Garin Glorious In Rio de Janeiro!

Chilean wins his second title of the year and his fourth tour-level trophy overall

Ten months ago, Cristian Garin didn't own an ATP Tour trophy. Just more than a year ago, he had never reached a tour-level final.

But after beating Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager 7-6(3), 7-5 on Sunday in a physical battle to win the Rio Open presented by Claro, Garin is now a four-time ATP Tour titlist. The Chilean has won a personal-best nine consecutive matches after also triumphing earlier this month at the Cordoba Open in Argentina.

“I think this is a gift from all those years working hard, suffering. This is my dream. I’m enjoying it,” Garin said. “I didn’t expect this ever in my life. I’m so, so happy.

"I'm really emotional and winning the Rio Open means a lot to me. It's hard to describe this past week. I slept only four or five hours and woke up nervous this morning and it ended up being one of the best days of my life."

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With rain suspending play in both singles semi-finals on Saturday evening, Garin had to do double duty in Brazil on Sunday. He needed only four games to finish off a straight-sets victory against fifth seed Borna Coric. The third seed then returned to Quadra Guga Kuerten later in the afternoon to beat Mager in one hour and 35 minutes for the trophy.

“He played an amazing match. I didn’t feel my tennis today, I just tried to give my 100 per cent. He was hitting as hard as I can and it’s very tough for me to play against people like that,” Garin said. “Gianluca had an amazing tournament.”

This is Garin's first ATP 500 crown. Not only does he earn $355,530 for his victory, but an important 500 FedEx ATP Ranking points, which will propel him to a career-high No. 18 on Monday. He began the week at a career-best World No. 25.

"Winning an event of this magnitude motivates me even more. I will never forget this week. And receiving the trophy from Gustavo Kuerten's hands means so much to me," Garin said. "It's for moments like this that I play tennis and make daily sacrifices. This means so, so much to me and I’m still really emotional. Now it's time to enjoy a bit and tomorrow I'm back to work.

“I’m happy with my ranking and I also know I have a lot of things to get better, so that’s a good a thing. It means I still have a long way to go."

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Garin was the favourite heading into the final, not just because of his FedEx ATP Ranking — No. 25 to Mager's No. 128 — but because he played far less tennis on Sunday in his semi-final. Mager resumed play with a 7-6(4), 3-3 lead against Hungarian lucky loser Attila Balazs, whom he also defeated 6-0, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying. The Italian had to battle from down a break in the decider to win 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(2) just to reach the final.

But Mager — who was broken in the first game of the match — showed no fear of the stage, despite winning only two tour-level matches before this week. He used his first serve to elicit short balls, which he was unafraid of going after, winning 78 per cent of those points. Mager also played plenty of cat-and-mouse rallies with the Chilean, using short angles to get the third seed on the move.

Garin's experience paid dividends, though. Mager failed to serve out the second set, and Garin capitalised, winning four straight games to clinch his victory.

It was a memorable week for Mager, who upset top seed and World No. 4 Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals. The three-time ATP Challenger Tour champion earns $178,455 and 300 points, which will see him climb inside the Top 80. Previously, the Italian's career-high was No. 114.

“Incredible week. It’s unbelievable for me. It’s a dream to beat the No. 4 in the world, go to the final of an ATP 500,” Mager said. “I am very happy and I’ll keep working every day and fight every day.”