Jiri Novak captured his first AIG Japan Open and sixth ATP title with a come-from-behind three-set victory over American Taylor Dent at the Ariake Colosseum on Sunday. The Czech’s 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 win earned him $118,000 and an inscription on the Japan Open silverware.
The fifth seed, who had beaten Paradorn Srichaphan and Lleyton Hewitt in the previous rounds, was naturally elated with his triumph.
“I have played really well in this tournament, beating some good players along the way and I feel great right now,” Novak explained.
Both players started the match hesitantly, trying to shake off final nerves and dropping serve twice each early in the first set. Dent managed to get his nose in front but successive double faults while leading 4-2 allowed Novak back into the match.
Dent went on to take the first set albeit in unusual circumstances. With Novak serving at 5-6 and facing a set point, a fan inexplicably screamed out support just as Novak was about to unleash his first serve. Clearly flustered by the incident, Novak then delivered his first double fault handing Dent the first set on a platter.
Fortunately for him, Novak managed to erase the setback from his memory and proceeded to take Dent’s serve apart in the second set, breaking him in the first, fifth and seventh games to close out the set 6-1.
Dismayed at the ease with which his opponent was breaking his serve, Dent began to lose his cool and duly dropped his serve early in the third set. Novak was able to hold his serve and closed out the match when Dent dumped a backhand into the net.
“We both started out nervously,” Novak said. “But I was able to relax as the match went on and picked up some confidence in the second and third sets.”
Novak’s luck ran out in the men’s doubles final, however, when a pulled stomach muscle forced him and his partner Petr Pala to retire while trailing 5-1 in the first set to Jared Palmer and Pavel Vizner.
In the women’s doubles final, Shinobu Asagoe gave the home fans something to cheer about as she partnered Katarina Srebotnik to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Jennifer Hopkins and Mashona Washington.