(Reuters) - Radu Albot saved three championship points to beat Dan Evans 3-6 6-3 7-6(7) in the Delray Beach Open final in Florida on Sunday and become the first player from Moldova to win an ATP title.
In a high-quality match that stretched for nearly three hours, Albot displayed nerves of steel in the dramatic final tiebreak, staving off defeat with a series of clutch shots.
British qualifier Evans missed his match-point opportunities by the barest of margins and then, with Albot on his first match point, double-faulted to hand the Moldovan the title.
The crowd was quiet for a few second before the ball was confirmed wide and Albot started to celebrate.
“It feels unbelievable,” said 29-year-old Albot. “You work your whole life, your whole career, and at the end you win a tournament.
“It was not in the plan losing the first set and then coming back but it worked out pretty good.
“If you want to win the match you need to win two sets. I still had chances, I got chances and I used them.”
ATP records show Albot is only the second player from Moldova to crack the top 200 in the rankings. The first was Roman Borvanov, who reached a career-high No. 200 and supported Albot in the crowd all week.
Albot, currently ranked 82nd, is projected to rise to around 50th when the rankings are updated on Monday.
Evans had been seeking his first career title, 10 months after returning from a year-long cocaine suspension.
“It’s easy to say I didn’t take the match points but I thought he played great in the moments he needed to play great,” he said.
“I gave it a good go and it wasn’t good enough.
“It’s a little unlucky to lose 7-6 in the third with big chances, obviously three match points, but I don’t think I did much wrong. I missed two forehands, but not by a lot.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom/Peter Rutherford