Houston:Unseeded Ivo Karlovic captured his first ATP title when he beat qualifier Mariano Zabaleta 6-4, 6-1 in the US Men's Clay Court Championships final on Sunday.
The 2.09-meter (6-foot-10) Croat closed his second match point on a 140-mph (225-kph) ace. He arched his back and clenched his fists before going over to shake hands with his coach, who was courtside.
Karlovic broke Zabaleta in the second game of the final set and again three games later to go up 5-1. His fastest serve of the day was 149 mph (240 kph). He had 10 aces in the match and finished the week with 53.
"I am really excited because it's my first title and it's on clay, which is unbelievable," Karlovic said. "I'm really happy with the way I was playing all week."
Zabaleta fails to capitalize
Argentina's Zabaleta failed to capitalize on four break-point chances in the first set and one in the second.
"I had many chances in the beginning of the match and maybe if I had broken I think maybe it would be different," he said. "He's too strong."
Karlovic beat sixth-seeded Benjamin Becker and No. 2 Tommy Haas, both of Germany, to reach the final.
The Croat earned $65,850 for his first tour title since beginning his professional career in 2000.
It was his third final. He was runner-up to Andy Murray of Scotland in San Jose, California this year, and in 2005 to American Andy Roddick at Queen's Club in London.
"It is an unbelievable feeling," Karlovic said. "In the beginning I was a little bit nervous. I was telling myself, 'If it's meant to be, I'm going to win. If not, it was my third final.' I really wanted to win."
Zabaleta had a tough time returning the Croat's serve. Zabaleta won only nine points on Karlovic's 41 successful first serves.
Zabaleta is coming back from surgery on his left knee, which kept him out of competition for five months last year. He was playing in his fourth final.
Zabaleta's run to the final included three wins over seeded players. The Argentine beat defending champion and fourth-seeded Mardy Fish of the US in the second round, Jurgen Melzer of Austria, last year's runner-up and No 5 seed, in the quarterfinals, and James Blake, the No 2 seed and No 9 in the world, in the semifinals.