GSTAAD (Switzerland): Wimbledon champion Roger Federer ran out of physical and emotional energy as he lost a marathon final to Czech Jiri Novak 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 at the Swiss Open yesterday.
Federer missed out on a 16th consecutive win and a sixth title this season as he fell to the persistent Novak in two hours, 48 minutes on the high-altitude clay.
Federer’s superb run this summer, which included grass court wins at Halle and Wimbledon, came to an end in front of his home supporters.
The 21-year-old said he will be looking forward to a few weeks off after his long and draining tennis adventure.
Novak earned his second straight title here after winning at his last participation in 2001.
“I’m the happiest man in the world right now,” said the Czech. “I’ve won two singles and two doubles titles here.”
Novak clinched the victory and his 10th win in a row at the venue after breaking a tiring Federer for 4-2 in the final set and then serving it out three games later from a Federer backhand error on the first of three match points.
“It was a tough match, Roger played well, but I was just a bit better and a bit luckier today. This place will always be special in my heart,” said the winner.
The men had faced off twice in previous finals, with Federer winning in Vienna 2002 and Dubai in February.
He had been bidding to become only the second Swiss champion in the post-1968 Open era at Gstaad after Heinz Gunthard in 1980.
“I’m disappointed not to have won, but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved recently,” said Federer. “I’ve lost two finals in Basel, but they went quickly – at least this one was five sets.”
Zabaleta won his second ATP title five years after his first at Bogota.
"But this one is bigger, this is different. I’m really happy,'' said Zabaleta, who hugged his coach in the stands, then ran a lap of honour, tossing his baseball cap, shirt and even his shoes to the crowd.
"To win here in Bastad feels so good ... this tournament is unbelievable, so good.''
Zabaleta had knocked out defending champion Carlos Moya in the semi-finals on Saturday, while Ecuador's Lapentti toppled second-seeded Tommy Robredo.
Zabaleta became the first Argentine to win the 56-year-old Swedish Open. – Agencies