Muller breaks through with first title

In a tournament at which he’s flourished over the years, Gilles Muller took an extra step in Sydney to win his first ever ATP title at the Apia International.

14 January 2017
By Matt Trollope

Thirteen years after reaching his first ATP final, Gilles Muller finally broke through for his maiden tournament victory.

The sixth seed defeated Dan Evans 7-6(5) 6-2 to win the 2017 Apia International for his first trophy from six finals.

The result continued his incredible record in Sydney – after reaching the semifinals the past two years, he went two better this year to hoist the Waterford Crystal trophy.

The lefty from Luxembourg, who was stretched to three sets in his first two matches, improved as the tournament went on to win his last three in straight.

“It means a lot. I was waiting a long time. Played my first final in 2004 (in Washington DC). We are 2017 now, and I waited 13 years to win my first title. I’m just very happy,” Muller said.

“I couldn’t have imagined, when I arrived here, to be in the final. And then to win it now is just, yeah, it’s crazy.”

Watched on by his young family, Muller got off to the perfect start with a confident hold to open the match. Evans, by contrast, began nervously with two doubles faults in his first service game.

Games nonetheless went on serve throughout the opening set, although there were several moments in which players came close to snaring a valuable break.

In the fifth game, Evans led 0-30 only for Muller to play a fabulous running passing shot off an Evans volley to level at 30-30. Muller went on to hold.

Evans later missed a backhand volley and off-forehand and found himself down a set point in the 10th game, but escaped to hold for 5-5.

The set progressed to a tiebreak, which Evans led 4-2 after several Muller errors. But the 33-year-old levelled at 4-4 when his volley clipped the tape and died on Evans’ side of the court. The Brit was not impressed.

Muller closed the set with a flourish, stabbing a backhand return winner down the line for set point – drawing a “too good” from Evans – and then playing an overhead winner to take it.

Muller broke serve in third game of the second set with a forehand winner, and gained in momentum and confidence.

Evans mistreated his racquet – and was slapped with a warning – as the set slipped away.

The Brit played an ill-advised drop shot which missed the mark and handed Muller a break for a 5-2 lead, and the Luxembourgian moved ahead 40-0 when serving for the title.

Two match points came and went, but a wickedly swinging serve saw him seal victory on the third.

“I think the most important thing was to stay calm,” Muller said, “(and) not to let the frustration come up too much and just focus on what I had to do. I think I did pretty good.”

Added Evans: “I don’t think I lost it. I think he won it, to be honest.

“He served too good. Obviously the first-set tiebreak was a big one. It would have sort of been tough for him to regain focus and go again if I’d won the first set, but I didn’t. He was good front runner.

“It’s just sport, isn’t it? I said yesterday he’s got a great serve. He showed it today.”

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