VIENNA - Juan Martin del Potro spoiled the day for Slovenian tennis but kept his own hopes of qualifying for the ATP year-end finals alive with 7-5, 6-3 defeat of qualifier Grega Zemlja on Sunday to win the Austrian Open.
The Argentinian, who had missed a month of play after Davis Cup due to a right wrist injury, prevented Zamlja from becoming the first Slovenian to win an ATP title.
Del Potro stands provisional seventh in the points race for one of three remaining positions in the ATP World Tour Finals starting on November 5 in London. He will continue his quest next week in Basle as second seed behind Roger Federer at the Swiss Indoors.
"I'm looking to keep improving, keep playing at this level and hopefully qualify for London," said the Argentine who stormed back into the game this week in the Austrian capital.
"Things are looking better for me, I have my chances. But there are two big events next week (500 tournaments Basel and Valencia) coming up.
"Everyone has a chance to improve his point totals."
The South American claimed his title in Vienna on his third try after losing the 2011 final. He was forced to quit before his first match during his debut in 2008 and now stands 8-1 in the Austrian capital.
Del Potro, the top seed, spent more than an hour winning the first set against the number 70 playing in the first final of his career and finished the job on his first match point after one hour 41 minutes.
Del Potro added Vienna to trophies claimed this season in Marseille and Estoril.
He now owns 12 titles from 17 finals.
"He played an unbelievable match and I really had to play well to beat him, I served well and managed, it feels good right now," the winner said of his European challenger. "It feels good to finally win this title.
"It took a really really tough match against a player who played really well.
"This is a great win after the wrist recovery, I'm getting better match by match. I'm making improvements in my game and my confidence is growing," warned Del Potro.
The South American who rained down ten aces went down a break of serve in the opening set as Zemlja took a 4-2 lead. But that was quickly brought under control in the eighth game for 4-4 as Del Potro began taking command.
Prior to Vienna, the 26-year-old Zemlja, who trains in Austria, had never reached even a quarter-final at ATP level.
He set several personal bests during his unexpected run here, beating Tommy Haas for a first top 20 win, reaching the final over Janko Tipsarevic for a first top 10 victory and raising his level consistently throughout the best week of his career.
"I made history two or three times this week," joked the surprise finalist. "I'm the guy for that. But this week was really something special. Even if I lost I'm pretty satisfied."
Zemlja almost didn't play this tournament.
"It was an interesting and difficult situation for me before the tournament," said the 26-year-old. "I was preparing last week for Vienna and found out I was the first on the waiting list to get into the main draw in Stockholm.
"I was deciding whether to go to Stockholm or play in the qualification here. I said I'd rather play here.
"I had a good feeling. it was a pretty good decision and I don't regret it."
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