Darcis bounces Soderling for second career ATP title
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Steve Darcis sank to his knees, pumped his left fist and let out a yell. What better way for the Belgian to express his disbelief and joy at winning his second ATP title in two finals.
He beat Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Sunday in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.
Darcis survived 17 unforced errors and became the first player to break Soderling's serve this week. The Belgian earned $163,750, the biggest check of his career, and was left almost speechless.
"At the moment, I don't know. I think I don't realize what I did today, so maybe if you ask me the same question tomorrow I could answer better," Darcis said when asked how this victory compared to winning in the Netherlands last year as a qualifier.
"It's just amazing the way I feel right now. It's really tough for me to explain."
Not bad for a guy whose goal for this year had been to crack the world's top 50 rankings. Mission already accomplished with the victory moving him from 81st to a career-best No. 45 with most of the 2008 schedule still to play.
Soderling, seeded eighth and playing in his second straight ATP final, was going for his third career title. He upset top-seeded Andy Roddick to reach the semifinals and fell instead to 2-5 for his career in finals -- all indoors. Soderling credited Darcis, in their first-ever match, with serving better than he expected.
"It was tough, just a bit of a shame that I played my worst match in the final two weeks in a row," said Soderling, who lost at Rotterdam last week.
"I think I played some really good tennis this week. I didn't play bad today either. I played a lot better in my other matches. Maybe he made me play bad as well. ... He played really well."
"For my part, I tried to serve today very good and tried to put a lot of rhythm in," Darcis said. "But he was serving pretty good in the second. In the tiebreaker, I tried not to miss. ... It was going the right way today."
Soderling, ranked No. 23 a little more than a year ago, will rise from No. 42 to No. 39 as he continues his return from left wrist injury that kept him out between August and January.
Need the scores from any match played in this or any other tournament? Results
He was trying to end Sweden's ATP title drought, which dates to Jonas Bjorkman's win in Vietnam in October 2005. By comparison, Belgians have won five titles over the past two years with Olivier Rochus winning Munich in 2006 and Xavier Malisse grabbing titles in Chennai and Delray Beach in 2007 to go with Darcis' own two victories.
That is why Darcis now must consult with his coach Reginald Williams about where to go from now. He was playing Futures matches only a year ago after being hampered by knee, ankle and wrist injuries that kept him out four months in 2006. His top goal for 2008 had been being ranked inside the Top 50.
"Now it's done," he said.
Coming into Memphis, Darcis had been struggling. He was 2-5 having reached the second round in Sydney before losing in the first round in Adelaide, the Australian Open and San Jose. His other victory came in Davis Cup play against the Czech Republic.
But Darcis beat Vincent Spadea, seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer, Benjamin Becker and Bjorkman to reach his second career final and first indoors. He improved to 7-5 by upsetting the No. 8 seed for the title.
Darcis broke Soderling in the fourth game and served out to win the first set in 27 minutes.
The second set went to the tiebreak, where Soderling led 4-2 when Darcis netted a forehand and tossed his racket to the ground. He recovered with an ace and watched Soderling go up 5-3 with a service winner. But Soderling hit a forehand wide and sent a forehand long for Darcis to tie it 5-5.
"I couldn't afford that because he wouldn't give me anything," Soderling said. "I had to do every point, so it was tough."
Darcis went up 6-5 in the tiebreak with a forehand pass after a long rally. Soderling then ended the match with a long forehand as Darcis dropped to his knees and started celebrating.
"It was like I could say, 'Ooof.' I don't know how to explain. It was a great moment," Darcis said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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