TOKYO, Japan: Top seed Juan Martin del Potro survived some fierce body blows from Milos Raonic in Sunday’s Japan Open final, winning a heavyweight clash 7-6, 7-5 to capture his third title of the year.
Third seed Raonic, also runner-up last year, had proved an irresistible force at the $1.43 million Tokyo event, not dropping a single set and firing a tournament-high 64 aces before running into an immovable object in the shape of del Potro.
Another 17 had failed to get the job done against the giant Argentinian.
Del Potro, beaten in the 2008 final by Tomas Berdych, clinched victory with a whipped forehand pass and celebrated with an ear-splitting roar of delight after a hard-hitting contest lasting an hour and 46 minutes.
Both players began sharply and the first set, played in bright sunshine with the roof open after a wet week in Tokyo, inevitably went to a tiebreak, del Potro taking it 7-5 with a huge ace that Canadian Raonic never got a whiff of.
World number seven Del Potro, given a wildcard to play his first tournament since a shock second-round exit at last month’s US Open, secured the crucial break in the 11th game of the second set with a clinical backhand volley.
He double-faulted on his first match point in the next game but made no mistake with his second, reacting superbly to a Raonic volley to blaze a forehand cross-court and seal his 16th career title.
Del Potro, US Open champion in 2009, earned $312,000 and moved up from sixth to fifth in the Race to London standings for the season-ending World Tour Finals.
Raonic, who won his fifth career title in Bangkok last weekend, climbed from 11th to 10th in the race to play at the prestigious eight-man event from November 4 to 11.