Cedric Pioline came from a match point down today to overhaul Greg Rusedski and win his first ever BlackRock Masters Tennis trophy. A packed Royal Albert Hall crowd watched enthralled as the Frenchman took three Tie-Break sets to overcome his dogged opponent in 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break) in one hour and 45 minutes.
In a match that saw Pioline and Rusedski hit a total of 22 aces, there was little to choose between the two men in the first set. In the end the decisive moment came when Pioline double-faulted in the Tie-Break to hand the set to his opponent. The second set was equally nail-biting as both men held serve with ease to take it to a second Tie-Break. This time though the momentum swung quickly the way of the Frenchman, as Rusedski double-faulted at 2-2 offering Pioline a mini-break and the chance to level up the match at one set all. It was a chance that he duly took and in the deciding Champions’ Tie-Break it was the Frenchman who played the more aggressive tennis when it mattered. Facing a match point at 8-9 down, the 39-year-old Pioline aced his way out of trouble and went on to take the following two points, clinching the match with a scorching forehand winner down the line.
“I took my chances and it worked,” said Pioline. “It was really close and it came down to a few points and I think at the end maybe I just returned a little bit better than him.”
Rusedski was disappointed not to convert his chances today, but admitted he had lost to the better player on the day.
“I was just one or two points short,” he said. “I had one match point in the second set tie break but Cedric played great and I think he’s a deserving champion.
For Pioline, today’s win was the perfect way to round off one of his favourite tournaments of the year. He reached the final by beating Pete Sampras for the first time in his career, a taste of revenge for his loss in the Wimbledon final some years ago.