In 2015, Denis Istomin became the first player from Uzbekistan to lift an ATP World Tour trophy, when he prevailed in Nottingham. On Sunday, he added a second crown.
Istomin kicked off the Asian swing in strong fashion, emerging as the champion of the Chengdu Open. The final concluded in unfortunate circumstances, as opponent Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire with a back injury during the first set. Istomin was leading 3-2 when Baghdatis fell to the court and was unable to continue.
"I know his situation, because I’ve had a lot of injuries," said Istomin. "I know the feeling and we are good friends, so my first thought was to help Marcos when I saw him go down. Of course I want to win the title, but not this way. I hope he gets better and will be okay for the rest of the season.
"I feel great and especially today I was feeling better than the other matches. I think I’m in the same condition as I was in Australia at the beginning of the season. My next tournament will be a Challenger in my hometown of Tashkent and then the ATP events in Stockholm, Basel and Paris. I’m feeling fine now and will try to finish the year as best as I can."
The 31-year-old Uzbek capped an impressive week in Chengdu, having defeated #NextGenATP stars Karen Khachanov and Jared Donaldson, before toppling an in-form fifth seed Yuichi Sugita in Saturday’s semi-finals. He is projected to rise to No. 53 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, earning 250 points and $183,435 in prize money.
Istomin, who entered the week at World No. 78, is the 10th player outside the Top 50 to win an ATP World Tour title this year. He is picking up momentum as the 2017 season nears its conclusion, also registering a quarter-final finish at the Moselle Open (l. to Basilashvili) last week.
Baghdatis, meanwhile, was appearing in his 14th tour-level final. Despite the retirement, the Cypriot will return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, rising to a projected No. 84. Baghdatis was a warrior all week in Chengdu, rallying from a set down in three of his four victories. He takes home $55,730 in prize money.
"I was feeling a bit of pain in my back during the week, but late after my match last night I felt some spasms," admitted Baghdatis. "This morning I woke up a bit the same. After my warmup, it got worse. The ATP physio worked on me for an hour and a half. I was okay for three or four games and the spasms came back. I’ve had back issues before, but not like this.
"It’s a bit disappointing to finish this way, but it’s true that it’s always positive to be in the final of a tournament. I have to thank all the people that made this event possible. They do a great job here. I love this place and I’ll hope to come next year too."