Ljubicic nets SAA Open title

Meshack Motloung

The final of the South African Airways Open at Selborne Park Tennis Stadium in East London yesterday was a thrilling encounter in which Ivan Ljubicic and Stefan Koubek gave their all but in the end there was only one winner.

Top seed Ljubicic eventually prevailed 7-6(6-2) 6-4 in front of a good crowd.

But Austria's Koubek went toe to toe with Ljubicic for large parts, though the eventual scoreline did flatter the top seed .

Ljubicic had to use all his tactical acumen to win, with the fans lapping up every moment of a pulsating final.

The stadium was filled to capacity and there was little room to move during this encounter that resembled a soccer derby.

Both players went at each other hammer and tongs in the opening minutes in the excruciating heat and they enthralled the appreciative crowd with their racquet skills.

It seemed like anybody's game as the ball moved from one end of the court to the other with fans that were on the edge of their sets shouting till they were hoarse.

Ljubicic won the first set 7-6, clinching the tie-break 6-2 after struggling against the Austrian.

Although he was defeated Koubek was not disappointed because he was always a danger catching his opponent with some deft volleys from time to time.

But he also too many unforced errors and that cost him the set. The second set saw Ljubicic cruising to a 6-4 victory but he admitted after the game that it was not an easy ride.

"Koubek was a tough proposition and if you give him an opportunity to play he is going to hurt you," said Ljubicic.

"He's a very difficult player to beat but I was happy with a win. I was under severe pressure but my win was fantastic against Koubek."

Ljubicic added that his last tournament was in Amsterdam and that he will be going to Rotterdam for another tournament.

Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela was the guest of honour at the final that was also attended by SAA chief executive Khaya Ngqula.

Other results: Jonas Bjorman/Kevin Ullyett beat Thomas Johansson/Stefan Koubek 6-2 6-2 in the doubles final.