguably the best return nailed by Machac came when he made ground in the first set to get to a drop shot from Fratangelo that looked a sure bet to be too far away for Machac to get to.

As the winning point was secured Machac quickly soaked up the applause of the crowd, before he and Fratangelo were standing solemnly for the presentation.

Latrobe City Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan was on hand for the presentation, and made mention of how tremendous it was to be able to bring world class tennis to the Latrobe Valley.

Tennis Australia officials also took the opportunity to congratulate the Traralgon Tennis Association on their organisation, while the association’s president Darryl Higginbotham paid tribute to the work of all volunteers, kitchen staff and ball kids (and even ball parents on occasions) who had made the event run smoothly.

Fratangelo was gracious in defeat, saying his opponent deserved victory.

“Great job to Tomas, it was a hell of a match, it felt like I was playing seven of you, you’re one of the fastest guys I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“It was a great week, organised fantastically. I love this place, it’s a great little town.”

Machac, who’s English was understandably limited, said a few words upon accepting the winner’s trophy.

“Congratulations on a great match (Fratangelo). I would like to thank everyone who made this tournament special for me,” he said.

IN the women’s ITF final, China’s Yue Yuan defeated Argentinian Paula Ormaechea 6-3 6-2.

The 23-year-old won all four of her break points during the final, and controlled most facets of the match. Speaking at the presentation, Yuan said the tournament was good preparation for the Australian Open qualifiers.

Ormaechea proved to be a fan favourite, with a number of enthusiastic shouts of “come on!” exclaimed throughout the match, and she

generously took the time to sign autographs for ball kids after the match.

As both finals wound down, the sense of how great the week had been was seen on the faces of the ball kids, who took one last opportunity to say goodbye to Spanish tournament director Carlos Cuadrado, who judging by how youngsters flocked to him wanting a photo, had clearly made the week a memorable one for them.